BEDDING plants can be a great way of creating a seasonal decorative display in flower beds, borders, containers and hanging baskets.
Although the plants used will only flower for a short period they should grow fast, so it can be possible to transform a dull area quickly.
Before planting it is important to decide on your colour scheme and plant combinations. For example, would you like to create patches of colour or a whole bed. Take into consideration how big the plants will grow and what colours work well together. It is also worth thinking about the different textures of plants too.
Popular varieties include begonias, which flower from June to October and grow between 15 and 25 centimetres in height. Another favourite is lobelia. It can have blue, mauve, red, white or mixed coloured flowers and can be bought in trailing or upright types.
One of the most versatile and colourful bedding plants are petunias. They come in a variety of different colours and some have striped blooms on upright or trailing plants. They work well in most containers and hanging baskets.
For pots and containers you could try cosmos, it produces large rose-pink, red and white blooms or verbena, which has dark leaves with blue, orange, pink, white and yellow flowers.
When choosing your plants try to select ones that are bushy and look healthy and avoid those that are withered or droopy and have dry compost.
As most bedding plants have been started off in warm conditions it is important to make sure they are acclimatised either in a cold frame or in an unheated porch or greenhouse, where they have light. Harden them off by popping them outside during the daytime and inside at night before trying them outside all day and night. Do not do this if there is a risk of frost.
The end of April and throughout May is an ideal time to plant. Ensure the site you are going to use is in sun for most of the day and prepare the area by removing any weeds. If the soil is in bad condition add organic matter such as compost.
Position the plants where you intend to plant them and then dig a hole that is the same width and depth as the plant’s root system. Carefully remove the plant from its pot, taking care not to disturb the roots and place it in the hole. Fill around the plant with soil and firm down.
Try to plant taller varieties at the back of flower beds and use more compact varieties at the front, but be careful not to overcrowd. After planting use a general fertiliser and water well. If you are growing bedding plants in containers or hanging baskets fill them with potting compost that has been mixed with water-retentive gels.
To ensure your bedding plants bloom for longer, deadhead them regularly as this will encourage them to produce more flower buds. Feed once every one or two weeks with a fertiliser high in potash and make sure you keep the soil between the plants free from weeds, which will compete for nutrients and could smother the existing plants.
For more information on planting summer bedding plants, please call Northampton Garden Centre, which is located in Newport Pagnell Road, Northampton, on 765725 or visit www.northamptongardencentre.co.uk