The changing of the guard
Alice SpenserHiggs finds that bright winter annuals soften the impact of winter
SHORTER days and crisper temperatures are slowly steering the garden towards winter. An even better indication of the season’s swing is evident in garden centres with the racks full of early flowering pansies, violas, petunias, snapdragons, and dianthus. If you look harder you will find calendulas, foxgloves, poppies and primulas that still have to come into flower.
Ironically, the winter flower garden is far brighter than the summer one, so if you have any regrets about the end of summer, give the spirits a lift by planning a winter garden packed with colour and warmth. Don’t be afraid to pull out summer annuals. Practising good garden hygiene, such as pulling out old annuals, reduces soil diseases and nematodes.
It is estimated that this year there will be some 30 different colour combinations of pansies. A top performer in the bedding pansy range is Matrix, which produces a profusion of large flowers. They are available in 12 different colours including the Matrix Morpheus which has cats whiskers instead of the usual black face and a dark blue, “Midnight Glow”.
Daisies that provide a good show in winter are Osteospermum (Cape daisy), Argyranthemum, Calendula, Cineraria, and winter vygies (Delosperma cooperii).
The Argyranthemum is your typical daisy bush but what’s nice about the new hybrids, like the “Madeira”, is that the bush is compact and doesn’t split open when mature. It holds its natural round shape. Calendula have yellow or orange double daisy like flowers and this plant is both a bedding plant and a herb. It is sun-loving and grow easily in most garden soils that have been enriched with compost to improve the drainage. It needs regular deep watering rather than frequent watering. Osteospermum are hardy tough, no fuss garden plants.
The hybrid “Serenity” has a large colour range, from dark lavender, lavender frost, pink, purple, white and yellow. The bush is lush and full, and the glossy, dark leaves show off the daisy like flowers. There is also the Osteospermum “Bliss” with unusual whirligig petals and the yellow Osteospermum “Voltage” for hanging baskets and containers. Cineraria like the cold and bloom well towards the end of winter. The daisy shape of the flowers is very pronounced and the plant looks like a small daisy bush. Cineraria “Jester” has a wide range of colours including light lemon and a Royal Mix of purple, wine and russet shades. This is an ideal plant to pop into a pot and use for the patio or indoors. Winter vygies, Delosperma cooperi, also known as the trailing ice plant, provide a low carpet of brilliantly coloured daisy-like flowers. Delosperma grow in most types of soil but do best in fairly poor, well drained, even rocky soil.
Hold back on petunias while the rain is still around but do put space aside for them. They are at their best in dry winter areas and will flower non-stop. The Wave petunias provide a sea of colour. For small gardens, containers and hanging baskets use the compact “Shock Wave”. The “Easy Wave” is also good for containers and beds while the Wonder Wave and Tidal Wave provide ground hugging colour for larger spaces. For big impact in small spaces opt for Grandiflora petunias. A beautiful new release is the Petunia “Day Dream” mix of rose morn (white centre with yellow throat), rose and white.
Zonal pelargoniums are coming out of their summer sleep and are excellent for filling tubs in sunny spots. The new “Designer” geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum) grows into a compact, but substantial plant, 30-45 cm high, that does not have to be pinched back to branch. Bees, butterflies and birds are attracted to the flowers which are good for cutting.
These cheerful flowers in a mix of; yellow, orange, white and apricot pink can be planted on their own or together with pansies and violas. They also look gorgeous planted among roses. Poppies grow easily in a sunny bed and like moist, fertile soil. They need to be watered regularly.