New Garden Beds

Weak-stemmed plants, tall varieties on exposed sites, large headed flowers and climbers all need some form of support. Care has to be taken to ensure that an attractive display is not ruined by ugly staking. The golden rule is to put the stake in position when the plant is quite small so that the stems can cover it. For many plants brushwood is the best idea, twiggy branches pushed into the soil when the stems are about six inches high.

Staking This will not do for tall dot plants which often require staking at planting time. Stout bamboo canes are the usual answer, the stems being tied to the support as growth proceeds. This single pole method is suitable for plants with a main stem such as a standard Fuchsia, but it should be avoided with bushy plants as an ugly drumstick effect can be produced. A better plan is to insert three or four canes around the stems and enclose them with twine tied around the canes at six to nine inch intervals.

Climbing plants are generally happier growing up netting, trellis, etc rather than up a single pole, but there are exceptions. Whichever method you use it is essential to ensure that the framework is strong and well anchored. It should be put in position at an early stage and new growth trained into it regularly.

With both freestanding and wall supports it is generally necessary to tie the stems to them. Soft twine or nylons are good materials and avoid tying too tightly. When training a climber on to a trellis, you should not tie the stems vertically; spread them at an angle to form a fan so as to increase the display.

Staking Climbers Some cutting back usually takes place throughout the season in well-tended gardens. The operation starts at an early stage either before or just after planting out. The growing point plus a small amount of stem is nipped out between finger and thumb, a procedure known as pinching out. Its purpose is to induce bushiness and it is used for Salvia, Antirrhinum, Lobelia, Petunia, Coleus, etc. The removal of the tip stimulates buds lower down the stem and side shoots are thus produced.

Deadheading is a form of cutting back, but in some cases more drastic action is needed during the growing season. Some plants such as Petunia have a straggly growth habit and cutting back the ends of the stems will encourage new shoots and flowers. In a container vigorous varieties can threaten to swamp more delicate types, Helichrysum petiolatum and Nasturtium are examples. The answer is to cut back these sprawling plants when their growth starts to get out of hand.

The removal of dead flowers has several advantages, it helps to give the garden a well-maintained look, it prolongs the floral display and in a few cases it may induce a second flush of flowers late in the season. Use shears, secateurs, fingernails or a sharp knife. Take care not to tear the stalk and do not remove too much stem and foliage.

Deadheading is vital with many plants. If flowers are left to go to seed then part of the plant's energy is wasted, but a much more important fact is that seed formation may produce a flower-blocking hormone within the plant. Despite these points deadheading is not needed or not worth doing with some types. Sterile plants such as Afro-French Marigolds do not set seed so deadheading here is merely a tidying-up operation. With tiny-flowered types like Lobelia it is not practical to cut off each dead bloom. Lobelia does have a longer flowering season if the tops are removed after the first flush of flowers, but some carpeting plants such as Begonia semperflorens and Impatiens produce sheets of flowers all season long even though dead-heading is not carried out.

Winter Care For the annuals grown as summer plants there is no winter care, their life span is over and their rebirth will be in the late winter or spring when the seeds are sown. The half-hardy perennials must also leave the garden, but for them there is a stay indoors before being reintroduced into the garden with the return of frost-free weather in late spring.

The plants set out in autumn for winter or spring display are of course in a different situation. Such types have been selected for their hardiness and are not affected by snow or frost under normal winter conditions. However, a very heavy fall of snow can flatten Wallflowers, Forget-me-nots, etc, but this does not often happen. The real problem is waterlogging caused by prolonged heavy rain and poor drainage. Many more spring plants are killed as a result of drowned roots than frozen ones.

Plants growing in containers for winter display have a special problem. The varieties recommended for this purpose have been selected by the producers on the basis of their hardiness in open ground. They can be at risk in small, poorly insulated pots. Here the compost may be frozen solid and the roots killed in a severe winter; the answer is to choose large and thick-walled containers for winter bedding.

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