Garden Answers (UK) - - Easy Gardening -

If you’re af­ter a tip-top dis­play you re­ally want to spoil this plant­ing. Give it your best, sun­ni­est site shel­tered from strong winds and be pre­pared to se­ri­ously im­prove your soil to en­sure fer­tile grow­ing con­di­tions. An­nual mulching with well-rot­ted or­ganic mat­ter as well as dig­ging in fur­ther ma­te­rial at ev­ery plant­ing will also help. Be pre­pared to wa­ter deeply dur­ing pro­longed dry spells.

1 Or­der the dahlia & canna

Or­der dahlia tu­bers and canna rhi­zomes now from an on­line spe­cial­ist and they’ll ar­rive in the post next Fe­bru­ary or March. Be sure tu­bers/rhi­zomes bought from a gar­den cen­tre look healthy and dis­ease free. Pot up and grow on in a frost-free green­house. Only lightly cover can­nas with com­post. To in­crease dahlia stocks, take cut­tings from the new shoots. Plant out in late May, watch­ing out for slugs and snails, which can dec­i­mate young fo­liage. Give can­nas lots of ex­tra com­post since they’re greedy feed­ers. Al­though ‘Fas­ci­na­tion’ is quite a short dahlia, put in a cane when plant­ing so you can sup­port with twine if needed. Dead­head ev­ery time you pass to keep the dis­play com­ing. Af­ter the first frosts, cut plants back then lift and store tu­bers/rhi­zomes in barely damp old pot­ting com­post in a frost-free shed. You can leave them in free-drain­ing soil in shel­tered spots cov­ered with a pro­tec­tive dry mulch.

2 Sow the ver­bena

Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis is a dod­dle to grow from seed, as long as it has an early start. Sow in March on a warm win­dowsill or heated prop­a­ga­tor around 20C (68F), or you can buy young plants in late spring. Once es­tab­lished, self-sown seedlings will pop up in paving cracks or gravel. These short-lived peren­ni­als over­win­ter best on well-drained soil with a dry mulch. Don’t cut back top growth un­til new shoots ap­pear in spring.

3 Sow the Span­ish flag

Sow seeds mid-April to May, one per pot in a prop­a­ga­tor to main­tain a cosy tem­per­a­ture (around 21C/70F). Pot on be­fore plant­ing out in early June when nights should have warmed up. These plants cope with shade as well as sun­shine, just avoid too much ni­tro­gen in the plant­ing site or you’ll run the risk of over en­thu­si­as­tic fo­liage with lit­tle in the way of flow­ers. They’re bril­liant at ram­bling right through a plant­ing, of­ten trav­el­ling in un­ex­pected di­rec­tions.

4 Add the pen­nise­tum

‘Rubrum’ is ster­ile so you’ll have to or­der plants from a spe­cial­ist nurs­ery or buy from your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre. Plant out young­sters af­ter all risk of frost. Po­si­tion at the front of the bor­der so you can stroke its arch­ing bot­tle-brush flow­ers as you pass. Dig up plants once frosts threaten and move into a frost-free green­house or porch. Lift as a sin­gle large clump, cut back top growth by half and place in a large con­tainer, fill­ing any gaps with old pot­ting com­post. Wa­ter spar­ingly over win­ter then di­vide into smaller clumps and pot up in fresh com­post ready to go out in late May.

5 Es­tab­lish the tetra­panax

Spe­cial­ist nurs­eries are your best chance of find­ing a young tetra­panax. Plant in a well-drained site in early June, giv­ing it plenty of space, and fur­ther im­prove the ground with well-rot­ted or­ganic mat­ter. Se­vere win­ters will dic­tate how much top growth sur­vives. Even if it’s cut back right to the ground by frost it re­grows from its roots the fol­low­ing year. You can also cop­pice plants right back in early spring to en­cour­age lots of low shrubby growth rather than a taller trunk. Re­move and pot up suck­ers as they ap­pear.

Add in a flam­boy­ant ba­nana and rici­nus, and soften the colour scheme with golden he­liop­sis and nas­tur­tiums

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