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Johannesburg - August is an unpredictable in-between month. It’s the windiest month of the year and can be punctuated with late frosts or an early blast of heat. As the changeover month, however, it heralds the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
It is a time when you look at all your glorious spring-flowering annuals and bulbs and wonder what will happen when they start to fade? While your daffodils, primula, ranunculi and Iceland poppies are all in full flower, plan to plant up gaps with new seedlings so that your spring garden can be a blaze of colour when your summer perennials, bearded irises and roses come on stream in late September.
There are many options for colour gardening in August. You can plant bedding plants, sow seed, put in bulbs or find a few suitable creepers. Here are some strategies:
In corners where you have yellow daffodils, tritonia or Iceland poppies flowering, jazz up the bed with yellow, purple or blue pansies.
“Just pop in a seedling wherever a gap suggests itself and concentrate some around the edge.
“Soon the pansies will steal the show, distracting attention from withered leaves,” says gardening expert Phyl Palframen.
Daffodils have to stay put until the leaves are totally spent in November. It is also important to avoid tying dying daffodils into the now fashionable braids, as tied-up leaves may look cute in a bed, but they never get enough sunlight and you compromise the embryo for next year’s flowers.
If your daffodils are under deciduous trees, interplant them with foxgloves. As biennials, foxgloves will only flower next spring, but their glorious leaves are a winner throughout the summer. Tritonias and freesias, if left alone, may seed themselves for next year.
Spring is a great time to plant petunias as they will be at their best by October, which is before the thunderstorms of midsummer can impact on their beautiful blooms.
The forefathers of our hybridised petunia annuals originally came from Brazil and the name petunia is derived from “petun”, the Brazilian name for the tobacco plant.
Petunia seed is relatively expensive and it is far more cost-effective to buy seedlings. The rich plummy shades of petunias are perfect companions for the last anemone blooms and will go on and on once the latter are past their prime.
Finally, consider planting dwarf marigolds, red salvias, or true-blue Salvia farinacea among the ranunculi and sparaxis.
Linaria is one of the most under-rated garden flowers. Now is the time to sprinkle linaria seed into your beds (in situ) over Iceland poppies, primroses and fairy primula while they’re still in flower. Water the seed into the bed and when your poppies die off, you will find that an entire carpet of baby linarias will be in their place.
Linarias have a softly vertical line, which is enormously useful in a bed filled with low-growing spring-flowering bedding annuals.
August is also a great time to sow alyssum seed among the spring bulbs or annuals. Try alyssum in shades of purple, white or pink and also consider planting it as living mulch around your roses. Sow seed of catmint (mauve), nierembergia (purple or white) or verbena (red, purple, blue, white) to soften borders of spring bulbs.
Where sweet peas have climbed up trellises and tripods they can be replaced with a complete colour change: climbing nasturtiums or a black-eyed Susan.
Plants with attractive rosettes of burgeoning leaves can be planted now in between spring bulbs, even if they will only flower come high summer. Oriental poppies have delicate leaves and opium poppy leaves are grey. Canterbury bells make a stronger statement with their bold green leaves – they may only flower next year, but are worth the wait.
It is not too late to pop a few Asiatic lilies into corners to flower in December. Gladioli and tigridia bulbs will be delivered to garden centres in the next few weeks. Look out for them and pop them into spaces to create vertical interest as their green swords emerge. - Saturday Star