Posts Tagged ‘foliage’

Sun survivor

August 10th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Amaranthus 'Velvet Curtains'Visiting the Mr F trial ground this week, it was clear that some plants had suffered badly in the heat while some had enjoyed it.

One that clearly loved the hot weather was Amaranthus ‘Velvet Curtains’, the RHS AGM winning hardy annual sown direct into the light and sandy soil of the trials field.

This dramatic relative of the familiar love-lies-bleeding is attractive from when the first richly coloured, reddish purple shoots emerge soon after sowing. The handsome foliage becomes more striking as it develops and I’ve seen it looking very dramatic emerging through a carpet of white alyssum. The white gypsophila that was also doing well in the heat would also make a taller and longer lasting partner.

Now, in August, the bold upright plumes of ‘Velvet Curtains’ are at their peak. I’ve grown them interplanted amongst orange dahlias and cannas to bring a softer look to the more structured dahlia and canna plants. If that’s the plan, raise the seedlings individually in pots from seed sown in a cold greenhouse, be sure not to let the plants dry out or suffer any shocks as this may spark them into flower prematurely.

‘Velvet Curtains’ is also splendid for drying, especially as the colour fades hardly at all. Cut the stems when the flowers are at their peak – about now! Strip off the lower leaves, tie the stems in bunches of half a dozen then hang them upside down in a cool and dry and well ventilated place. Drying in cool conditions (which is at last possible as everything cools down) helps preserve the richness of the colour.

Leave the plumes on the plants into the autumn and they will shed their seeds. This can be double-edged as you may end up with far more self sown seedlings than you need. The best compromise is to cut some for drying, cut back most of the rest to prevent self sowing and just leave a stem or two to shed seed. And if seedlings come up in inconvenient places next spring – well, you can always move them.

Easy and invaluable nasturtiums

May 11th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Nasturtium 'Empress of India'

Nasturtiums have developed an unfortunate reputation. They’re enjoyed, of course, but somehow they’re dismissed as, I don’t know, too easy perhaps…? Not ordinary, exactly, because they’re far from ordinary… The seeds are large, easy to handle so great for kids. Maybe it’s the fact that when grown in rich soil you get so much foliage that you can’t see the flowers – although, these days, that’s a bit of a myth. So were does that leave us?

It means that we should definitely grow them – but in the right way, in the right place, and using the right varieties. Start now.

I’ve just sown mine, yesterday. I’m growing quite a few different varieties so I’ve sown five pots of each variety, three seeds in each pot – and I expect almost all of them to come up.

I could sow them where they’re flower but I don’t want the mice to dig them up and, frankly, I’m not yet quite sure where they’re going to go! So they’ll sit on the spare room windowsill until they peep through, then I’ll stand the pots in a sheltered spot outside for two or three weeks.

But they must be kept frost free: nasturtium seedlings are very soft and fleshy: one waft of icy air and they’re mush.

When it comes to planting them we’re back to those hidden flowers. What happens is that in rich soil, or if you feed them, the leaves become broader and, more importantly, the leaf stalks become longer but the flowers stems don’t. This stretches the leaf stems beyond the flowers – which are hidden by the lush foliage.

So: choose bushy nasturtiums whose foliage tends to stay compact, choose somewhere sunny and choose just about any soil that’s not rich and fertile. And don’t plant out your seedlings until after the last chance of frost.

Poppies for foliage and flowers

April 27th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

There was a short time, about thirty years ago, when it looked as if growing ornamental opium poppies was going to be banned as it was thought people would buy seed in garden centres and grow heroin on their allotments! No.

It’s the same basic species but varieties developed for the garden – and to provide seeds for baking – are entirely different from those cultivated in Asia for legal (and illegal) drugs.

So, lest we forget, the increasing range of garden varieties of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, provides some of the most colourful of annuals you can buy.

From soon after they germinate, the plants are making their presence felt with their attractive blue-grey rosettes of glossy foliage. Then, from midsummer, the stiffly vertical stems are topped by large open flowers.

Those impressive flowers come in several forms: four-petaled single flowers, some with impressively frilled edges and some with black or white blotches at the base, and there are also frilly or peony-flowered double flowers.

The colours too range from soft pastel shades (‘Maanzaaad’), rich tones (‘Lauren’s Grape’, above), more vibrant colours (‘Victoria Cross’) and an appealing double flowered mixture (‘Peony Flowered Mix’).

Sow outside where you’d like them to flower, give them the usual hardy annual treatment but I find it often pays to wait until April to sow. Unless you dead head ruthlessly, you’ll have self sown seedlings next ear. And if you grow more than one colour, who knows what colours those self sown seedlings will provide.