Pa­tio va­ri­eties pave the way to per­fec­tion

Spruc­ing up your pa­tio for sum­mer? Han­nah Stephen­son finds that smaller va­ri­eties of fruit bushes, flow­ers and veg­eta­bles make the most of our out­door rooms

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - In The Garden -

We all used to go out and buy an­nual bed­ding plants to give sum­mer colour to our pa­tios — but now we can be so much more ad­ven­tur­ous. Pa­tio va­ri­eties of fruit, veg­eta­bles and peren­ni­als are all widely avail­able and be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, as gar­den space di­min­ishes and ur­ban gar­dens flour­ish

Trees are now grown as pa­tio fruit — va­ri­eties which are grafted on to a root­stock which means they get up to about 5ft tall — will thrive even in smaller spa­ces such as a bal­cony on a flat. There are tomato ranges which do well in hang­ing bas­kets, along with colour­ful salad leaves and other veg.

Fruit has also come a long way from the tra­di­tional cit­rus that you grew in a large pot in the con­ser­va­tory. Now there’s even a new dwarf mul­berry (Char­lotte Russe, ex­clu­sive to Sut­tons, www.sut­tons.co.uk) you can grow in a pa­tio pot.

The con­tin­ued in­ter­est in ‘grow your own’ has seen breed­ers work­ing ex­ten­sively on get­ting re­ally good pro­duc­tive, tasty fruit and veg­eta­bles suit­able for con­tainer gar­den­ing, and we’ve seen a lot of work be­ing done par­tic­u­larly on fruit trees,” says con­sul­tant, Mark Sage.

He rec­om­mends the dough­nut peach — a flat type and de­li­cious to eat — or the ice peach, which are per­fect for the small con­tainer. Some flow­er­ing cherry va­ri­eties are top grafted, so they won’t get any taller, their head size will just get a bit big­ger. Some will need pro­tec­tion from frost — peach trees will need to be pro­tected dur­ing the win­ter months with fleece or such like.

Many gar­den­ers who want in­stant colour end up shelling out on packs of bed­ding — but take care when you’re buy­ing be­cause some an­nu­als are bet­ter than others, Sage ad­vises.

“Peo­ple want plants that are bul­let-proof. Bush red gera­ni­ums are our best-sell­ing bed­ding plant, along with white ba­copa — these lines per­form what­ever the weather and form the ba­sis of many dis­plays.”

How­ever, there is a wealth of dif­fer­ence be­tween seedraised bed­ding and cut­ting-raised bed­ding, he notes.

“To all in­tents and pur­poses the prod­uct looks ex­actly the same. But in the mid­dle of the sum­mer, your seed-raised ba- copa will have ex­hausted it­self and com­pletely run out of en­ergy, whereas a cut­ting-raised veg­e­ta­tive va­ri­ety that is gen­er­ally more ex­pen­sive to pro­duce, will keep on go­ing through un­til the first frosts.

“When you buy cheap, you have a ten­dency to buy masspro­duced, cheaply-pro­duced prod­ucts such as a seed-raised ba­copa, but ac­tu­ally what you want is value within your plant, and some­thing that’s go­ing to last a sea­son.”

Eas­ier said than done. It’s vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to dis­tin­guish a seed-raised bed­ding plant from a cut­ting-raised one at point of sale, he ad­mits.

The only way to tell is by the price— bet­ter qual­ity cut­ting-raised bed­ding will be more ex­pen­sive. Buy plants which are be­ing sold en masse by the tray and they will gen­er­ally be seed-raised.

How­ever, some seed-raised bed­ding will flower well and long in the right con­di­tions, he re­flects, in­clud­ing busy Lizzies and Be­go­nia sem­per­flo­rens.

Ba­copa and lo­belia are far su­pe­rior when cut­ting-raised, he says. Typ­i­cally, seed-raised and cut­ting-raised plants will be found in dif­fer­ent places in your gar­den cen­tre. Bud­get-end boxes of seed-raised bed­ding are likely to be grouped to­gether, while more pre­mium-end prod­ucts are likely to be sold singly in pots and may be lo­cated near hang­ing bas­kets or con­tain­ers, where cus­tomers buy a se­lec­tion of in­di­vid­ual plants.

Sage sums it up. “With bed­ding, you get what you pay for.” Sage words in­deed.

PA Photo/think­stock­pho­tos.

Dough­nut peaches do re­ally well on a south-fac­ing, shel­tered pa­tio and are de­li­cious to eat.

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