Winter Warmth and Smiles
No garden should be without calendulas at this time of year; it’s the only way to guarantee a little burst of sunshine when the weather fails you! Whether it’s a sweep of golden blooms or a vivacious display in a pot, calendulas are a golden ray on a cold winter day. What’s more, even the most inexperienced of gardeners can grow them easily.
Most of us have childhood memories of squeezing the flowers of Antirrhinums together to make dragon mouths. Snapdragons are not only an endless source of amusement to children, they are ideal for bringing striking colour into the garden.
Calendulas are one of the most versatile flowers to work with, especially as they are so easy to grow. Whether it’s in a bed, a pot or a vegetable garden, calendulas add a reliable touch of warmth to any garden. Calendulas tend to grow well in rich soil, but can also tolerate average to slightly poor soils. Water your calendula plants once or twice a week but remember that they do not like standing in wet, soggy soil so plant them with compatible plants.
Position them in partial shade or in an area that will receive a full dose of sunshine every day. These plants will flourish in nearly every light condition with the only exception being deep shade. They do best, however, if planted in sunny locations with rich, well-drained soil. Don’t forget to deadhead your plants by removing the dying flower heads to encourage them to keep on flowering more and for longer!
Antirrhinums tolerate light frost so you can still plant these delightful beauties if you live in one of the colder parts of the country. They are easy to grow in any well-drained, reasonably fertile, garden soil, but prefer a light or medium loam – so add in plenty of compost when preparing the bed. The soil needs to be kept relatively moist, so water deeply every 5 days or so. They like a warm, sunny location, but in a hot climate they perform better in partial shade. Put the plants where they will receive good air movement to prevent the fungal disease or rust taking hold.
Kale is often overlooked in favour of other herbs but this rewarding and versatile little plant should make an appearance in every edible garden! This fast grower will produce mild tasting tender leaves rapidly which can be eaten raw or used for cooking in soups, stews and even stir fries. Kale manages the cold incredibly well, in fact, its flavour is enhanced by cold and frost. The more mature your plant gets, the more flavourful the leaves, so harvesting really depends on your palate!
Most verbenas are perennial by nature, but most gardeners’ treat them as an annual, replanting each year. Flowers can be mauve, purple, white, pink, apricot or red, with some of the modern hybrids even being bi-coloured. The trailing types are excellent in hanging baskets and pots!