Published on May 22nd, 2013 | by Angela Boobbyer0
Obviously it depends to an extent where you live in the UK, but according to a gardening pundit, everything is about a month later than it should be. Nature has a wonderful way of catching up however, so it may be that by the time this magazine hits your doormat, all the plants may be just a couple of weeks behind. Even so, I suspect that my mixed flower borders will end up looking their best much later than I’d hoped– probably some time in August when I am away on holiday!
I always grow cosmos bipinnatus in the borders and the cutting patch, as they are reliable germinators and will happily keep flowering for several months. The TV gardener Sarah Raven says that her 1m x 1m patch can produce 2 buckets of flowers a week from late June to October – that’s very good value from a couple of packets of seed. It is possible to buy some varieties of cosmos as bedding plants from a garden centre, but I avoid them as they tend to be the compact types which just get lost in my borders! I have therefore always grown them from seed and have found the white cosmos “Purity” and the bright pink “Dazzler” to be the best. Not only are they prolific flowerers, but they also produce lots of nectar and pollen making them attractive to bees and butterflies. Last year the cool wet summer meant that the cosmos put on a lot of growth and reached nearly 5 feet and while the flowers didn’t appear until late August, they looked spectacular until late October and the first frosts. As with all annuals, it is better if you can deadhead them, but I have noticed that they perform just as well if I don’t and towards the end of the season you can save the seed and try sowing it next year.
Another annual that loved last year’s rains were the sweet peas that produced vases of flowers for weeks. I go for fragrance over colour or size, so I prefer varieties such as the small bicolour “Matucana” or the dark purple “Lord Nelson”. It is important to keep cutting sweet peas so that they carry on producing flowers – once you start to see any pods, they are starting to set seed and will put their energy into that rather than flower production. So even if you have filled all your vases, keep cutting and give them to friends – you’ll be very popular.
Another favourite annual is amaranthus caudatus or Love-lies-bleeding. It produces drooping panicles of dark red blooms – giving rise to its dramatic name – and for extra drama I have always planted the dark red/purple foliage variety. In fact I find that it plants itself as it obligingly self-seeds every year. As it can grow to over 3 feet it will need to be staked, as the drooping flowers can drag it over. Again, last year’s cooler, wetter weather produced whopping plants that flowered until October – not bad for freebies!