GARDENING: The borders barmaid – my pick of the bunch

Zinnia Sombrero. Picture by Mr Fothergill's
Zinnia Sombrero. Picture by Mr Fothergill's

Those blousey, overblown barmaids of the borders, Zinnias, have been named Flower of the Year by Fleuroselect, so I took a more detailed look at this popular flower.

It’s fair to say that there’s so many varieties, you’ll find one to suit your style.

Zinnia Dwarf Double Mixed 
Floramedia. Picture by Suttons

Zinnia Dwarf Double Mixed Floramedia. Picture by Suttons

Here’s my top 10 picks from what’s on the market for next season:

Queen Red Lime, Dobies, www.dobies.co.uk, £2.50.

Part of the Rob Smith range. Pastel shades of red/pink, brushed with lime green. Needs free drainage and full sun. Combine Queen Red Lime with Achillea and Gypsophila. Height 60cm.

Zahara Rose Starlight, DT Brown, www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk, £2.99.

Zinnia Zinderella Peach. Picture by Thompson & Morgan

Zinnia Zinderella Peach. Picture by Thompson & Morgan

Pure white flowers streaked with rich pink in the centre. Drought, heat and humidity tolerant. Height: 45cm.

Zinderella Peach, Thompson & Morgan, www.thompson-morgan.com, £3.49.

Orange blooms with cream and rose detailing. Height 90cm.

Solmar Mixed F1, Mr Fothergill’s, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk, £3.99 (20 seeds).

British-bred, with large flower heads which last well with good heat and drought tolerance, and excellent disease resistance. Height 45-60cm.

Sombrero, Mr Fothergill’s, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk, £2.35 (50 seeds).

Single-flowered, red and white, jam tart-like blooms through summer and into autumn. Height 35cm.

Fireworks Mix, Suttons, www.suttons.co.uk, £1.99 (average 120 seeds).

Large double flowers, long-lasting and gaily coloured. Height 75cm.

Old Mexico, Marshalls, www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk, £2.99. (100 seeds, not pictured).

Fiery hues of chilli reds and golden yellows give a rustic charm to beds and borders. Ideal for cut flowers. Height 45cm.

Mazurkia, Chiltern Seeds, www.chilternseeds.co.uk, £2.20.

Award-winning new variety with cream-tipped scarlet flowers. Height 90cm.

Jazzy Mixed, Plant World Seeds, www.plant-world-seeds.com, £3.20.

Bi-coloured zinnias produce masses of semi double, inch and a half, red-tipped burgundy daisies in the sparkling colours, blooming into late autumn. Height 45cm.

Mammoth, Higgledy Garden, www.higgledygarden.com, £1.95 (50 seeds).

Wonderful double flowers on strong stems, a great range of colours and easy to grow. Height 75cm.

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

Winter is a tough time for birds in terms of water and food, so keep supplies well topped up. Once you start feeding, don’t stop – they will come to depend on it.

Alpines can be sown from seed, as they need a period of cold to break their dormancy. A moveable cold frame can be positioned over the sown area to protect it from excessive wet. Alternatively, the seeds can be put in the fridge, for sowing next spring. This will really upset your family.

Pot up Hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulbs, and bring them back into active growth with regular watering and feeding. They should give you beautiful flowers in the new year.

Plant tulip bulbs at the latest this month. Some species tulips go on year to year, some are treated as bedding, and replaced every year.

Apply a mulch to protect plants that are borderline hardy such as Agapanthus, Kniphofia and Phygelius. The plants’ own leaves, e.g. Kniphofia, can be tied up and used as protection for the crowns underneath.

Helleborus niger (Christmas rose) blooms can look unsightly when splashed with muddy raindrops. A mulch will reduce this, and cloches can always be used where practical.

Continue to plant roses. Avoid planting in areas where roses were previously grown otherwise new introductions may suffer from replant diseases (rose sickness).

Shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring - such as Buddleja davidii, Cornus alba and Lavatera – can be cut back by half now, to prevent wind rock and neaten their appearance.

Ensure any pruning of Acer (maple) and Betula (birch) is completed before the end of the month to avoid bleeding of sap from cuts.

Make sure you have removed all shading from the greenhouse panes, in order to maximise light levels. If applying insulation, attach it only to the sides and north-facing roofs to let in as much light as possible.

Avoid buying poinsettias that have been accidentally chilled, particularly those sold from street stalls on cold days. Once home, place them in a warm, light place, away from drafts, to ensure they last for as long as possible.

Place hyacinths in a cool, bright place in the home. If it’s too warm, the leaves will elongate and the flowers will fade quickly.

GET IN TOUCH

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