Seeing benefits of sun
THIS summer we've enjoyed some very welcome sunshine and even now, after the heat wave, we are still getting some pretty good weather. This has brought with it challenges but on the whole has provided us with some welcome help. Our annual bedding displays have really benefited from the sunshine despite the team having to put in a Herculean effort to keep them watered at times. But as we have planted several new bedding areas as well as having added tender annuals or perennials to a number of other parts of the Gardens, the benefits of the weather have far outweighed the problems.
Every year we combine reliable performers with a few new experimental varieties. Our colour combination this year consisted of pink, white, blue, purple and green. We have used different quantities of different varieties to give us different colour blends and heights with most of the plants set out informally.
We used pink or white Cosmos and Cleome to give height and colour at the backs of borders with Dahlia 'Blue Bayou' which is pink and purple for medium height. We also added Castor oil plants, Ricinus communis 'Carmencita Pink' in the main displays, and the red form in borders as its leaves are ornamental in appearance and contrast well with the other foliage. Where we needed shorter plants we grew a combination of white Bizzy Lizzy or Impatiens, green flowered Moluchella or Bells of Ireland, scented Heliotrope and Cerinthe. Our main concern was that this combination was very conventional and the colour scheme one that people have seen before. However it looks great and has created plenty of interest.
The green spires of the Moluchella break up the blue and white of the Heliotrope and Impatiens really well. The Heliotrope also gives you the added bonus of an excellent scent as does the foliage of the Cleome. However the plants that have really impressed were the Ricinus and the Impatiens as they have proved to be excellent plants for interest all through the season.
The Ricinus was planted out at the beginning of June and has just got bigger and better as the season goes on. Do remember that all parts of this plant are highly poisonous and extreme care should be taken when using it. Between the foliage, flowers and seed heads there is always something to look at and the pink form goes really well with the other plants. Elsewhere in the garden we have added the red form to the hardy displays where it has done equally as well.
The Impatiens have been a real success. Like many other people we had stopped growing the waleriana type due to the mildew problem. This year we tried the Sunpatiens which are a hybrid that has the New Guinea type as a parent. We have had absolutely no problem with mildew so far and they are happy in sun or shade. What we like about them is that they grow quite tall - about 40 centimetres, and they flower all season. Admittedly they seemed a little slow to get going but now they keep getting bigger and bigger and you need far less of them than the usual types. They are definitely one we will be trying again, especially as they too seem happy in sun or shade.
It's great to try new things and to find old things that can be used differently. All the plants I have mentioned are fairly easy to grow and can also be used in borders. What is handy with summer bedding plants is that many of them keep going well into autumn, adding plenty of late season interest. Many of the plants mentioned are either old favourites or new versions of old favourites, but they are all certainly excellent annuals for the garden.