Flo­ral fash­ions 2017: a pre­view

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - On The Spot - Val Bourne

The sea of bright blue flags flut­ter­ing in the breeze as you pass through West Ad­der­bury near Ban­bury is a sig­nal to slow down for the blast of colour from Ball Cole­grave’s trial field nearby, one of the few places where new va­ri­eties of sum­mer-flow­er­ing plants are tri­alled in this coun­try. Dur­ing July, 2,000 gar­den cen­tre own­ers, grow­ers, head gar­den­ers and gar­den writ­ers de­scended on the field to ad­mire colour-themed dis­plays. We’re all af­ter next year’s crowd pleasers, the plants that will flower non-stop through sum­mer. There are 200 new plants, from around the world, ar­ranged into colour-themed dis­plays such as Bol­ly­wood and Fiery Flame.

We’re for­ti­fied by a free packed lunch in a brown pa­per bag, so it’s like the adult equiv­a­lent of a school trip. Every­one’s asked to de­cide on their favourite plant and then it’s marked by a blue flag. The re­sults are then cir­cu­lated, although it’s the brasher va­ri­eties that win the plau­dits. Pe­tu­nia ‘NightSky’, a dark blue Ger­man-bred pe­tu­nia with a Milky Way spot­ting has since been de­clared the win­ner (it makes me shud­der).

My own favourite was a new Bri­tish­bred pe­tu­nia from the De­signer Se­ries called ‘Buzz Pur­ple’, raised by David and Priscilla Ker­ley. This has darkly veined pur­ple flow­ers neatly edged in lime green. Even the buds are in­ter­est­ing, a twist of green and pur­ple, like a dis­carded wrap­per from a lime-cho­co­late eclair.

It’s one of six in the De­signer Se­ries and Stu­art Lowen, Ball Cole­grave’s ex­pert mar­ket­ing man­ager, tells me that the green edg­ing that gives it so much eye ap­peal is “to­tally sta­ble”. Other Ker­ley fam­ily cre­ations are two be­go­nias: ‘Sweet Spice Cit­rus’ and ‘Spice English Rose’. I’ve tri­alled these in a shady spot at home with huge suc­cess. There’s also a new tum­be­lina, or scented dou­ble pe­tu­nia, called ‘Maria’. This soft blue sis­ter to the world­fa­mous best­seller ‘Priscilla’ is on my list for next year.

Be­go­nias are rid­ing high. Lowen says: “They are such for­giv­ing plants. They take the rain, the heat and the cold.” This means that gar­den­ers can rely on them whether they’re in sun or shade, and dur­ing a cool Bri­tish sum­mer. They re­flect the changes in breed­ing be­cause those tuber­ous be­go­nias with one or two huge frilly flow­ers have been re­placed by non­stop be­go­nias with masses of smaller flow­ers, of­ten in fiery shades. These flower for months and, even be­fore they do so, the dark fo­liage shines. ‘North­ern Lights Scar­let Burst’, shone out with its mix­ture of small­ish dou­ble and sin­gle red flow­ers on soft stems. This grace­ful be­go­nia can be grown in pot or bas­ket just about any­where, although at Lowen’s home it’s en­joy­ing full sun in a ver­ti­cal wall plant­ing. Ver­ti­cal wall planters, with au­to­matic drip ir­ri­ga­tion, are a god­send for those with tiny gar­dens.

Not every­one wants a bright splash, though. Cal­i­bra­choas have small pe­tu­nia-like flow­ers but in sub­tle shades of ter­ra­cotta, orange and yel­low. “These stay look­ing neat,” Lowen says, “and they don’t get bitty as petu­nias tend to.” Breed­ers have pro­duced a dou­ble Can Can Se­ries. These re­sem­ble small cas­cad­ing roses, es­pe­cially ‘Dou­ble Light Pink’; also new for this year are ‘Cherry Blos­som’ and ‘Vi­o­let Glint’. Many are avail­able in “Trix­ies”, the trade name for large plugs con­tain­ing three plants that blend to­gether.

Os­teosper­mums, those floppy South African daisies that tend to close their flow­ers long be­fore the sun crosses the yardarm, now come in Ger­man-bred dou­ble forms. Lowen de­scribes these as “a real break­through, with strong stems and neat fo­liage that makes them look tidy through­out sum­mer and au­tumn”. More im­por­tantly, the flow­ers stay open, even in the evening. The new­est colour is Pink 3D, but there are sev­eral on of­fer, in­clud­ing pur­ple.

Scent is an im­por­tant sell­ing point and neme­sias not only smell won­der­ful, they at­tract pol­li­na­tors. Neme­sia ‘Aroma Plums and Cus­tard’, bred by Pen­how Nurs­eries in South Wales, has jazzy pur­ple and yel­low bi­colour flow­ers. A late sum­mer hair­cut will keep them go­ing un­til late au­tumn. Or you could try an­other pol­li­na­tor-pleaser, Bi­dens ‘Bee Alive’. This neat yel­low and brown pa­tio daisy was alive with bees and hov­er­flies.

What will the well-dressed hang­ing bas­ket be wear­ing next sum­mer? Read on…

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