When planning and planting out flower beds for winter and spring displays, there are many bright and very colourful flowers that you should consider. Most of them are low, spreading annuals that hug the ground for warmth, creating a carpet of colour.
They look very effective planted on their own as a bed or border and also inter-planted between spring flowering bulbs to greatly extend the season of colour and hide bulb foliage as it ripens after flowering.
Dwarf carnation is an effective annual that should be planted now from seed or seedling for a spring show. Choose a very sunny, airy, mild spot as carnations resent shade, wet, over¬crowded conditions.
Carnations prefer light, fluffy or even sandy soils that drain perfectly. This makes them excellent subjects4 for coastal gardens, larger window boxes and drier spots.
They are extremely effective planted with the more pastel shades of freesia where the freesia adds the extra fragrance that only freesia can while the carnation hides the unsightly freesia foliage after they finish.
Both make excellent cut flowers and will reward the gardener with months of bloom. Another little darling that should be grown much more is Virginia Stock (Cheiranthus maritmus).
It’s actually not a stock at all but a small member of the mustard family that includes the closely related wallflower. The plants are quite tiny, growing only 10 to 20cm. and they tend to form a mat very similar to alyssum.
Flowers are like large individual alyssum blooms in pastel pinks, creams, whites to almost blue, mauve and the occasion butter yellow. They flower for months and reseed religiously if they are grown properly in a light soil with good air and at least partial sun.
They look great inter-planted with bulbs like tulip, hyacinth, grape hyacinth and freesia. Grows easily from seed spread over the bulb bed. Polyanthus and primula are the two winter/spring classics for a reliable show of colour through, the coldest months and well into spring.
Polyanthus are actually hybrid primulas looking great in mass plantings. But there are hundreds of other varieties to choose from in single and double forms in every shade of the rainbow from the tiniest rock plants like primula vulgaris that flowers well in the partial shade and rich fluffy soils of open woodland settings to the knee high primula helodoxa with bright yellow spikes.
Helodoxa is one of the large group of candelabra primulas whose tall, graceful flower spikes resemble a candelabra. They thrive in or near water or in very damp ground making them excellent subjects for a sunny or partly sunny wet area.
There are many closely related forms with an incredible range of bright colours But for the home gardener the common garden primula malacoides is indispensable in reasonably rich, light soil in sun or light shade.
They look great planted with bulbs of nearly every kind. And now that it is possible to obtain them in separate colours the garden designer with an eye for a royal carpet show of colour is in for a delight fit for a King!
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