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Gardening with Gael - Flowering annuals provide colourful display


Colourful annuals-321As the weeks of fine weather – much loved by holiday makers but viewed with growing concern by gardeners and farmers – continue, I notice the slow browning of lawns and roadsides and some paddocks. Vegetables, if left unattended, bolt to seed. Watering, if there is enough water, becomes a daily chore. At the Block I am bucketing water to plants that were planted a little late in the season. Now is the time any mulching during late spring while there was rain begins to do its job. Ground moisture is conserved and evaporation slowed. Around many plants, cracks are beginning to appear. The first flush from roses is over and the dahlias have not quite begun their spectacular blooming. 

What at this time provides  a colourful display? Annuals. Flowering annuals. I had never bothered much with annuals. They appeared to be a lot of work for a short time and then at the end of the season, nothing. I much preferred the permanence of flowering shrubs and perennials. 

One day a new neighbor moved in. Before she arrived the garden beds in front of her house looked sad and neglected. There were a few scrubby perennials badly in need of pruning and little else. In a remarkably short time she had turned over the beds and planted a host of annuals. Within weeks (it felt like days) her garden featured drifts of every colour. My idea of annuals was transformed. Since then I have poked a few into every corner that needs a shot of colour. 

My old garden at what was the cottages is still in its transformative stage. The shrubs which will one day grow and cover the ground are still small and there is plenty of room for some plants to fill the gaps.

As usual, a trip to the market and the sight of a sea of colour at Helen Porter’s stall was all I needed. We are fortunate to have Helen and Rowie and also the g.a.s. station who all provide inspiration with their changing array of colourful annual plants.

Marigolds, tagetes with their variety of flower forms and their reputation as a great companion plant are beneficial in both the flower and vegetable garden. They enhance the growth of tomatoes, members of the brassica family and other vegetables because they suppress nematodes, the microscopic worms that attack the roots of plants.

Phlox, rudbeckias, zinnias, asters and cleomes are all excellent bedding plants. Zinnias in particular with their bright blooms and ability to withstand high temperatures are highly recommended.

On a wander through Gayle Brown’s lovely garden on the Tara this week I was reminded of the joy of salvias. The morning was very warm and we happened upon the clear bright blue flower of a well established salvia. Almost a royal blue in the bud each flower opened to a medium clear true shade of blue, a colour that is refreshing to see at this time of the year. Readily available from most of our shops and stall holders here, salvias come in a variety of colours and sizes. There was a striking red one at the garage this morning.

It isn’t summer without marigolds (left), zinnias (right), purple and red salvias in the background.

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