This month is our late summer period and many gardens reach their full beauty. The lush green of many trees and shrubs offers much refreshment from the hot days and crisping grass.
In bloom now are the range of paniculata type hydrangeas. These beauties follow on nicely from the more commonly grown hydrangea mophead and lace cap (macrophylla) varieties which are now mostly past their best.
Ones to look out for and look at including into your summer garden for February flowering colour are 'Limelight', 'Pink Persuasion' and 'Candlelight'.
Dahlias are another plant that really get going in the late summer and their blooming time frequently stretches well into the autumn months, they give so much value as a flowering plant in duration, easy care and vibrance.
Bedding plants or annuals are at their best and brightest and the orange and yellow marigolds and all colours of petunias, lobelia and geraniums brighten many a border pot or container and hanging basket.
Some gardens also grow nicotiana (tobacco plant) just for the scent they give off every evening. Another flower at its best now are the tropical impatiens with their bright red, pink and white flowers making a stunning display.
Often at this time of the year gaps can appear in borders. Planting a selection of perennials that flower later in the summer will help keep the borders bright over the next couple of months.
Some good later flowering perennials include; Salvias, Rudbeckia, Chrysanthemums and Echinacea all provide good late summer and autumn colour.
Another good gap filler as we progress closer to autumn in the next few weeks are pansies. The first of these are now arriving into the garden centre.
The midday sun is still a bit strong for them to be fully exposed to at the moment in my opinion. But if they can be offered a position with a little shade they will establish nicely.
Roses require attention right now. Spent blooms should be removed at frequent times during the flowering season, not only for the tidiness of your plants but also to prevent the formation of seed heads which are a waste of the plants' energy.
When flowers or spent blooms are cut, a reasonable length of stem should be removed.
New shoots have generally started to develop on the old flower stem and a clean cut should be made just above one of these.
Feeding roses at this time with 'Yates Dynamic Lifter', 'Tui Rose Food' or Novatec will help promote strong new growth. This will encourage a healthier plant more resistant to pest and disease attack as well as more flowers.
Applying additional soil cover such as Natural Bark Feeding Mulch to the soil during the summer season will help to conserve moisture and to keep the soil cooler; it will also reduce weed growth. It is best to apply mulch after the garden area has been thoroughly watered and cultivated.
If your soil has acidic tendencies or if heavy dressings of organic materials are applied annually, then a light application of lime will be of benefit. When feeding make sure the fertiliser contains potash – it helps to harden growth and makes the plant less susceptible to disease.
Potash will aid flowering and may also help to intensify colour in the flowers.
Keep an eye out for the spread of pests and diseases on roses. Maintain regular sprays to control aphids, rust and blackspot. Use Combat 3-in-1 or 'Yates Rose Gun' which is also a useful combination spray for pests and diseases affecting vegetables, fruits and flowers.
February is the first of the bulb planting months. In stores now are the new season's ranunculus and anemones as well as freesias. Also crocus, daffodils and hyacinth. These bulbs are excellent for borders, garden edges, pots and tubs as well as great to grow as a cut flower.
A couple of favourites are:
Ranunculus corms resemble a claw which must be planted downwards 3-4cm deep in a sunny well drained position. Their blooms come in red, rose, gold, lemon, yellow and white on strong 30-50cm stems. They are very effective planted in bold clumps 6-8cm apart, as ribbon borders in pots, or as cut flowers.
Anemone corms will display brilliant single or double flowers in full colour during mid-winter to late spring. Plant 3-4cm deep and 10-15cm apart making sure that the flat part of the corm is uppermost. in a sun or part shade position. Best in a cool spot if planting now. They look great when planted between roses also.
Both anemones and ranunculus can be difficult to germinate. Try this tip which will dramatically increase your success rates.
They should be chilled for five to six weeks in the fridge (not freezer), then soaked in fresh running water for 10-12 hours prior to planting. This means placing the corms on a dinner plate in the sink with the tap dripping on them, there for they are sitting in water but the water is also moving as the drip overflows the plate and then drains down the sink. Setting this up in the kitchen sink overnight on the day prior to planting will be of great benefit.
Have a good week.
Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre