Permanent plants, like shrubs and herbaceous perennials take some time too fill their alotted space. However it not difficult to create instant borders full of summer colour, by inter planting the shrubs with blocks of annuals. You may occasionally need to trim back the annuals a little to ensure that they do not inhibit the growth of the more permanent subjects.
Lavatera: From July to October, graceful, pastel-coloured cups stand out against the blue-green foliage of the mallow Clusters of stems that can reach 6Ocm in height make a handsome, branching clump.
- Marigolds: The marigold (Calendula) is a favourite in the country garden for its pretty orange-yellow, sometimes pink-tinged, single or double flowers. The plants flourish for many months, even managing a few flowers in most months of a mild winter.
Avoid seed mixtures: Assortments are a bad idea invented by seed merchants. The pack may contain an odd mix of varieties called 'scented', 'wild', 'for shade' or 'for dry ground'. Often, the pack doesn't provide specific information on each variety, so you won't know the correct conditions for successful planting. The result tends to be disappointing, with one or two prolific varieties taking over.
Don't use fresh manure: Even if it is well decomposed, fresh manure contains too much nitrogen for seeds. This makes the plants produce too much leaf and stem growth, at the expense of robust flowers. Sow on ground that was manured two years previously, or follow a centuries old gardening practice and enrich the soil with a green crop such as mustard or clover.
Buy some plants in plugs: Some plants are difficult to grow from seed. Plugs are a better option for gerbera, calceolaria, Bells of Ireland (Molucella), lisianthus and aster (Callistephus). Verbena, petunia, busy lizzie (Impatiens) and Begonia semperflorens are often available as young plants.
Newspaper encourages germination: Seeds sprout more easily when they are covered in daytime with damp newspaper, especially in very hot weather. Keep the paper in place with tent pegs or markers stuck in the ground. This covering will also prevent the birds from pillaging your seeds.
Cool-loving plants: Digitalis and primula seeds like to be covered with a fine layer of organic matte! such as leaf-mould or garden compost, which keeps the soil cool and damp. Professionals use vermiculite, a light expanded mineral.
Sow an annual border from the centre out: To sow a large bed without compacting the freshly dug soil, start in the middle. Stand on a plank and move it outwards towards the edges as you work. Rake over the flattened strips of soil left by the plank each time you reposition it.
- If you are growing annuals for cutting, sow seeds in rows. Sow four rows, then leave a space before sowing another four, and so on. The spaces will serve as paths so that you can pick the flowers without trampling on them.
The colours of annuals and biennials
Annuals and biennials come in nearly every colour imaginable. Combine flowers and foliage to make eye catching combinations, to complement and contrast, and to provide a theme for your planting schemes.
Many plants can be cheaply and easily raised from seed, under glass or in the ground.
Hardy annuals, such as sweet alyssum, candytuft, Californian poppy, cornflower, clarkia, larkspur (delphinium), linum, marigold, nemophila, nigella, poppy, rudbeckia,, scabious, silene, and sweet pea. Transplant the plants when they reach 3-4 cm in height, planting them directly in place. They will need to be in a sheltered corner of the garden. In spring these young plants will have a very feeble root system. Do not move them again or you might lose two-thirds of your crop.
March to April: Gaillarda, Callifornian poppy, Chrsanthemum carinatum, clarkia, cornflower, everlasting flowers(Helipterum),lobularia, and marigolds
May: Convolvulus, cosmos, everlasting flowers(Ammobium), godetia, love in a mist, nasturtium, Virginia stock and zinnia.