We can’t ignore it anymore – summer is finally here. As the days get longer, and flowers bloom nature kicks into full gear. But the changes you see in in the garden go way beyond more sun and some blooming flowers. If you take the time to look at the natural world around you there is plenty to see.
The first and most noticeable thing about the coming of summer is the colour that appears as plants come to life all around us, but in the background, a small army of critters and insects are working to pollinate these plants and keep our countryside vibrant. Keep an eye out when your in your garden or out for a walk and see if you can spot any of these underacknowledged pollinators at work.
Ants – not as effective as the pollinating powerhouses such as bees and wasps, they do however have a limited role in pollinating your garden. Next time you see some in your garden, see if you can see where they are walking.
Bees – did you know that the UK has around 250 different species of bee? Bees are some of our best pollinators and not only for our gardens. They also have a big role in pollinating a lot fo the food we eat.
Butterflies – always a happy sight in the garden, this month you may spot the Painted Lady Butterfly. It has a distinct rusty red colour with black wingtips spotted with white.
Moths – when they’re not flying around your house to try and get to the lightbulbs, these little creatures spend a lot of their time outdoors pollinating plants, but because it happens at night we never see it. If you have fragrant flowers like jasmine in your garden it’s likely a moth that is doing the pollination work.
Beetles – known as mess-and-soil pollinators, Beetles will eat parts of a plant and pollinate through their droppings. If you’re out for a walk, take a closer look at some of the plants and you might see a beetle at work.
The dawn chorus is one of the sweetest sounds of summer, and a lot of those voices come from birds who have come over for the summer. If you keep your eyes and ears open when you sit outside or take your daily walk there are a lot of new birds to see so keep your eye out.
Most birds will be feeding their young on insects this time of year. Below is a list of birds you might spot in your garden:
There are many kinds of wildflower that will begin to emerge and bloom this time of year. See the list below for some of our favourites; how many have you spotted?
Bedding plants are a wonderful way to add liveliness to your garden and make it your own. They can transform beds with their differing colours, and will help support our precious pollinators. With so many bedding plants to choose from, you may feel unsure of where to begin; read on for all of the advice you need for choosing and caring for your bedding plants.
What is a Bedding Plant?
A bedding plant can be an annual, biennial, or tender perennial, that is planted into a flower bed to build a seasonal arrangement. After a bedding plant’s season of interest has ended, they will likely be replaced by another plant, and put away or discarded.
Bedding plants will happily grow in hanging baskets, pots, and raised beds. They are therefore suitable for all forms of outdoor space, ranging from a small balcony, to vast grounds.
How do I Choose the Right Bedding Plant?
Before identifying the best bedding plants for your garden, pay close attention to your chosen location, and perhaps ask the following questions:
How many hours of direct sun does the location receive per day?
Are there deciduous trees that might limit sunlight come spring?
What is the state of the soil? Is it damp? Are there lots of stones?
Our guide below will help you decide what degree of shade your location receives:
Preparing your Soil
If you are planting into your garden’s beds, carefully rake through the soil to remove stones and large clods. This will make sure that evaporation isn’t prevented, and a good amount of moisture is kept.
Whether you are planting in pots, raised beds, baskets, or directly into a flower bed, you should always opt for multi-purpose compost. Multi-purpose compost will form a nutrient rich environment for a range of bedding plants, and will also absorb and retain moisture.
What Colours Should I Choose?
Before deciding which colour scheme to embrace, consider how intricate you want your display to be. Mostly done professionally, carpet bedding requires a large range of shades to be planted closely together, however, a simple hanging basket will look beautiful with as little as one variety. For a flower bed, we recommend that you choose four varieties for each season.
Cool Colour Schemes
If you wish to evoke a tranquil atmosphere, light blue, lilac, pastel yellow, and white are excellent for doing so. Paler Petunia varieties, such as ‘Blue Vein’ or ‘Beautiful French Vanilla’, can feature subtle, darker markings, which can help break up your colour scheme, without drawing focus away from other plants.
