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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Irish Gardeners Forum Home -> Container gardening in Ireland, including Annual Bedding Plants

How to prepare for annual bedding, then select the plants.

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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 7:09 pm    Post subject: How to prepare for annual bedding, then select the plants. Reply with quote

How to prepare for annual bedding, then select the plants.
by GPI

Well, we are deep into late spring now and summer is just around the corner. Garden centres are beginning to swell with summer bedding plants, ideal for planting over the next few weeks, as we look forward to mid-summer sunshine (fingers crossed).

Have you a piece of ground in your garden that you would like to jazz up? If so, annual bedding plants are hard to beat for the colour and scent filled lift they can give to areas of high summer traffic. Examples of these areas include beds outside of front and back doors, strips alongside the patio, and the surrounds of your favourite summer sunning spot.

Wherever you decide to plant, try to select the sunniest location possible, as making a flowerbed in a shady location will severely limit your flower choices. Believe me, it's best not battle nature and force sun-loving bedding plants such as Petunias to grow in an area that gets a lot of shade. Generally, a south or west facing bed is required to avoid ending up with stringy non-flowering specimens.

Just like the need to select the correct position for your bedding plants, the shape of this area is also worth giving quite some thought to as well. For example, go gentle on the curves, we all like a curving border, but please avoid a very fussy serpentine shape. Whoever mows your lawn will thank you for this as well.

When you come close to deciding on how your border should look, you can use a long length of hosepipe or heavy rope to mark out this shape on the ground. This method allows you to adjust away until you achieve a comfortable shape, then you can mark the ground with line marker spray or simply by scratching with a stick. Follow this by spraying off or digging out and disposing of any existing grass and weeds.

. Spread farmyard manure, ready to be dug in, photo / picture / image.

Organic matter.
Most new garden beds and borders benefit from additional organic material being added to it and dug in. This is especially true of the flower bed/border. So to begin, dig over the ground thoroughly with a fork and remove all traces of perennial weeds and large stones, leave the small stones as they aid drainage and help to regulate the soils temperature (mother natures radiators).

Dig or till in lots of organic matter to improve the soil for your annuals at this stage as well. Choose from the following source of organic matter... garden compost, leaf mould, well-rotted farmyard manure, spent mushroom compost, garden centre soil enricher. An ideal situation would be to have half you soil made up of organic matter, a great reserve of plant food.

If your soil is very heavy, sticky or poorly drained, I would advise adding horticultural grit at this stage as well. Available in all good garden centres, a good quantity of this grit or gravel will open up your soil and allow channels for drainage.

The final part of the soil preparation is to fork into the soil around 10 to 20 grammes of 7-6-17 fertiliser per metre squared. If 7-6-17 is not available, then any general-purpose fertiliser such as "Westland's Growmore" applied at the rates stated on its pack will do. If you apply any of these fertilisers, you must allow the soil to and its amendments to settle for around a week or two before planting.

This gives you ample opportunity to select and source the plants you would like to inhabit your newly created bed/border. And that is what we will look at next.

Colour and scent selection.
So now that you have put the work into preparing your bedding area, providing it with the requisite quantities of plant food and drainage grit, you can go about selecting bedding plants safe in the knowledge that future growth and blooming is assured. However, it is worth bearing in mind a few pointers as you go around the garden centre picking out your annual bedding plants.

Summer bedding plants are quite versatile and with careful selection can provide colour from late spring right through to the first frosts of autumn. There is a huge choice of colour, form and size, but year after year, the most popular varieties always include Ageratum, Begonia, Busy Lizzie, Dahlia, Fuchsia, Geranium, Lobelia, Marigold, Petunia, Salvia and Verbena. When selecting your bedding, a bit of thought should also be given to colour, so that the shades will combine well. For example, Marigold (yellow) and Ageratum (blue) look well planted close to each other, as does Begonia (pink) and Lobelia (dark blue).

It tends to be pinks, reds and oranges which clash rather badly when combined within what those-in-the-know would class as a garish colour scheme. But what do they know, it's your garden and you have the final decision on what colour or colours you wish to paint your summer. Rain could be on its way, so just dive in without agonising over colour schemes for too long.

. Ageratum (floss flower) provides delicate scent, photo / picture / image.

Apart from flower colour there is another reason why you should fill your beds with annual flowers, and that is sweet scent. Scent varies greatly between the annuals, some producing little and others producing absolutely loads of nostril filling sensual pleasure.
Here is a quick guide to the scented annuals....

Delicate scent.
Try Ageratum (floss flower), Alyssum, Antirrhinum (snapdragon), and Centaurea (cornflower).

Pungent scent.
These bedding plants are not to everybody's taste as their scent is know to be overpowering in large numbers. If you fancy that, try Cherry pie (Heliotropium), Calendula (Pot-marigold) and Tagetes (Marigold).

Sweet scent.
For those of you who don't like it heavy or light, but prefer it sweet, try Verbena, Sweet William (Dianthus), Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana), Ten-weeks Stock (Mathiola incana), and Petunia. To me the king of the sweet scented annuals has to be Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus), providing scent colour and armfuls of cut flowers just so long as you offer some support for it climbing tendrils.

. Night scented stock (Mathiola bicornis), photo / picture / image.

Special mention goes to Night scented stock (Mathiola bicornis) whose flowers remain closed during the day, only to open at night releasing a deliciously sweet scent. These are ideal for planting outside doorways or around and about an evening seating area.

Remember bedding plants can either be planted in beds on their own or as is quite common these days, filling in between other plants such as trees, shrubs and perennials in a mixed border. If planting with mixed shrubs and perennials, groups of at least three of the same bedding plant will give the greatest effect and the earliest impact.

Any queries or comments on How to prepare for annual bedding, then select the plants, please post below.

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