Bedding Plants for the Back of the Border
Bedding Plants for the Back of the Border
Over 60cm (2ft)
ha = hardy annual
hha = half hardy annual
hb = hardy biennial
hhp = half hardy perennial
Althaea (hb) Hollyhock
The hollyhock probably vies with sunflowers in inspiring more ‘races’ among gardeners than any other tall-growing plant. Sow them early enough under glass and you can see bloom the same year, but they are better grown one year and set out to flower the next. They carry enormous spikes of colour and will easily top most fences.
(hha) Cup-and-saucer plant
The cup-and-saucer plant is so named because of the peculiar formation of the flower. It is also known as cathedral bells. One of the exotics, it has to be raised in some heat and then planted out, when it will climb rapidly. It carries a host of imposing flowers in green and purple-blue. Allow it up to about 3m (10ft) space and it will be happy and reward you well.
Convolvulus (ha and hha)
Convolvulus grows rapidly as a hardy annual. A superior type, the morning glory or ipomoea, is aannual — well named, as its (usually) blue or purplish-blue flowers come out to greet the sun on a summer’s morning and, if the day is hot, are gone by midday or soon after.
A beautiful flower growing to 120cm (4ft) on the end of graceful fern-like foliage. It is sometimes called the Mexican aster, but it does not greatly resemble the asters most of us know. It is more like a single-flowered dahlia with an unusual collar effect. One variety, ‘Bright Lights’, does produce double or semi-double flowers in gold, orange and red, flowering from June onwards for some weeks. Most of the other types are in orange or red shades. A most imposing plant for the border and, naturally, good for cutting.
Delphinium (hb) Larkspur
Although the larkspur can be treated as an annual, better plants come from treatment as a biennial. Sow outside in March, for flower in July, or sow in August for flower the following June. It will grow to about 1.5m (5ft), but there is also a dwarf version which reaches only 45cm (4-1/2ft).
Digitalis (hb) Foxglove
Strong spikes, growing up to about 1.5m (5ft), are covered by the mass of trumpet-like flowers of the foxglove. There is a smaller variety, known as ‘Foxy’, that can be grown as a half-hardy annual and comes in cream, white or carmine. A feature of the foxglove is the mottled maroon markings in the throat.
Helianthus (ha) Sunflower
One of the tall twins for the back of the border (hollyhock, of course, being the other). As its name implies, the sunflower needs plenty of sun. Its huge, yellow, daisy-like flower, with its vast seed centre, is a very familiar sight. Given good weather, it will flower well into autumn. Some will reach as much as 2m (6ft), and there are reports of giants going well above this, but mostly they settle at between 120cm and 2m (4 and 6ft).
Humulus japonicus (ha) Hop plant
This is a, with pale green leaves, splashed white or gold, which has clusters of small flowers. One of the fastest growing of all annual climbers. It will quite easily grow 3-6m (10—20ft) in a season.
Lathyrus (ha) Sweet pea
Very similar in many respects to the culinary pea, but with a wider (and often perfumed) range of flower colour. The main difference is that the culinary varieties are cultivated for their seed pods; here, the blooms are picked as frequently as possible, to prevent seed pods forming. Although ranked as, many experts say they should be treated as , started the previous year so that well-formed plants are ready for planting out around April. Feed them well for best results and make sure the ground is well prepared and enriched. Dig the foundations months previously and lace liberally with well-decayed manure or compost. The idea is to keep the roots well fed, so that they make plenty of growth and feed the stems, which will easily reach 2m (6 ft) or more in length. But don’t give them too much nourishment as a lot of nitrogen will create too much leaf, and you want flowers. The secret is to keep them very well. Watered, with an occasional .
If you want a profusion of blooms on long stems you will have to go to some trouble. The best plan is to grow them on the cordon system, in rows. Pinch out all side stems, grow just one stem up a 2m (6ft) stake, and concentrate all the plant’s energy into growing a few blooms. Tie the plant in to the stake as it grows; by the time it reaches the top it will still want to keep on growing but by then some of the earlier flowers, nearer the ground, will be over. Untie the stem, lay it along the ground, and re-train it up the adjoining stake, or even the second one along. This way you will gain extra height and length and correspondingly more blooms.
An easier way, but with less spectacular results, is to let them climb up a garden net or thread their way through pea or bean sticks, like the culinary varieties. Either way, keep picking, every morning, and a packet of seed will normally provide more than enough cut blooms. Not all have a sweet perfume, but there are plenty of scented varieties from which to choose. Among the best are ‘Carlotta’ (red), ‘Swan Lake’ (white), ‘Noel Sutton’ (blue), ‘Hunter’s Moon’ (cream) and ‘Leamington’ (lavender).
A comparatively new strain, ‘Knee-hi’, grows to about 1m (3ft) so does not need staking. If sown as a biennial the previous autumn it will reach about 1.5m (4-1/2ft). An even newer strain, ‘Jet Set’, based on ‘ Knee-hi’, is claimed to grow higher, faster and more sturdily.
Lavatera (ha) Mallow
The mallow is an attractive bushy plant growing to about 120cm (4ft), with large bell-trumpet flowers up to 10cm (4in) across. It takes up quite a lot of room and is fairly slow to germinate, but will produce a fine show of flowers from July to September. Provides excellent cut flowers — if you can bring yourself to cut them.
This plant is also sometimes known as black-eyed Susan, like the rudbeckia, but is not otherwise connected. It is a fast climber given the right conditions of shelter and ample sunshine; otherwise it is better kept in aor . The black eye is surrounded by white, yellow or orange petals. It does well if trained up canes and can also be used as a trailing plant or in pots. It grows very fast up to about 120cm (4ft).
Tropaeolum (ha) Nasturtium
A versatile plant that is edible as well as eye-catching, for the young leaves can be used in salads. Useful for ground cover, it grows from 15 to 30cm (6 to 12in) except for the aptly named ‘Tall’ variety, which will reach 2m (6ft) or more and is a good climber. Flowers are mostly gold, orange, yellow and scarlet. It tolerates, indeed thrives in, poor soil. In some districts it is prone to attack by blackfly, which are easily disposed of by aerosol.
Another tropaeolum, canary creeper, is an unabashed climber, very well named as its yellow flowers clinging to a wall closely resemble a swarm ofor flock of canaries at rest. This one is troubled by a green and yellow caterpillar, cunningly camouflaged to make detection difficult, which rapidly strips the foliage and causes a lot of damage. Deal with it quickly if you see them, for they multiply rapidly.