Nur­tur­ing flow­ers

Whether it’s an an­nual or peren­nial, shrub or vine, all flow­ers will ben­e­fit from some TLC.

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - Practical gardening -

Some flow­ers are eas­ier to grow than oth­ers, but all need some ba­sic care to thrive. Water is es­sen­tial, as is light. Some plants need more sun than oth­ers (check the plant la­bel), while oth­ers need warmer or cooler tem­per­a­tures. All need nu­tri­ents to grow well.

PLANT QUICKLY

Buy­ing plants from the gar­den cen­tre? Choose smaller seedlings over larger, cramped ones. When you get them home, don't leave them to lan­guish in their tiny con­tain­ers. Plants may be­come stunted and will be less vig­or­ous when planted out.

STAKE IT

Plants with tall stems need stak­ing, oth­er­wise heavy rain or high winds will flat­ten them in min­utes. Avoid los­ing your plants to the el­e­ments and stake them from the out­set. Pretty stakes add in­ter­est to the gar­den while wait­ing for your plants to grow.

WATER WISE

Grow­ing healthy blooms re­quires ir­ri­ga­tion. To keep your gar­den in tip top shape, don't de­pend on rain­fall alone. Drip ir­ri­ga­tion is an ex­cel­lent time- and wa­ter­sav­ing method, though get­ting out the hose or wa­ter­ing can is a trusty al­ter­na­tive on dry days.

HARD­EN­ING OFF

Where plants have been grown from seed in­doors, they must be hard­ened off be­fore plant­ing out­doors. Move plants out­side for short pe­ri­ods of time to grad­u­ally in­tro­duce them to di­rect sun­light and cooler tem­per­a­tures. Do this over a pe­riod of 7-10 days. Start with 2-3 hours of mild (not mid­day) sun in a shel­tered lo­ca­tion. In­crease ex­po­sure to sun­light a few ad­di­tional hours at a time. Grad­u­ally in­crease ex­po­sure to cold. Af­ter plant­ing in the gar­den, ap­ply a di­luted fer­tiliser to avoid trans­plant shock.

AL­LOW FOR SPACE

What might seem like ad­e­quate spac­ing for a row of peren­ni­als in the first year may re­sult in over­crowd­ing the fol­low­ing year. Close plant­ing also low­ers air cir­cu­la­tion, which can lead to dis­ease. En­sure there's ad­e­quate space be­tween peren­ni­als. De­pend­ing on the size and vigour of each species, spac­ing may be 30-60cm. Don't plant thugs with more con­ser­va­tive types, or you'll be for­ever clip­ping back the high fly­ers. Plants that pro­duce un­told seedlings might ben­e­fit from be­ing planted on their own.

Whether gar­den­ing in­doors or out, flow­er­ing plants need a few essen­tials: water, light, nu­tri­ents and good soil.

EN­COUR­AGE MORE BLOOMS

As flow­ers fade, pinch or cut off the dead and faded heads to en­cour­age more blooms. Dead­head­ing must be done reg­u­larly through­out the grow­ing sea­son, oth­er­wise your plants will put all their en­ergy into de­vel­op­ing seeds rather than flow­ers. This is par­tic­u­larly true of an­nual plants, whose whole pur­pose in life is to set seed in or­der to re­pro­duce. Dead­head­ing the most pro­lific self-seed­ers will also keep them un­der con­trol.

VER­TI­CAL GAR­DENS

Pa­trick Blanc is the god­fa­ther of the ver­ti­cal gar­den. His work is both awe-in­spir­ing and ex­pen­sive at $5000 per m2. So why not make your own? With the right plant choices, it’s eas­ier than you might think!

The sim­plest way to cre­ate a ver­ti­cal gar­den is to use Woolly Pock­ets or other pur­pose-built sys­tems. Pur­chase sev­eral from a gar­den cen­tre and at­tach them to an ex­ist­ing fence or wall. Planted up, they look like one large ver­ti­cal gar­den.

Put grav­ity to work and in­stall an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem that al­lows water to flow down through the var­i­ous lev­els, or use a pump to cir­cu­late water.

Great plants for ver­ti­cal gar­dens in­clude com­mon thyme ( Thy­mus vul­garis), the New Zealand na­tive Pime­lea pros­trata, which has sweetly scented white flow­ers, the sil­very rock plant Con­volvu­lus cne­o­rum, rosy maiden­hair ( Adi­antum hispidu­lum), pelargo­ni­ums, echev­e­ria, se­dums, Span­ish moss ( Til­land­sia us­neoides), ivy and staghorns.

When ex­pect­ing vis­i­tors, insert sin­gle flower stems to add ex­tra colour.

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