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 Summer Bedding

An article by our feature writer Christine Walkden

There can be few plants that give as much pleasure for such a small cost as Summer Bedding Plants and, with such a low skill requirement, everyone can enjoy growing them.

 They are suitable for borders, rockeries, among Shrubs, in containers and hanging baskets, around ponds, for attracting wildlife, for cutting and/or drying, for their fantastic seed heads and growing as pot plants. 



The variety of colours both in flower and foliage, growth habits, forms, textures and length of flowering allows us to have colour for months on end and, providing we keep them watered, fed and dead headed, they can be in flower for up to six months.

Those Bedding Plants that are known as half-hardy annuals will need to be protected until the last frost has occurred, otherwise, they can be damaged or even killed if the frost is severe.  Examples include Impatiens, Lobelia, Petunia, Asters, Marigolds, Nemesia and Salvias. Others, which are known as hardy annuals, will survive some frost and do not need to be raised in a protected environment.


Many of us experienced problems with Impatiens in the last few years. This was due to a disease called Impatiens Downy Mildew which is specific to Impatiens Walleriana, the common Busy Lizzie, and not to any other types of busy Lizzie. It is not capable of spreading to other plant species. Mildews, in general, are very common and nearly all of them are host specific, so Rose Mildew will not spread to another plant species in the same way that Impatiens Downy Mildew won’t spread to another plant species. It is possible, however, to have a number of these mildew diseases present in a garden all at the same time.


Plants that are stressed by being kept too dry at the roots, those that have insufficient nutrients, or too much fertiliser, and those planted far too close together, all are more susceptible than when growing really well and at the correct plant spacing.


Symptoms of Impatiens Downy Mildew included yellowing of the affected leaves which were shed from the plant very quickly, sometimes a white fungal growth was visible on the underside of the leaves and the leaves decayed rapidly and flowers were also shed. Plants were reduced to bare tems with small tufts of leaves and a few flower buds at the growing point. Some plants just disappeared altogether!


I had problems myself but this has not put me off growing these floriferous plants again, and I am more than aware that one of the best ways of gaining control is giving the soil a break for at least one year, and possibly two, and good general hygiene. All the soil in the containers in which I grow Busy Lizzie has been thrown away and all the pots, containers and hanging baskets have been given a really good wash with a garden disinfectant. I have also taken the precaution of washing the walls and brickwork where the plants were touching just in case any spores got onto the hard surfaces.


I suspect that plants grown in the border soil will have infected the soil for some time so I will not be growing busy lizzies in the border for a number of years but I do intend returning to them again as they just flower and flower and are great in the shade.


The spores of the disease are airborne and are spread by rain splash or poor watering, so avoid overhead watering and water in the morning so the plants dry quickly. The spores need long periods of damp weather to develop and spread, so the disease is a problem in damp or wet seasons.  If we get an Indian summer this year I suspect we will see nothing of the disease and it should be remembered that if you did not experience it last year, you should not be put off trying these easy to grow plants. If it’s warm and sunny we are unlikely to have problems.


This problem will not affect other bedding plants so why not have a change and try some of the lovely Begonias such as Sahara Patchwork.  I find this type of begonia so reliable and they flower for months and months, do well in very dry conditions and, because they are available in such a wide range of colours, they can be fitted into most bedding schemes and do really well in the shade. I have grown these for years and believe they are one of the most useful plants in the garden for summer colour.


Where you need more height have a go at growing Fuchsias or Geraniums or why not have a try at Petunias?  These are available in as good a range of colours as the Busy Lizzies, so you should find something that will tick all of your boxes.


If you have a dry position give Nicotiana a try. Keep them deadheaded and they will flower all through the summer and well into the autumn.


Summer bedding plants are such great plants that I hope you will fill your gardens with them, and then, like me, when you have your friends round you can stand back and admire the realms of colour with pride.


Click here to view our full range of Spring and Summer Flowering Bedding Plants

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