Still plenty of positives with perennial blooms


Summer bedding has given way to plants for spring displays, and weather conditions have certainly taken a turn for the worse, but there are still plenty of positives around to brighten up the daylight hours.

Spray chrysanthemums in white, pink and cream continue to offer cut flowers for vases, herbaceous perennials keep blooming, and ever-reliable heathers are just getting into their stride.

There’s something very satisfying about growing chrysanthemums.

The process begins for me in February when perennial root systems (stools) of chosen plants saved from the previous year start to produce new shoots. These are rooted as stem cuttings in a heated propagating unit, potted-up in stages and go outdoors in May.

The early flowering types are planted straight into the garden, whilst the ‘lates’, those that bloom in November or December, stand outdoors in large pots until autumn.

We’re presently making sure that all those we wish to keep are labelled, ready for lifting, boxing-up in compost and standing on the cold greenhouse bench over winter.

There are still flower buds to open on some of the early spray types so should the weather suddenly deteriorate, they’ll be lifted with a large root ball and transplanted into the greenhouse border to bloom. Watering-in well is necessary, but the transition does work.

Meanwhile, the pot-grown late chrysanthemums are bristling with flower buds, but I’m delaying moving them indoors until it’s absolutely necessary.

Helianthemum Lemon Queen is a tall perennial that needs supports, but what back-of-the-border value it is at this time. Flowering began in August and there’s no sign of fatigue as it reflects the slightest hint of sunshine. When the dormant period comes I’ll divide the clump into sections to brighten other parts of the garden.

The same can be said of certain rudbeckias, Helenium Moorheim Beauty and favourite Michaelmas daisies.

The smaller individual flowers of our hardy fuchsias might lack the wow of showy indoor types, but their autumn blooming en-masse is so attractive. We have a few varieties in this garden, such as riccartonii, genii, Tricolor, White Knight and Hawkshead. Soft stem cuttings root easily, even in November, and they’re such good space-fillers.

The other plant attraction in gardens recently has been the bulbous Nerine bowdenii. Short of dividing existing groups of those, they are available at the garden centre and collections are being advertised.

Calluna vulgaris, the not-so-common moorland heather, has given rise to several stunning cultivars over time. These perform well in most garden soils, the flowering spikes growing to 15cm or more, making them ideal for October-November garden display or decorative vases.

These are followed by Erica carnea, the winter heather, best planted in groups of three or five for instant effect.