Warm Colour Schemes
For a bold colour scheme, choose shades that lie opposite to one another on the colour wheel. Possible pairings include purple and yellow, red and green, and blue and orange. Presenting trailing, funnel-shaped blooms, Surfinias are available in an array of colours, so will make an unfailing choice for your garden.
Should I Buy Plug Plants or Seeds?
Seeds and plug plants each come with their positives and negatives. Seeds can be considerably cheaper than plug plants, yet they are harder to grow. They require more time and care, and unfortunately germination isn’t guaranteed.
Unlike seeds, plug plants can be expensive; this particularly applies to larger plants, as their roots are more established. However, plug plants can fill a flower bed with pretty blooms within a matter of weeks; making them a convenient option.
How do I Grow Bedding Plants from Seed?
To successfully grow bedding plants from seed, you will need 10cm pots, peat-free compost, bedding seeds of your choosing, and vermiculite or finely sieved compost.
Fill each pot with your compost, and delicately pat it down.
Sow your seeds over the compost, ensuring that they are distanced equally.
Apply a layer of finely sieved compost or vermiculite. This will provide gentle cover for your seeds.
Label your pots so you can cater to any unique requirements that a variety might have.
Once each pot has had a nourishing drink, place them into a heated propagator to allow germination.
When seedlings have developed, prick out those of the largest size, and re-plant into individual containers.
How do I Grow Potted Bedding Plants?
If the risk of frost has passed, larger plugs can be planted straight into your garden. To ensure continued growing, smaller plug plants should be re-planted into containers or pots. For this you will need a pencil, multi-purpose compost, perlite, a dibber, and 7- 8cm pots.
To remove your bedding plants from their containers, carefully push them upwards from their base with a pencil.
Fill 7 – 8cm pots with a mix of multi-purpose compost and perlite.
Employing a dibber, make a hole in each pot that slightly exceeds the size of your plants.
Taking great care, tease out your plants’ roots, and then place them into their holes.
How do I Care for my Bedding Plants?
Watering: If your bedding plants are in pots or baskets, they will benefit from daily watering. Even on a rainy day, this advice still applies; a bedding plant’s foliage can provide impressive shelter. For flower beds, a weekly drink will be sufficient.
Deadheading: Any flowers that appear spent should be removed from their base. This will stop your plant from wasting energy by producing seeds.
Flower feed: Supplement one watering a week with a potassium-rich feed. Most composts contain a finite amount of food, so we recommend that you start using feed a month after they were planted out.
Often found flourishing in the midst of a sunny border, finding the perfect perennials to plant in the darker corners of your garden can require a little more thinking. Read on for eight of our favourite, shade-loving perennials.
Each perennial advertised is potted, enabling you to plant them directly into your garden, and enjoy a beautiful display merely a matter of weeks later.
Perennials for Deep Shade
Deep shade exists when walls or trees shelter the ground from sunlight for the majority of the day.
Polemonium ‘Northern Lights’
A good styling tip for your garden’s darker corners is to incorporate some light blue flowers; light blue is wonderful for bringing brightness to spaces lacking in colour. Polemonium ‘Northern Lights’ is particularly ideal for this, as this variety will introduce these delicate blue tones, yet will thrive in shade and tolerate most soils. The golden staminodes offset beautifully against each petal, and the ladder-like stems act as a platform from which each flower can project; creating excellent structure.
Hosta ‘Snake Eyes’
Aside from boasting beautiful greenery, hostas will relish the shade. A useful guide to follow is that the darker the hosta’s foliage, the darker its location can be. With each leaf sporting a deep, muted green shade, and a variegated, emerald centre, ‘Snake Eyes’ will add a unique edge to shaded areas.
Belonging to the lily family, hostas are suited to damp conditions, so this variety will thrive in a bog garden.
