Bouquet – complete guide

Sitting here amid frighteningly vicious sou’west squalls, it’s easy to turn one’s mind to the pleasures of summer. Long days, blue skies, sunshine and, best of all, warmth – true bliss! And while rising temperatures are a while away, it’s not too soon to start thinking about what you can plant to bring even more joy to your summer. Plants that produce loads of flowers are top of my list, so my girls and I can make cute summer posies and bring the sunshine indoors.**

Annuals for great summer-long colour**

Annual plants, such as marigolds and petunias that only last for one season, may seem a lot of work. That’s true if you plant huge tracts of them. However, if you restrict them to a few pockets of the garden, where blocks of colour will have the most impact, they’re a breeze. Not only that, annuals are great for containers and will provide colour for months on end. Because they expend so much energy flowering and have quite small root systems, most annuals benefit from a little TLC.

Incorporate plenty of compost plus general fertiliser when planting in the garden, or use good quality planting mix (containing slow-release fertiliser) in containers. Liquid feed them regularly over summer and water thoroughly when required. Lastly, snip off spent flowers before they set seed, to preserve their energy.

Excellent annuals for summer posies: Bells of Ireland, cornflower, cosmos, larkspur, love-in-a-mist, marigolds, nicotiana, phlox, Salvia ‘Victoria Blue’, statice, stock, sweet peas, sweet William, zinnia. ( sow seed where plants are to grow). *

Perennials for year after year**

Herbaceous perennials are often thought of as being hard work too. But again, if you restrict them to a few strategically planted groups, they’re pretty easy to look after and will reward you with a wealth of wonderful flowers for picking.

oost herbaceous perennials last for several years, so thorough soil preparation is the key to success. In general, they prefer rich, loamy, well-drained soil and plenty of sun. Dig loads of compost into the soil and throw a handful of blood and bone or sheep pellets into the planting hole at planting time.

Apply slow-release fertiliser pellets after planting, followed by fine mulch. As with annuals, liquid feed and water regularly. Deadhead all of your spent blooms – or pick flowers for posies – to preserve the plants’ energy and promote further flowering later on.

Some excellent perennials for summer posies: African daisies (Arctotis and Gazanias), alstroemeria, coreopsis, dahlias, Garvineas and granny’s bonnets  (Aquilegia), helianthemum, heliotrope, pincushion flower (Scabiosa), pinks (Dianthus), rudbeckia, and shasta daisy.

Fragrance for true joy

At this time of year I usually have a sprig of daphne by my computer – its sweet perfume fills my work space and is uplifting in this glum weather! Come summer, it’s more likely to be the heady vanilla scent of heliotrope – a must-have for posy picking. Highly fragrant annuals and perennials are not so easy to find, but there are many delicious scents among shrubby plants and climbers.

Make sure you include a few of these in the garden to add that special touch to your posies. Highly fragrant annuals and perennials: Heliotrope, lavender, nicotiana, pinks (Dianthus), stock, and sweet peas.

Highly fragrant shrubs and climbers: Azores jasmine, citrus, gardenia, frangipani, mock orange (Philadelphus), orange jasmine (ourraya), port wine magnolia, roses, stephanotis, and star jasmine (Trachelospermum).

Foliage for effect

A tight cluster of flowers always looks superb, but a smidgen of greenery will bulk up a posy, enhance pastel colours and calm down the effect of vivid colours. Smaller-leafed plants are better for the diminutive proportions of a posy – but check the foliage doesn’t give off a nasty whiff (like box) before you add it!

Fortunately, there’s lots of yummy scented foliage you can grow specifically for picking, or simply to add to your garden path as you brush past it, and release its aromatic oils. Fragrant foliage ideal for posy picking: Australian mint bush (Prostanthera), Australian wax flower (Eriostemon), bay, choisya, diosma, mint, lavender, lemon verbena, pineapple sage, rosemary, and scented geraniums.

It’s time to…

  1. Sow summer crops in trays or pots – tomatoes, peppers and aubergines (keep them under cover until weather warms up).
  1. Plant out vege seedlings sown in July.
  1. Check plants growing under shelter for signs of mealy bug and scale, and spray with Confidor.
  1. Clear weeds, fallen leaves, and moss and algae.
  1. Fertilise all fruit trees (use slow-release pellets for container fruit).

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