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How to grow seasonal flowers

Plants and flowers for temporary bedding and display

· Horticulture

This article looks at how to organize a seasonal bedding. I will start with the main difference between annual and biennial plants and their use in the garden. In the second part of the article I explain each step of how to prepare a seasonal display and a flower bed.

Annuals

Annuals are plants with a life cycle of one year. They are programmed to die within 4 seasons.

E.g. Tropaeolum majus | Garden nasturtium

E.g. Petunia

We subdivide annuals in two categories:
1) Hardy annuals (HA) - robust, tough, you throw the seeds in whenever and the plant grows when the conditions are favourable.

E.g. Nigella hispanica L.

2) Half hardy annuals (HHA) - they have to have special conditions to grow.

E.g. petunia - e.g. Cosmos bipinnatus (see picture)

How to use annual plants in the garden? Pots, cut flowers (e.g. sweet peas, cosmos…), we can seed them in mass to fill in gaps in between crops (e.g. Myosotis sylvatica, aka Forget-me-not) , we can use them to attract predators as a companion plants for vegetables (e.g. cosmos attract predators)

Another use, which is getting more popular, is ‘naturalistic planting’, e.g. wild flowers seeds are always annuals.

 

COSMOS

Biennials

Biennials are plants that live for 2 years. During the first year they only produce vegetative growth and nothing to do with reproduction. The second year they bolt and make flowers.

E.g. Digitalis purpurea aka foxgloves, Alcea rosea aka hollyhock (strictly speaking the hollyhock is a short-lived perennial, but after the second year it does not look as good, so we tend to consider it a biennial), Dianthus barbatus aka Sweet William, Oenothera biennis aka evening primrose, Erysimum cheiri

Digitalis purpurea, Foxgloves

F1 Hybrids

F1 is the first filial generation of offspring of distinctly different parental types. F1 hybrids are used in genetics, and in selective breeding, where it may appear as F1 crossbreed. The term is sometimes written with a subscript, as F1 hybrid.

F1s are usually more expensive because they are highly bred and intensively manipulated. They can be more vigorous, because they combine the best characteristics from the parents that were genetically dominant (and therefore more desirable). If we want to make a bedding, F1s will be very suitable because they are all be identical. If you cross-breed an F1, the stability is gone. The next generation, F2, is not as stable as F1. Seeding F1 can be interesting, but the result is not as reliable. F1s will all flower at the same time and will be very uniform - For example, they are used if we want a mass production of the same size vegetable or the same flower. F1 flowers are usually vigorous and showy.

Seasonal beds

Spring bedding: Tulips, bulbs, Primula vulgaris and other rockery plants.

Summer bedding: Pelargonium commonly known as geranium (a tender perennial); Dahlia, native from South America (where it is a perennial); Fuchsia, showy, in its native country it’s a shrub; Cordyline australis, a shrub.

For winter display: Hedera helix ‘Goldchild’ aka ivy; Euonymus, a shrub; winter heathers; winter flowering biennials like Bellis perennis

Dahlia is perfect for summer display

How to make a flowerbed

  • Assess the soil. Thinking about sun exposure and drainage.
    pH test to determine whether the soil is acid, alkaline or neutral
    Consistency: Clay, sandy or silty?

  • Clear the soil from weeds, especially perennials. We can either hand-pick them, using a fork, or use a weedkiller

  • Then we want to prick the soil up with a fork or a spade
    The aim is to make space for the plant roots - We try to fine tilth so the roots can penetrate more easily

  • Consolidate the soil and even out the air pockets

  • Do we need to fertilise the soil? Organic or non-organic matter? Thinking about timing, because organic matter is slow acting

  • Acclimatise the plants - This can also be time consuming

  • Put the plants in the soil using a hand trowel - We don't need big holes
    We might need to ad some fine compost to the surface
    If we need to tag the plants we want to tag the leaf and never the stem, because leaves regrow.

  • Water, then feeding, weeding and pest control.

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