Tropical Colours This Summer

While we have all been in this unbelievable science fiction lock down existence many new projects have been undertaken and with the wonderful spring weather we have spent a lot of time in the garden.

Now is the time to add the plants to decorate those new pergolas, raised beds and living walls.        


Although summer in England can be hot we are not likely to reach the temperature and rainfall of tropical regions where most flowers are brilliantly coloured. However we can create similar spectacles by selecting plants that together give a tropical feel to our gardens but will happily grow in our climate.

Alstromerias are a great group of low growing summer flowering perennials that require little maintenance and are now available in a vast range of bright hot colours. They are excellent when planted at the front of the borders or in pots where they produce non stop flowers from June to October. The stems can be used for flower arranging and should be pulled not cut from the plant. The more you pull the stems the more new shoots the plant produces. Alstromerias should be grown in well drained soil in a sunny place and covered with mulch in winter until really established. If you are growing these plants in pots use John Innes No. 2 compost and give protection during severe winters. A gorgeous new variety to look out for is Alstromeria Indian Summer with pale and vivid orange outer petals and yellow inner petals and striking dark markings.

Dahlias are another group that have enjoyed a lot of Growers attention over the last few years. There are now some lovely perennial varieties which although subject to frost damage if planted six inches deep in the ground and covered with thick mulch in winter will survive and thrive. Dahlias grown in tubs they should be protected in a conservatory, covered porch or greenhouse. Plant the tubers or plants in a rich organic soil or compost and protect the young plants from frost. Remove the growing tip from young plants to encourage branching and so more flower buds. The plants are very easy to grow but can be subject to aphids or earwig damage so spray with Provanto when any are seen. By continually cutting the flowers for vases indoors encourages a lot more flowers. Strawberry Bon Bon and Amazon are two stunning small decorative varieties while Bishop of Lancaster is bright red.

Crocosmias are a vibrant range of hardy perennials that grow well in sun or shady places. There is an ever increasing range of varieties with more being added every year. They flower from July until a really hard frost often into December. The dazzling range of colours becomes more and more tropical. They are always a successful plant to grow in normal well drained soil and are pest and disease free. Columbus and Buttercup are both good shining golden yellow varieties with Emily Mckenzie a dramatic orange with red centres.

Rudbeckias are very hardy daisy like flowers which are also very easy to grow in normal well drained soil in full sun. There are annual and perennial types and if the annual seeds are sown in March they will be flowering by July until October. The vibrant yellow and orange flowers are now accompanied by new red varieties. Butterscotch is the honey and orange colour that the name suggests.

Canna Lilies are perhaps the most tropical plants we can grow. They are traditionally grown as centerpieces or accent plants in large bedding plant displays. They will flower from July onwards but when the foliage turns yellow and droops down stop watering and allow the plant to dry completely to over winter successfully. Protect with a thick layer of mulch and start watering and feeding again the following March. If growing in pots stop watering completely and put somewhere frost free for winter. Tropicana Black is a must variety to grow with the electrifying contrast of the orange flowers and very dark leaves.


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