The chang­ing of the guard

Alice SpenserHiggs finds that bright win­ter an­nu­als soften the im­pact of win­ter

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

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.

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