Clumber Gardener: Beat the cold with thoughts of summer planting to come

Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park
Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park

A glimpse through a seed catalogue, either paper or on-line, at this time of year can prove a real pick-me up, as we look out for new introductions for 2018 and our thoughts turn to summer plantings and displays.

If, like me, you’re a lover of scented plants, the petunia Evening Scentsation’ may be to your liking.

Described as a free-flowering multiflora petunia, whose flowers change through shades of indigo as they age, they have a scent similar to a hyacinth, with notes of rose and honey.

There are also several new fragrant varieties of sweet pea available.

Purple Pimpernel is a new colour combination with large blooms in two shades of purple, while Erewhon is described as revolutionary, with the lower petals darker than the upper pale pink standard petals.

Little Red Riding Hood is also a bi-colour, with deep pink and white petal, while Princess Elizabeth is a re-introduction having first been shown at the Chelsea Flower Show back in 1947.

All these sweet peas will need a trellis or support to climb up.

The ‘fire vine’ or ‘Spanish flag’, Ipomoea lobata, grows to a similar height, producing around 12 blooms per flower spike.

We have grown it in our glasshouse at Clumber gainst a wall, where it was well suited and produced masses of flowers.

If you want to try it outdoors, it will need a sunny, sheltered border.

Two new bi-colour pot marigolds, Orange Flash and Sunset Buff, have apricot flower heads with a deep red reverse, while Red Knight has deep red blooms.

For a taller growing daisy try Tithonia, also known as the ‘Mexican sunflower’.

We use them in our double herbaceous borders and they bring height to our hot colour sections.

For the front of a border a new nasturtium, Jewel Cherry Rose, produces semi-double flowers in a unique cherry-rose colour.

It’s a hardy annual and can be direct sown where it is to grow.

Nasturtiums are a good choice for dry, poor soils, but watch out for caterpillars as cabbage whites will feed on the leaves.

Removing faded flower heads will encourage summer annuals to produce more flowers.

This is especially important with sweet peas.

The new year means seeds of pelargoniums, begonias and lobelias can be sown in a heated propagator.

All three need a long growing period in order to produce flowering plants in June, when they can be used in outdoor bedding displays.

Alternatively, wait until next month and buy pots of young seedlings.

The heated propagator can also be used to sow onions and early cauliflowers and cabbages.

Check that protection given to plants against the frost is still in place,

If there is snow, remove any snowfall from evergreens such as hollies and rhododendrons to prevent damage to branches.

The dormant season is a good time to propagate many plants.

Hardy herbaceous perennials such as hostas and delphiniums can be lifted, divided and re-planted.

If ground conditions permit, soil can be prepared for new plantings by digging and adding well-rotted manure, leaf mould or home-made compost.

Bare root plants, such as fruit trees or hedging plants, can be planted into prepared ground.