Colour­ful quick fixes for sum­mer

Use heat­tol­er­ant an­nu­als for un­fad­ing garden glam­our even when temps siz­zle, writes Alice SpenserHiggs

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

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

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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.

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