Buying Bedding Plants 

It has become a ritual for many of us to spend end of May Bank Holiday with a trip down to the garden centre to seek out our summer bedding plants. The frosts have gone until next autumn and our gardens can once again be adorned with these brilliant flowers. Whether it is the space between the driveway and the front garden, or the border around the back lawn, we want it to look floriferous for as long as possible. Gardening styles change and whilst we used to fill the area with pansies and busy lizzies (impatiens), the trend has shifted to petunias and begonias. New varieties of surfinias are bred every year and they really can not be surpassed for flower power. Some people like to squeeze in as many flowers as possible, but if your not going in for the flower garden of the year,  soil between the plants can sometimes  improve the overall appearance of your planting scheme.  (just remember to hoe the weeds occasionally) .

Before you go shopping:

I used to advise people to make a sketch of their border and take it with them whilst buying, but with modern technology, things have become much easier – take a photo of your empty border on your phone and keep referring to it whilst making your purchases.

Decide vaguely on your colour scheme whist looking at the border at home – this will ensure that the flowers will blend with the rest of the garden and save time at the garden centre. Last week I saw an irate couple, one on either side of the aisle in the garden centre, each holding a tray of plants in their hands distancing themselves from each other – shopping at the garden centre should be a pleasant experience – so If you have a partner discuss the  planting scheme before you set out!

At the garden centre:

  • Remember plants grow! Think of the final size of the plants, not the way they look now, and leave spacing accordingly.
  • Consider the actual height of the plants and include a taller row of plants at the back of the border.
  • Adding a few foliage plants often makes the garden look as if you hired a garden designer! Try a few coleus plants which are now available in all the colours of Joseph’s coat.
  • A few taller dot plants like a cordyline or a standard fuchsia in the centre, will also give your border a professional look.

Don’t buys:

  • Unless you live in a seaside resort or the sunny south of England steer clear from plants like gazania – their daisy like flowers only open in the sunshine and the rest of the time they give a poor display.
  • When buying from a supermarket or bargain discount store, beware – the plants may be cheaper, but are usually of substandard quality . Even if they did arrive in the shop in pristine condition, unlike garden centres, most of these shops have no way of watering their trolleys and after a few days the plant roots are totally dried out – I sometimes buy these reduced plants and put them in the hospital bed in my allotment , but that is only because I enjoy trying to see if I can revive plants from the dead and transplant them with a new heart but the result is not usually what you would like to see in your garden.

Take a look at the picture of the window box.

window box

Although most bedding plants are annuals, some, like those in the photo are perennial, those pictured are begonia, and geranium and you can also  see a common houseplant the spider plant (Chlorophytum Comosum). These plants have overwintered in my garden without any protection, they have a huge root system and should produce a beautiful display this year. So by choosing a few perennials this year, your bedding bill will be cheaper next year!




Money saving tip:

I am always intrigued when I see the trolleys coming out of the garden centres with many trays of bedding plants and a couple of hanging baskets. The question that springs to my mind is  – if the purchaser has the ability to bend down and plant their bedding,  why can’t they sit at their garden table and enjoy planting up a few hanging baskets. So my advice is: buy a few extra plants (around 6 or 7 for an average basket) – include a few trailing plants (B & Q have a potted ivy for just £1 at the moment), take out last years basket from the shed, or buy a new one for a few pounds, and pot it up at your leisure. You will now have a hanging basket that will not only match your own colour scheme but also cost you half the price!

Enjoy your gardening week!

Boris Legarni.

Next week :  ‘Is it too late to plant potatoes?’

Potato Plot
Potato Plot