Colour for winter
April is the time to plant winter-flowering bedding plants to brighten up your garden in the months ahead.
With winter around the corner our thoughts turn to the cold months to come, but gardeners need not despair, there are many beautiful bedding plants that can be put in the garden in April to give it colour throughout the winter. Bedding plants can be used on their own, to provide bold splashes of colour, or planted between the spring-flowering bulbs. Remember to place tall-growing plants at the back of the bed, and low-growing ones at the front. Life is a garden that exudes glorious colour when it feels like winter is getting you down!
Landscaper Beverley Ballard-Tremeer says, "Give some thought to creating special colour effects this winter. In a sunny bed, try blue lobelia in front of pink and mauve stocks. Or try white candytuft with brightly coloured petunias. Iceland poppies look lovely with an edging of yellow pansies. In hot, dry positions, plant the water wise Californian poppy and Livingstone daisies. The wide range of Primula species and forget-me-not provide a range of bright and pastel colours for shady positions. Try mauve fairy primula interspersed with yellow polyanthus primrose."
The trailing growth habits of lobelias, alyssum and petunias make them good plants for hanging baskets. Petunias interplanted with pansies in a harmonising colour and with a touch of white alyssum make a lovely container planting. "Try a yellow, white and blue colour scheme with marigolds, blue petunias and white pansies. Or fly the flag with black pansies, red snapdragons, blue lobelia, and just a touch of white and yellow!" says Beverley.
Tips for seedling success
- Before planting the annuals, prepare the soil well. Add liberal quantities of compost to poor sandy soils (two 30dm bags of compost to 4 square metres). To improve loam add 1 bag (30dm) to 4 square metres.
- Before digging over the flowerbed, sprinkle one handful of planting fertiliser over each square metre.
- Remove all grass, weeds, stone and debris. Level the bed with a rake.
- Avoid transplanting the seedlings in the heat of the day.
- Before transplanting, water the soil well, as well as the seedlings in their trays.
- Remove the seedling carefully so as not to damage the root. Avoid pulling it up by the stem; rather push it gently from below.
- Make a hole in the bed and pop the seedling in. Use a fine sprinkler to water the plants after transplanting.
- During the long, dry winter months, it is important to keep winter annuals moist, but not wet. Deep, infrequent watering encourages deep root growth and is generally better than frequent, light applications.
- Foliar fertilising dramatically improves the performance of bedding plants. Foliar feed with a half-strength of Multifeed or Nitrosol mixed with water. This is especially necessary in areas where root competition from trees or shrubs is a problem. Large gardens can be foliar fed quickly and easily with the aid of a modern mix-nozzle that can be clipped onto the end of a hosepipe (stocked by large garden centres).
- Throughout flowering time, remove spent blooms to encourage more flowers.
What to plant for winter colour
Alyssum, calendula, candytuft, cornflower, dianthus, Bokbaai vygie (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis), Iceland poppy, lavatera, Livingstone daisy (water wise), lobelia, nemesia, ornamental kale, pansy, petunia, phlox, salpiglossis, snapdragons (are available in low, medium or tall varieties), stock (Matthiola incana), sweet pea, sweet William, viola.
For light shade:
Bellis perennis, myosotis, pansy, fairy primula (Primula malacoides), primrose (Primula acaulis), schizanthus.