Colourful quick fixes for summer
Use heattolerant annuals for unfading garden glamour even when temps sizzle, writes Alice SpenserHiggs
THE summer heat has arrived, ending the long flowering season of pansies and violas and putting the garden under pressure. With Christmas in mind and the need to have a gorgeous garden, whip out anything that is looking frazzled and replace it with heat tolerant annuals that will deliver colour from now through to the end of summer.
Those that fit the bill are annuals such as angelonia, coleus, marigolds, portulaca, salvia, vincas, verbena and zinnias.
One of the toughest, though it doesn’t appear so at first sight, is angelonia. They may look airy and delicate but thrive in extreme heat, humidity and drought, and they flower profusely.
The new angelonia ‘Archangel’ is a compact angelonia but has blooms three times larger than other angelonia varieties. The colour range is purple, pink, raspberry and white. They provide long lasting colour with very little maintenance and can be used as an alternative to salvia.
Coleus ‘ Redhead’ is a most unusual coleus because it grows in full sun. The more sun it receives, the redder its leaves. It is a nicely shaped, bushy plant, growing up to 50cm high and 60cm wide. It flowers later than other coleus and the flowers should be removed to maintain vigour. It is a high impact plant for the garden and performs equally well in a container.
Portulaca has always been regarded as a heat happy plant and there are new bedding and trailing varieties.
‘Happy Hour’ is compact, (20cm to 25cm high and wide) with a pleasing mounded shape. Being well branched it is covered in flowers and has a long flowering season because it blooms under short day conditions.
It is a good choice for rockeries and any hot area that receives full sun, especially afternoon sun. Colours in the range include banana, red, lemon orange, fuchsia, mixed and peppermint.
For quick, spreading colour there is Portulaca ‘Happy Trails’. It grows 15cm to 23cm high, with a nice mounded shape and has a spread of 36cm to 46 cm. It grows in poor soil, and is ideal for sandy, coastal gardens. Besides white, it is available in an assortment of vivid colours.
Salvias are always rewarding and there are the annual bedding varieties (Salvia splendens) as well as the mid-sized perennial salvias that also look good in borders such as Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ or Salvia coccinea ‘Lady in Red’.
For the back of beds there is Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’ and the new Salvia Lighthouse ‘Purple’. This is a tall, bushy salvia, growing up to 75cm high. The dark purple shade is particularly striking against the glossy green leaves. It grows in sun to semi-shade and can also be used in large containers.
Vinca also comes into its own at this time. Cultivars available from garden centres are bushy, well branched plants growing a uniform height of 20cm to 25cm. The glossy dark green leaves show off the flowers that come in variations of pink, lilac, apricot and red. One of the most popular colours is peppermint, which is white with a rose-pink eye.
The newest kid on the block is ‘Jams ’n Jellies’, which consists of an almost black variety. There is also ‘Blackberry’ as well as a mix of white, red and blackberry called ‘American Pie Mix’.
The real success story is Zinnia ‘Zahara’. This old fashioned plant has been much improved and is now more compact and disease resistant while retaining its old willingness to flower. Plants in the ‘Zahara’ series have either single or double flowers with the newest release being a double magentapink, aptly named ‘Double Strawberry’. Its garden height is 40cm to 50cm.
Hanging baskets and containers can also be refreshed for the festive season.
Deciding what to plant, especially if you like the idea of a mixed container is a lot easier with the introduction of Quick Mixer, a doit-yourself concept consisting of pre-selected plants in one pot for easy replanting into a hanging basket or larger container.
Kathy Varney from Ball Straathof, who is introducing the concept, says they have put together plants that like the same growing conditions and are well matched in colour, shape and growth habit, so one won’t out grow the other.
For more information www.ballstraathof.co.za
Portulaca ‘Happy Hour’ loves the hottest, dryest spots in the garden, left. Zinnia ‘Zahara’ is a new kind of zinnia, with a fantastic garden performance, right.