Every year, the annual decisions

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Annuals providing infill between the tulips at Floriade.

Annuals have a place in most gardens; Floriade wouldn’t survive without the infill of instant colour, writes gardening columnist CEDRIC BRYANT.

THERE are many good reasons to plant perennials. As the name suggests, they generally last for many years. 

Cedric Bryant.

They can be divided to provide extra plants at no cost or gather the seed, which can be sown in trays for potting or simply scattered in bare spots in the garden. The only maintenance is dead heading after flowering. 

On the other hand, annuals also have a place in most gardens; Floriade would not survive without the infill of annuals between the bulbs. This provides the instant colour if, depending on the season, the bulbs are slow to flower.

Those punnets of tiny, annual seedlings can take six to eight weeks before full flowering. Seedlings, also known as bedding plants, are mostly bred these days as F1 Hybrids. This means they have been bred for maximum effect but will last for only one season. They don’t set seed. For a Christmas display, they need to be planted without delay. This is even more important if planting for a special day with a colour theme.

Often when buying annual seedlings no flowers are showing and there is only the pictorial label to rely on. This can have a disastrous effect for anyone looking for all one colour. I recall that when we owned our nursery there was a wedding scheduled in six weeks and we were asked to provide petunias for either side of a hundred-metre long drive. 

A wholesale nursery supplied the huge number of seedlings and they were planted out in plenty of time. Getting close to the big day, they all started to flower on time. The only problem was all the petunias came out bright red, not white. Too late to replant and no wholesale nursery could supply that number already in flower. Out they all came with no floral drive!

POTS or a basket of petunias can look great, but why not be more adventurous? Anyone who has travelled to the UK is usually overwhelmed with the magnificent displays of hanging baskets (usually referred to as hanging gardens). They have a variety of plants to extend the season. Just look at this example with petunias, dianthus, salvias, marigolds, alyssum and ivy geraniums.

ONE of the best liners for hanging baskets is the multi-coloured foam carpet underlay with plastic on one side. Place the plastic on the inside with a few holes for drainage. The multi-colours of the foam blend in perfectly with the garden. I have baskets lined this way more than 10 years old and still good. Whereas, with coconut liners, the water goes straight through plus birds just love pulling the fibres out for nesting material, especially at this time of the year.

THE Horticultural Society of Canberra’s Iris, Rhododendron and Azalea Show will be held at the Wesley Church Hall, National Circuit, Forrest, noon-5pm on Saturday, October 26 and 11.30am-3.15pm, on Sunday, October 27. 

CANBERRA’S largest sale of geraniums and fuchsias will take place with the Geranium and Fuchsia Society’s Annual Plant Sale on Saturday, November 2, noon-3pm at St James Uniting Church Hall, 21 Gillies Street, Curtin. Entry is $2. 

HOW soon seedlings flower depends, of course, on the soil quality when planting. For gardeners in new suburbs, it will take a couple of years of soil improvement before planting tender annuals. Nevertheless, annuals are perfect for pots and hanging baskets. Fertilising with a liquid seaweed nutrient on my mantra of weakly, weekly. In other words, a weak solution once a week. When first planted the baby seedlings will need a gently watering on a daily basis. As the days warm the evaporation rate is frightening. 

 

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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