Growing Flowers for Every Season
Growing Flowers for Every Season
To be able to think sideways and round corners, in a lateral fashion, is a great help in: optimists to the last, gardeners must always be thinking of next week, next year and ten years hence. And they need to be able to hold a picture in their mind’s eye of what a plant is going to do, and at what time it will do it, and also take into account how its neighbours are going to behave.
If you could only make a film of a flower bed, that ran constantly throughout the year, store it away in your head and play it back on demand, you would then see all the tricks that memory can play on exact recall of colour, height and spread, let alone precise time of flowering of each individual flowering plant.
Some of the year will look after themselves: as the earth warms in the spring sunshine you can almost see things growing. Primroses and , streams of blue , and , chequered fritillaries and erythroniums, in scarlet or elegant white — the soil seems to almost quiver with life and colour. Early-flowering appear in a surge of growth — bright yellow Doronicum, and polychroma, Pulmonaria, vernus and many more — as winter pansies show their final appearance and forget-me-nots create a sea of blue. Patches of Anemone nemorosa and celandines ( ficaria) dot the ground under canopies of flowering wreathed in blossom, while in spots reserved for the most exclusive plants, Trillium and bloodroots (Sanguinaria canadensis) stand proud.
Then, as spring gradually fades into early summer there is a short interval, graced with every shade of fresh green you can think of, as summer’s participants gather their strength and fatten their buds. Unless you are blessed with a lime-free soil for Rhododendron, Menziesia, Phyllodoce and other choice members of the Ericaceae, or asufficiently mild to accommodate such Chilean beauties as Embothrium coccineum, you will have to be extra busy with the notebook at this time.
Three plants in particular deserve special mention for young gardens — Aquilegia, perennial honesty (rediviva) and the double white sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis). The first two are very easy from seed (and will seed themselves with alacrity in later years). Happily, the double sweet rocket, though rather hard to come by, is now available virus-free; its double flowers, scented towards evening, appear for months on end.
There is a moment when it seems time stands still, asawaits the arrival of the sumptuous flowers of mid-summer — roses, bearded , delphiniums, peonies and oriental . Admittedly these plants need a little care to grow well, but who would be without them! The poppies do not need much attention, and the bit of ingenuity required to disguise the gap they leave after flowering, is worth it for their silken, crinkled petals. Summer will be starting their non-stop performance, continuing till autumn frosts, the high season for herbaceous is just opening, and for a few short weeks the gardener is permitted to do a little sitting in the shade.
Late summer brings a tired and dusty feeling to the garden, hot winds and sun will have taken their toll on the freshness of spring; you must get out of your chair, and sharpen both your wits and your pencil. The approach here is two-fold: the aim should be firstly to keep the plants that are flowering in pristine condition by, tidying and watering, thus giving them every little encouragement to continue; and secondly, to incorporate a selection of plants that go on and on flowering.
Among the most cherished plants of the year are those that wait all summer and then put on a late display of bloom, when most other plants are getting ready for winter. Silver-leaved plants are at their gleaming best in the gentler light and many floweringare at their peak in autumn. It is refreshing to discover something new in flower while rushing round tidying and re-organizing the plants.