Perennials for Dappled Shade
Dappled shade is created when trees and shrubs partially block sunlight via their leaves, resulting in small speckles of sun reaching the ground.
Campanula ‘’Iridescent Bells’
Bearing pale lilac, trumpet-shaped flowers that gracefully nod from their delicate stems, this campanula variety will add charming movement and shapes to spaces shadowed by trees and shrubs.
If the planting location you have in mind presently has no other perennials, the tall height of this campanula will effortlessly forge beautiful structure, making this plant a clever choice.
Geum ‘Mai Tai’
Bearing sumptuous, apricot-toned blooms, Geum ‘Mai Tai’ will grace your garden with subtle hints of peach, bronze, and yellow; perfect for adding some summary warmth to the shadier spots of your garden.
Perennials for Partial Shade
Anemone ‘Wild Swan’
A great way to bring a touch of radiance to darker corners is to use white and yellow; these shades will also evoke a calming feel with your garden. Sporting crisp white petals that harmonise with the yellow stamens they encircle, ‘Wild Swan’ will appear radiant in the sun, and will illuminate your garden’s shaded corners.
With a lengthy flowering period spanning from May through to November, this Anemone will prove an unfailing perennial for your garden.
Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’
Relishing shaded areas, and each presenting unique foliage, brunneras are a wonderful choice areas receiving partial shade.
Just like ‘Wild Swan’, this beautiful brunnera will shine under the sun, yet bring lustre to shadier spots. A rosette of large, heart-shaped leaves will rest not far above the ground, and during spring, delicate purple blooms will emerge. Nevertheless, ‘Jack Frost’ owes its commended distinctiveness to its stunning silver sheen, decorated by intricate, muted green veins.
If you are seeking to add a luxurious touch to shaded corners, pale, ruffled blooms will create graceful silhouettes and movements within your garden. Free-flowering, and offering a spiced fragrance, Dianthus ‘Memories’ will ornament darker spaces with white double flowers, and will happily grow within a container.
There are a wide range of plants for spring that you can sow now in April. Read our quick guide below to some staple planting options for your garden.
With the weather beginning to warm now is a great time to introduce plants to your pond. The warmer temperatures will give them plenty of time to establish. Try not to delay too much between purchasing and planting these as drying them out can be damaging. Plant into mesh containers and fill with aquatic compost before submerging. Be sure to include some oxygenating plants like Hornwort to help keep the water clear.
Getting plants into your garden beds now will ensure you have a beautiful display come summer. Plants like Digitalis or Campanula are perfect plants for spring and for adding colour to your garden whilst also being a great source of pollen for bees and butterflies. Water new plants regularly to help them get established and give an extra helping hand with occasional top-ups of organic compost or well-rotted manure.
Dahlias, Gladioli and Peonies are all perfect summer bulbs for getting in the ground now in preparation for summer. Make sure they get a sunny position in the garden with some well-drained soil. Planting across a number of weeks will give your garden a procession of flowers emerging one after the other so you can enjoy continuous colour outside for the season.
Climbing plants are a great way to update a space and bring new life to areas of your garden. They can be used to cover trellis or pergolas in characterful blooms or serve a practical purpose of transforming unsightly walls or buildings. They’re also a great asset for smaller gardens where space is a premium and growing vertically make the most use of available space. Plants such as clematis, honeysuckle and Ipomoea are all great varieties to try sowing.
One of the best ways to step up your garden game is to plant for all of the senses. You don’t want to limit the enjoyment of your garden to just what you see – think about your other senses, in particular, what you can smell. Nicotiana has a delightful fragrance that is very enjoyable on summer evenings. Plant these in March and April to enjoy when summer rolls around.
Instantly recognisable with luscious scent and colour, poppies will always bring delight to your garden. They can be sown from March to May in time for blooms in summer and autumn – a great plant for creating lasting colour with variations of interest.
Scott Roberts is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.