Planting up colour for December

Life is a garden and December is the time to plant up for that glorious time of hot, lazy days, dizzyingly bright colours and warm perfumed nights that is midsummer.

Lobelia

December in the garden is an exciting month; the second flush of roses brings perfume and colour and early flowers of easy summer annuals such as lobelia and portulaca delight us with their charm. Flowering shrubs like duranta, fuchsia, cuphea, felicia and murraya begin to strut their stuff, as all heaven breaks loose.

Roses can play a huge role in the colorful Mardi grass of life in a garden, as they are found in a wide variety of colors and forms. They are surprisingly versatile, tolerating a wide range of temperatures and soils. The modern rose has been bred to withstand disease and flower recurrently. Roses are flowering now so it’s possible to choose the exact colors and forms to suit your needs.

Roses can be grown all on their own in a single bed, but they look more natural mixed in with other plants. Try mixing them with a duranta - place Duranta erecta‘Sapphire Showers’ with its trusses of deep blue flowers edged with white as a backdrop for a pure white rose such as the hybrid tea ‘Nursing Centenary’ or the floribunda ‘Iceberg’. A deep red rose with a hint of blue such as the old favourite ‘Papa Meilland’ would also look exquisite. A word of warning: avoid the ordinary duranta – pigeon berry – with the pale blue flowers and yellow berries, as it is a proposed category 3 invader plant.

Duranta

Cuphea mexicana

Perfect for filling the gaps in the middle of the border are the neat little plants such as the Mexican cuphea and indigenous felicia. The cupheas or false heathers are perfect ground covers which will flower almost indefinitely. The fine textured medium green foliage provides a pleasing backdrop to the masses of minute flowers which come in shades of lilac, purple, pink and white. Both the cupheas and the indigenous felicias are low maintenance plants of note. The blue marguerite (Felicia amelloides) brings a most pleasing shade of blue to the garden, marrying seamlessly into the palette of pastels donned by the daisy bushes.

Felicias prefer well drained soil with plenty of compost and after flowering can be clipped back to start the show all over again.If you are looking for something easy to grow, look no further than the daisy bushes – Argyranthemums species, flawed only by their unpronounceable name! Finely cut foliage provides a backdrop to daisy flowers in shades of white, cream, yellow, apricot, pink, rose and even red. These flowers will perform right on through to autumn.

Argyranthemum

Murraya exotica

“What on earth can I plant in the shade?” you may be asking. Fuchsia hybrids, the hardier ones (consult your nursery guru here), come in a tremendous variety of colours, shapes and forms. Their dainty pendulous flowers can be single or double and sport leaves which vary in colour from green to bronze and even variegated. They do require a rich, moist soil, shelter from the wind and should be regularly fed.

And last but not least something to perfume the summer air? What about an orange jasmine (Murraya exotica)? Perfect, hailing from India, this attractive, shiny, green-leafed shrub has large heads of sweetly scented white flowers. It will even grow in semi-shade - life really is a garden!

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