Whilst waiting for the start of the February seed sowing season, some of us are thinking about how we can extend the flowering season in our gardens, so here are a couple of tips, especially us lucky ones down in the south.
Some plants, including those sometimes seen as annuals, can in fact be overwintered in a cold (but lined) greenhouse or conservatory, including pelargoniums, fuchsias, even antirrhinums and osteospermums etc. They will then be ready to plant into the garden in late March, and could be flowering in April. This is my cold greenhouse, shown in photo 1. You should open the greenhouse door as much as possible when the weather is fine, to avoid fungal infection, but this can easily be cut off if necessary, the plant will survive.
Back in September last year, I took some cuttings from my pelargoniums and fuchsias, and these are shown in photo 2. These can also be planted out in March (if no severe frosts), flowering in April, albeit as smaller plants. This compares with purchased pelargoniums/fuchsias etc, not normally available as large garden-ready plants until May (although mini plugs for growing on, may be available before then).
Also, perennial summer-flowering bulbs wouldn’t normally be in bloom until May or even June if already planted in your garden, or from garden centres. This is because they often need a period of ‘vernalisation’ (ie the plant thinks it is winter, and waits for spring). However, if you buy such bulbs (lilies, gladioli, liatris and many others), in late winter like just now, and plant into a warm greenhouse/conservatory/windowsill, this will fool the plant into believing it is now spring, and it will start to grow. Some people put the bulbs into the fridge for a week before planting out. Photo 3 shows some oriental lilies I only planted 2 weeks ago in my heated garden room, and these will be in flower in April (again watch out for late heavy frosts).
In fact, I am looking to have at least 2 or 3 plants in flower in every month of the year. I currently have snowdrops and iris reticulata bulbs, winter jasmine, mahonia, hamamelis (witch hazel), and my camelia, viburnum and quince are just starting their first flowers. This is in addition to the winter bedding plants – primrose, pansy, viola, cyclamen.
I am having a sale of spring garden bulbs in pots from Monday, on my front drive, to raise money for my charity (not the U3A one unfortunately).