Spring rains are becoming noticeably less frequent and the warm, drying winds of approaching summer are taking their place. That means it's time to start planting out those lovely warm weather flowers that are so treasured in our summer gardens.
Many of these flowers truly prefer hot, sunny conditions that drain thoroughly. For best results cultivate the soil, adding moderate amounts of a balanced fertilizer, composts, peat, blood and bone and/or lime.
If the soil is heavy, dig in sand, gravel, composted barks, etc. or be sure that the site is at least slightly sloping so that excess summer rainfall will not pool and stagnate around the plant's roots. This will often lead to summer root rots and other fungus diseases that are notorious for ruining hot weather blooms during unusually wet spells or if the site were over watered.
But even if you are on a budget or perhaps physically unable to go to a great deal of fuss over the soil, you'll be pleased to know that many of these hot weather flowers often put on a very good show in poor soils and most grow well in containers. What shall we plant?
A classic, supremely easily grown summer show can be almost guaranteed with dwarf Marigold and Alyssum. White Alyssum and golden yellow petite Marigold looks lovely in any container, as a border or in a bed on their own. Their easy culture makes this an excellent choice for a child's garden. Marigolds also come in lovely burnt russet shades, brilliant orange and nearly white.
Alyssum shades include pinks, mauve and deepest purples, all of which are hardy and very good in containers, although none beats the white "Sweet Alice" for toughness under harsh conditions. And speaking of tough stuff, Gazania and Arctotis carry brilliantly painted large daisy flowers in a variety of colours that open by day.
They are famous for surviving dry, windswept coastal site, baked parking lots and large uncared-for planter boxes and still provide a riot of bloom. This makes them valuable low-growing ground covers. To slightly soften the brightness and feature each individual treasured bloom, interplant with white Alysumm which will frame your display with a halo of fragrant white.
If carnaval colours are not your thing, consider planting spreading or trailing Lobelia or Thymes as a ground cover. Although their mauve, marine and white blooms may appear delicate they are famous for coming up between the cracks in paving stones or carpeting windy coastal sites. Lavender, Rosemary and Senecio with it's variety of beautiful silvery, grey/white foliage make good size shrubs, often treated as annuals that also thrive under similar severe conditions.
The delicate pinky, mauve and blue shades of Viscaria blend beautifully when interplanted with these shrubby plants. Their strong, slender stems rise to fill any gap in the shrub with classic little bouquets that would rival any fairy tale. And the exciting part is that these and so much more are that easy to grow that with just a little bit of effort, your own garden will soon look like a page from a story book!