Beans for flowers

May 3rd, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Runner Beans 'Aurora', 'Painted Lady' and 'Snowdrift'

Everyone can grow runner beans. And with the arrival of plants that look and taste like runner beans, but which are actually hybrids with climbing French beans, we don’t have to worry about them failing to set in unsuitable weather.

But we grow runner beans for more than just the beans. We grow them for their flowers too. And here there comes a different distinction.

If you like red flowers, then grow ‘Firelight’, the latest in the range of hybrid runner beans that reliably sets pods in bad weather. If you like white flowers, then ‘Snowdrift’ (above right) is the variety to look for. But if you like runner bean flowers in other colours, then you must turn your attention to traditional runner beans.

‘Painted Lady’ (above centre) features red-and-white bicoloured flowers. This is an old heritage variety that had deteriorated but has been brought back to its former standard. One of the good things about it is that the plants are less vigorous than those of other runner bean varieties and that can be useful in a small garden. ‘St George’ also has red-and-white flowers but is more vigorous and with more pods per cluster.

Then there are those with pink flowers. ‘Celebration’ has flowers in reddish pink while the flowers of ‘Aurora’ (above left) are more of a pale salmon pink. Be sure to keep these traditional runners moist to encourage good fruit set.

There’s also a very attractive red-and-white flowered dwarf variety, ‘Hestia’, that you can grow in patio pots for a compelling combination of colourful flowers and home-grown beans.

Order seeds now, or pick up packets from the garden centre over this holiday weekend, and sow them indoors straight away or outside over the next Bank Holiday. Looks good, tastes good – can’t beat it.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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