All year round stal­warts

Alice Spenser-Higgs dis­cov­ers flow­er­ing plants that fill the gap be­tween sum­mer and win­ter

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

AU­TUMN is well on its way and al­though it is too early to plant win­ter an­nu­als there are plenty of plants that fill the gap and keep on flow­er­ing into win­ter.

There are the “all year round” stal­warts like alyssum, di­anthus, lo­belia, gaza­nia, del­phini­ums, mimu­lus and ver­bena as well as those with a par­tic­u­lar cool sea­son pref­er­ence such as ar­gy­ran­the­mum, an­tir­rhinum, os­teosper­mum, plec­tran­thus, and zonal gera­ni­ums.

Peren­ni­als that flow­ered in spring will be com­ing back for their au­tumn flush such as co­re­op­sis, gail­lar­dia, rud­beckia, agas­tache, asters and red hot pok­ers (Kniphofia).

Win­ter cut flow­ers Hav­ing cut flow­ers in win­ter is en­tirely pos­si­ble if you choose the right va­ri­eties and grow them in a sunny, shel­tered bed. Cut flower va­ri­eties that can be sown in March are An­tir­rhinum Te­tra Mix con­sist­ing of se­lec­tion of colours,

Cal­en­dula, Del­phinium Pa­cific Choice Mix, Lark­spur, Stat­ice Pas­tel Shades Mix, Stocks Gi­ant Im­pe­rial Mix and Sweet Peas Mam­moth Choice Mix. Th­ese va­ri­eties as well as cal­en­du­las should also be avail­able as seedlings from gar­den cen­tres. The cut flower Di- an­thus Ama­zon is not avail­able in seed pack­ets but only through gar­den cen­tres and it is worth looking for. It has vi­brantly coloured ser­rated-edged flow­ers on glossy dark green fo­liage.

The colour range is Neon Cherry, Neon Duo (cherry and pur­ple), Neon Pur­ple and Rose Magic. It per­forms as a land­scape and bedding plant that at­tracts but­ter­flies and grows to about 60cm tall.

In­dige­nous au­tumn flow­ers Au­tumn is a good time for in­dige­nous gar­dens. Red hot pok­ers (Kniphofia), Stre­litzia, aloes, bul­bines, os­teosper­mum and plec­tran­thus flower at this time. One of the new­est plec­tran­thus va­ri­eties on the mar­ket is the shrublet, Cape An­gel that has re­sulted from a cross be­tween Plec­tran­thus sac­ca­tus and Plec­tran­thus hilliar­diae. The com­pact bushes grow 60cm to 80cm tall and come in a va­ri­ety of colours, of which the white Snow An­gel is the showiest.

The Cape Angels have a long flow­er­ing pe­riod and grow eas­ily in shady parts of the gar­den and can even take morn­ing sun. The same cross of species re­sulted in the pop­u­lar cul­ti­var Mona Laven­der, which has pur­ple flow­ers and leaves with vi­o­let un­der­sides.

Like all Plec­tran­thus they can be cut back quite hard at the be- gin­ning of spring. They are not frost hardy but tol­er­ate the cold if grown in a shel­tered po­si­tion, un­der trees or with other shrubs. They should be well mulched and wa­tered reg­u­larly but do tol­er­ate ne­glect.

An­other new in­tro­duc­tion is the Os­teosper­mum Volt­age. It has bright yel­low daisy like flow­ers and a low spread­ing habit that makes it suit­able for land­scapes as well as in hang­ing bas­kets and con­tain­ers. Pinch­ing back the young plant will en­cour­age it to be­come bushier and bear more flow­ers. It is quite dif­fer­ent to the Os­teosper­mum Seren­ity se­ries that are more upright, mounded plants, grow­ing 25cm to 35cm high and wide. They are drought tol­er­ant so should be wa­tered reg­u­larly but the soil should never be sod­den. They can be pruned lightly af­ter flow­er­ing to main­tain their shape and ex­tend the life­span of the plant.

Gar­den tasks Over­grown clumps of peren­ni­als like agapanthus, irises, day lilies and peren­nial grasses can be di­vided and re­planted. Wa­ter camel­lias and aza­leas reg­u­larly to en­cour­age the de­vel­op­ment of spring buds.

Start plan­ning and pre­par­ing beds for spring bulbs but only plant to­wards the end of March and in early April. Keep your lawn green dur­ing win­ter by fer­til­is­ing now with Lud­wig’s Vig­orosa and wa­ter reg­u­larly.

An­other way to keep the lawn green over win­ter is to over-sow with a cool sea­son grass like Ev­er­green. To­wards the end of the month, sow colour­ful win­ter flow­er­ing Na­maqua­land daisies, cal­en­dula, Ice­land pop­pies, Prim­ula mala­coides, Scat­ter pack In­dige­nous Mix and Shirley pop­pies. For fra­grance there are sweet peas, Vir­ginian stocks, alyssum and neme­sia. Na­maqua­land daisies should be sown di­rectly into the flower bed.

Rake the soil lightly to cover them and com­pact the soil by press­ing down with your hand or a wooden board. Wa­ter reg­u­larly un­til they ger­mi­nate and keep on wa­ter­ing un­til they are well es­tab­lished lit­tle plants. Then you can re­duce wa­ter­ing.

The best place to grow sweet peas is on a slight slope. Slopes pro­vide bet­ter drainage, es­pe­cially in win­ter rain­fall gar­dens.

Pre­pare a trench with com­posted ma­nure mixed into the sub­soil and bone­meal into the top­soil. Top this with a light layer of sand and plant the seed. Sand helps seed ger­mi­nate quickly. Sow seed this month or in April for an early crop of flow­ers.

Os­teosper­mum 'Volt­age' ideal for hang­ing bas­kets

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