What do you think of bedding plants? Now, don't say yuk. It doesn't have to be yuk. It's only yuk because people up and down the country are being lazy and unimaginative. Let's change that, starting here.
Bedding started in Victorian times, with the development of parks and gardens and their long, landscaped beds. These were often filled with ecomonically-sourced French Marigolds and Salvia 'Blaze of Fire' and other such things. These are still fine plants and have their place and can be used in great combinations, but there are also plenty more to choose from.
How to plan it? Well, most people set aside specific beds for bedding plants each year, but this can actually be quite labour intensive and result in dull patches whilst you're in that awkward inbetween part in late spring or early winter. Why not mix it all up a bit and plant some perennials for structure with 'traditional bedding' dotted around and intermingled. It'll make for a really interesting bed with longer-lasting colour displays.
What can you use this for this? Structure can be in the form of tried and tested perennials such as Digitalis (Illumination would be perfect for this), any type of Iris, especially bearded types ('Black Taffeta' is a definite favourite of mine). Buddleja would even give some more permanent structure ('Buzz' is a great height for borders, at just 4 feet high) and lastly, that Chelsea favourite Verbena bonariensis - it might be over-used but its wispy presence helps knit everything together so well.
Then, choose some newer, much improved bedding specimens. Marigolds are still beautiful, but many people dislike them, so why not look to the yellows and oranges of Cosmos 'Brightness Mixed'. And to replace Salvias, you could look towards one of the UK's top tips for the future: Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy'. Cerinthe also makes a superb 'here, there and everywhere' plant and it'll attract butterflies too.
Some of my favourites include: Antirrhinum 'Madame Butterfly' - now this isn't new and was much loved by the Victorians. The azalea-flowered heads are softly fragrant too and make a fab cut flower - home-grown bunches are much better than limp shop-bought bunches. I also love, love, love hardy annuals and they're so easy, you can sow these even until mid-June - just wherever you have a gap to fill, it's really so easy. Nigella is one of the best and will self-seed too if you want it next year, if you don't, remove the seed pods!
My tips for the future; can't say too much, but a very well-known shrub will soon be in bedding form, nicely fragrant too. Watch this space for more on this...
With such a varied mix of plants, you'll get a myriad of different leaves, textures, colours and flower forms - from geometric Iris to pompom Cosmos. Bedding no longer has to be dull. Wouldn't it be great if bedding was the star of the show at Chelsea one year?!
Try it for yourself this summer, get ordering now!
Thanks for reading,
P.S. If you're worried about being able to water your plants in areas where hosepipe bans have been announced, all is not lost. Drip irrigation systems are exempt from the ban in some areas and are a great way of getting water to your entire garden, pots and all and can be programmed to water your plants even while you're not at home! Please check with your local water company before purchasing to make sure that you are able to use it.
Cosmos 'Brightness Mixed'