Keep colour in your hanging displays

Flower baskets
Flower baskets
Portsmouth & Southsea railway station by Andy Cooper

LETTER OF THE DAY: Please tart up our railway stations

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This is the time of year when things start to let us down. The hanging baskets and containers just aren’t as good as they were in June and yet it’s only August, so all the annuals should still be looking good.

Just look back a few weeks. The weather was appalling – it rained as if there was no tomorrow, it was windy and cold and we were all completely fed up.

But the weather changes quickly and at last the sun is shining occasionally.

The main reason for lack of colour is due to the plants not being fed properly, combined with a lack of attention to the removal of dead flowers.

Pam and I spent several hours deadheading all the plants last week. Every seed head was removed and all the dead flowers too.

Bidens in particular were difficult because the lovely flowers are on long stems and it’s difficult to see if the rounded flower buds are still to open or are dead heads.

We decided to cut a lot of them back to where there were frills of leaves and then gave all the containers a feed of Maxicrop Complete plant food.

This is quite an expensive plant food, but it feeds the compost and the compost then feeds the plants, whereas cheaper ones do nothing for the soil and just feed the plants.

Within a few days the Maxicrop brought new growth on all the plants and the Bidens are all shooting out again from the frills of leaves. They will still be brilliant right up until the cold weather arrives.

You probably know there is a little knack when deadheading petunias of all types. Have a look and you will see what I mean.

The petunia flower is right at the tip of all the shoots. The ones below that are all dead flowers, although they look as if they are still to come into bloom.

Look further down each side shoot and there are the seed heads. These must be removed and scissors are very handy for this job.

All annual plants have a natural urge to produce flowers because they must produce seeds in order that the species survives.

Once the flowers are pollinated the seeds form and the plant is then quite content not to produce any more flowers unless encouraged to do so.

That’s where we gardeners come into play. We keep removing the dead flowers and feeding the plants. The plants are concerned there are no seeds, so they keep growing so that eventually seeds are produced.

What about the allotment? A row of runner beans planted out a week ago have started to grow and each shoot has decided to grow on to a different cane.

Don’t worry, every one has been unwound, put back on to the right cane and kept in place with a twist tie. These wonderful ties are available at your garden centre.