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GARDEN LIFE; Go back to your childhood roots for summer colour.

Byline: JANET WHEATCROFT

WHAT are you going to grow from seed this year? Vegetables, perhaps, if you've got the room.

Perhaps petunias and tobacco plants for a bit of summer colour and maybe some geraniums. Busy Lizzies to plant in your tubs?

You'd like to grow salvias and stocks to fill in any border gaps, or marigolds and pansies, always good for edging. The list is starting to get pretty long.

But seed trays take up space on the windowsill and room in the greenhouse is always at a premium.

Yet bedding plants get more expensive every year. So, like me, you think it's probably worth squeezing in as many pots and trays as you can.

So, what to grow ? That's the questions furrowing the brows of gardeners all over the country.

We all end up buying more seed than we can cope with. Sowing it and germinating it is no problem.

It's when it comes to pricking-out that you realise you've bitten off more than you can chew.

So here's an urgent plea to grow the old-fashioned annuals. The sort that can be sown directly into the ground and demand nothing more that a piece of weed-free earth and a handful of general fertiliser to keep them going.

I've always liked to lace my borders with opium poppies, then let them self-seed among more permanent plants.

A garden wouldn't be a garden without sweet-peas and I've long had a soft spot for sunflowers, especially burgundy-red 'Velvet Queen'.

But now I'm also going back to some of the hardy annuals from my childhood. Too many have fallen out of fashion in the last 20 years.

These are the plants with which we generally start gardening - cornflowers and love-in-a mist, clarkia and godetia, larkspur, pot marigolds and California poppies.

They're easy, kindergarten plants. Sadly, once we discover the joys of 'grown-up' gardening, we tend to get absurdly snobby about them.

That just doesn't make any sense. We admire the jelly-bean hues of azaleas, but turn our noses up at the same shades in a godetia. We adore the romance of blue flowers, but seldom think to scatter the seed of cornflowers or love-in-a-mist.

As for pot marigolds (calendula) and Californian poppy, well, they're bright orange aren't they? And that's one colour posh gardeners just won't tolerate in their plots.

But all that nonsense about gaudiness is a thing of the past. Seedmen have now bred varieties of both in a more subtle range of shades.

Calendulas now come in soft apricots, pale lemons and creams and Californian poppies in pinks, cerises and even white.

All are lovely, though I'm quite happy to stick with unfashionable Irn-Bru shades.

I also prefer blue for love-in-a-mist and cornflowers. But there is one great exception.

Thompson and Morgan offer a sensational near-black cornflower 'Black Ball'.

It's incredibly stylish as part of a black-and-white scheme, and adds real pzazz as a contrast to reds and oranges.

So do yourself a favour. Go for the annuals.

If you have a gardening problem write to Gardenlife at Daily Record, One Central Quay, Glasgow G3 8DA

Q MY lawn's terrible. I have tried to improve it by raking, aerating and feeding it. The problem is that something black, white and scaly is infesting the lawn.

Scraping it out has helped, but how can I get rid of this permanently?

A THIS is one of the most commonly-asked questions readers send me, so no apologies for bringing it up again.

The substance you describe is almost certainly dog lichen. It's often mistaken for a lawn disease, but in fact it's half-fungus and half-algae.

The cure is simply to treat it as a weed and spot-treat it with a selective weedkiller formulated for lawn weeds. Scraping it out when it dies and removing it will eventually get rid of it completely.

Meanwhile, continue to improve the health of your lawn as you have been doing. It is much less likely to get a foothold on thick and healthy grass.

PLANT OF THE WEEK: Rhododendron Praecox

NEARLY rear-ended the car in front of me this week.

The cause of this concentration lapse was a bush of Rhododendron Praecox in full and glorious flower in someone's front garden. A breathtaking sight.

Though it's still a week or two away from bloom in my colder conditions, it can always be relied on to be one of the earliest rhodo- dendrons to appear.

It's a compact variety and can be pruned to a neat shape.

The rosy-purple flowers, carried in trusses on the ends of the branches are a most welcome colour for early spring. They look great with the first pale daffodils.

Though sometimes spoiled by frost in exposed gardens, it seldom suffers damage in towns.

Easy to grow in leafy soil, site it somewhere out of the early morning sun so the flowers don't get browned off after a cold night.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 2, 2002
Words:818
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