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Gardening: Set borders ablaze with red-hot pokers.

Byline: ADRIENNE WILD

IF your garden's beginning to look pale and uninteresting then it's time to put some fire in your borders with red-hot pokers or knifophias.

It's fashionable at the moment to plant them prairie-style. That is in a wild and interesting way alongside ornamental grasses and other tall perennials such as verbascum and achillea.

If you prefer a traditional cottage-style border though, you won't be disappointed with your investment. Their grand, stately habit has enough impact to turn heads at 50 paces!

Plant them in between the coral-coloured or milky- white blooms of Cape figworts or phygelius to see what I mean.

Knifophias's fiery-coloured flowers also look good with blue blooms and especially the gentian blue Anchusa azurea or salvias.

For a spiky theme, mix them with a red crocosmia such as Lucifer, a combination that is ideal for those narrow, dry borders under a bay window.

If your garden is largely made up of containers, then plant a half barrel or big tub with blue agapanthus and the popular bright orange and yellow "poker" variety Atlanta. Put it centre stage and it will steal the show.

Tall, bold varieties of knifophia such as Wrexham Buttercup and Fiery Fred are also a good choice for tropical themed borders.

Plant them shoulder to shoulder with cannas, ricinus and melianthus and bananas for an exotic mix of flowers and dramatic foliage.

There are also some delicate, dainty varieties such as Burnt Orange, Green Jade and Little Maid that won't look out of place in a small garden or in the front row of a large bed, so consider these for mixing with hardy geraniums.

All varieties grow best in full sun and are adaptable to almost any garden soil, provided it is well-drained.

On heavy soil and in cold, wet areas it would be wise to cover them with a layer of straw in the first winter to protect their fleshy crowns from frost.

In early summer sprinkle a handful of Growmore around the plants and apply a mulch to help conserve moisture at the roots. Their stiff flowers and grassy foliage do not require staking making them a good choice for low- maintenance schemes.

The flowers will last for several weeks during mid to late summer, and if snipped off at the base as soon as they begin to fade a second flush may follow in September or October.

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HOT STUFF: Choose red-hot pokers to put some life into your fading flower beds
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2001
Words:416
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