An­nu­als & pot­ted colour for the gar­den

In win­ter, pot­ted colour is worth ev­ery cent. If your spir­its need lift­ing, whip to the shops for bloom­ing bed­ding plants. What you see is what you get, and what you get is three months of full-on flo­ral flam­boy­ance.

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - The Winter Garden -

Ev­ery gar­den has its dreary cor­ners, es­pe­cially in win­ter, and pot­ted colour pro­vides an af­ford­able quick-fix in pretty much any colour scheme your hor­ti­cul­tural heart de­sires. Ei­ther popped into pots or mass-planted into fal­low vege gar­dens, a bit of flo­ral bed­ding will lift your spir­its ahead of spring.

In­ter­est­ingly, white is one of the most pop­u­lar shades in win­ter, but there are many vi­brant colours on of­fer. Ice­land pop­pies, with their crum­pled petals, have shades of yel­low, or­ange, red and cream. They look del­i­cate but can cope with any­thing win­ter throws their way.

Pan­sies are a win­ter win­ner, both for their paler an­tique shades and their bright colours. There are ruf­fled forms too, like the var­i­ously coloured ‘Friz­zle Siz­zle’. These pan­sies have wavy flow­ers up to 7cm wide and gra­ciously flower in just a lit­tle over two months from seedling emer­gence.

Prim­ula mala­coides hold their clus­ters of pink, pale pur­ple or white flow­ers on erect stems held above chunky rosettes of light green leaves. They do look lovely in pots but for best ef­fect, plant lots in big drifts.

Cinerarias, which flower in win­ter and spring, are un­beat­able in shady cor­ners, and blue and white lo­belias are ter­rific for trail­ing over pot edges.

POLYAN­THUS

Polyan­thus are one of the few flow­ers avail­able in ev­ery colour, from gold to blue. These low-grow­ing charm­ers suit the edges of beds, or slot them in as liv­ing grout be­tween paving stones or crazy paving. If the con­di­tions are to their lik­ing, they’ll hun­ker down through the warmer months and pop back up year af­ter year.

LOOK­ING AF­TER BLOOMS

Plant win­ter-flow­er­ing an­nu­als in a sunny spot, in free-drain­ing soil. In wa­ter­logged con­di­tions, the plants are li­able to rot at the crown, so plant in con­tain­ers or raised beds if nec­es­sary.

To keep your plants bloom­ing, feed with potas­sium-rich liq­uid fer­tiliser, di­luted in a wa­ter­ing can of warm water to im­prove nu­tri­ent up­take in the cold.

Be vig­i­lant when it comes to re­mov­ing any spent blooms. Not only does dead­head­ing en­cour­age new flow­ers, it stops moulds such as botry­tis in­fil­trat­ing the crown via the dy­ing stalks.

Ice­land pop­pies ( Pa­paver nudi­caule), pic­tured right, are short-lived peren­ni­als but they're usu­ally grown as an­nu­als for win­ter and spring colour. They make ex­cel­lent cut flow­ers. Pick for the vase when the fuzzy ca­lyx has split and the first petal is vis­i­ble. All pop­pies bleed a milky sap that, if not treated, will clog the xylem. Ei­ther plunge the stem ends in boil­ing water for 10 sec­onds or sear them with a can­dle flame. The flow­ers will then last five or so days in a vase.

Pot­ted pan­sies and polyan­thus can be brought in­doors for ex­tra colour. They make ex­cel­lent house­plants but keep them in a cool spot away from heaters, and once they've fin­ished bloom­ing, move them back out­doors. Give them a feed and they should re­sume flow­er­ing.

PAN­SIES IN POTS

Vi­o­las, pan­sies and polyan­thus are cheap and cheer­ful. They can cope with wind, rain and cold weather, but they'll drown in wa­ter­logged soil. If your patch is boggy, plant in tubs or pots, but don't let the pots dry out. Add a fer­tiliser high in potas­sium to the wa­ter­ing can once a fort­night. Grow in sev­eral con­tain­ers and dot them around the gar­den, or hang light­weight bas­kets on a wall.

CAMEL­LIAS

There are three good things about camel­lias flow­er­ing in win­ter: they lift our spir­its at a drab time of year; the dreaded camel­lia blight that turns the flow­ers to mush is dormant dur­ing the colder months; and t¯ū¯ī like to take nec­tar from the flow­ers when win­ter food is hard to find. Camel­lia sasan­qua and its hy­brids flower in au­tumn into win­ter, fol­lowed by the Camel­lia japon­ica types, which start flow­er­ing in win­ter. The for­mer grows in full sun to shade; the lat­ter grows best in part to full shade. Both pre­fer free-drain­ing soil with lots of or­ganic mat­ter dug in.

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