Plant up colourful bedding plants now to brighten up the winter border.
The long winter months are often associated with bleak, bare and colourless spaces in the garden. This need not be the case. The solution is to fill the gaps with winter-flowering bedding plants. These are now available at nurseries and garden centres. Plant these annuals during the autumn months of April and May to guarantee glorious colour from winter into spring.
When choosing plants, find out the height they reach at maturity. Create a layered effect in the border by planting the taller varieties like foxgloves (digitalis) at the back. Medium height plants such as poppies work well when planted in the middle. Low growing annuals like pansies, fairy primula and lobelia look stunning as edging plants at the front of the border.
Bedding plants often have more aesthetic appeal when mass planted. Also remember that you can create a more colourful effect when spring-flowering bulbs are planted in-between bedding plants. For a colourful patio or front entrance plant the bedding plants in containers.
What to plant for winter colour
There are bedding plants that are suitable for both sunny and shady positions:
Alyssum, calendula, candytuft, cornflower, dianthus, Bokbaai vygie, Iceland poppy, lavatera, lobelia, nemesia, ornamental kale, pansy, petunia, phlox, salpiglossis, snapdragons (are available in low, medium or tall varieties), stock, sweet pea, sweet William, viola.
For light shade
English daisy, forget-me-not, pansy, fairy primula, primrose, schizanthus.
Bedding plant success
Life is a garden. Now is the time to follow these tips for success with your annuals:
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 any debris, grass, weeds and stones, and then level the bed with a rake.
Transplant the bedding plants
Avoid transplanting them in the heat of the day. Water both the plant and the soil thoroughly. Carefully remove each tiny plant but avoid damaging their roots. Avoid pulling it up by the stem; rather push it gently from below. Place the plant in a hole in the prepared bed and plant it at the same depth as it was in the tray. After they have all been planted, water well using a fine sprinkler.
Newly planted bedding plants need daily watering until they are established. Once they are settled in, they can be watered deeply but less often. This method of watering encourages deep root growth and is more beneficial for healthy plants than regular light sprinklings.
To promote healthy growth, bedding plants require fertiliser every two weeks. Winter-flowering annuals benefit from foliar fertilser. Instead of applying fertiliser to the soil around the plants, foliar fertilising refers to spraying fertiliser onto the foliage of plants. Foliar feed with a half-strength of Multifeed or Nitrosol mixed with water. This method is helpful where plants are in constant competition with the roots of shrubs and trees for nutrition. Foliar fertilisation improves the performance of bedding plants and encourages prolific flowering.
Throughout flowering time, remove spent blooms to encourage more flowers.