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Give your garden that summer wow factor.

Byline: Graham Porter

LET'S all get into bed together - whether you are planting containers, borders or beds with the nation's favourite plants, this weekend is likely to be the busiest summer bedding time for most gardeners. With all chances of frost now a distant memory, at least until September, we can all look forward to a warm, sunny, colourful summer, with the huge choice of bedding and container plants that we have available to us these days.

We can blame the Victorians for the extravagant image that spring and summer bedding now has, as it gradually developed in the public parks of the later half of the 19th Century.

Plant breeders worked hard to develop suitable half-hardy plants with bright, often garish colours that were then used in large, sweeping flower beds and ornate gardens that the public could enjoy. This enthusiasm for bedding continued well into the 1970's until local authorities were re-organised in 1974 and this saw a gradual decline for the next 10-15 years until us amateur gardeners started to spend money on our own gardens. This in turn caused plant breeders to look again at container gardening and our modern range of bedding and container bedding plants emerged as a result.

We now have an unprecedented range of plants available to us for brightening up our gardens and our neighbourhoods, with us amateurs adding baskets and containers to our houses and local authorities giving us street planters and hanging baskets to help give our towns and villages a feel good factor, all because our Victorian forebears wanted to do the same thing for their local people.

My own top ten best plants for baskets are Impatiens (good in shady spots), Surfinia Petunias (cascading and continuous flowering without the need to dead head), perennial Nemesia (superb in baskets and containers), Diascia (some are fully hardy), Verbena (dead head for summer long flowers), Trailing Pelargoniums (superb for those hot, sunny spots), Trailing Lobelia (fills gaps in baskets better than any other), Calibrachoa (Million bells relative of Petunia), Helichrysum (silver or golden foliage plants to help soften the brighter colours, Bidens (a great filler with yellow flowers).

For containers and flower beds or borders, my favourite plants are Ageratum (fluffy mauve-blue flowers on short stems), Antirrhinums (snap-dragons for children - dead head for the best performance), Begonia semperflorens (summer long masses of red, white and pink flowers), Cleome (the spider flower to give height to a display), Dianthus (choose a good one to add scent to the display), Gaillardia (for those really hot, sunny patios), Bedding Pelargoniums (sold as Geraniums - superb flower colours), Lobelia (huge variety of flower colours to act as a background to other bolder plants, Bedding Nemesia (annuals that flower their heads off), Nicotiana (scented flowers in their thousands). So, if you haven't bought your bedding and container plants yet, take a trip to a garden centre, a local nursery, a farm shop or one of our local plant fairs and be amazed at the vast selection that you have to choose from to help give your garden that summer wow factor.


WOW FACTOR: Impatiens, of which the Busy Lizzy is one, are good in shady spots and will add more than a splash of colour to your garden
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jun 5, 2010
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