In October, David Coton is getting the garden prepared for the onset of colder weather but, at the same time, the arrival of spring bulbs in the garden centre is a reminder that you should also now be planning ahead for next year.
Container grown shrubs can be planted throughout most of the year. The choice is huge and, for Nathan James Dodd, Lavatera is a particular favourite.
Lavatera Olbia Rosea produces masses of flowers from July to September, or when finally cut down by the first severe frost. This plant was introduced into Britain from its native western Mediterranean homeland and is commonly known as the tree mallow.
It has a vigorous upright nature yet still retains a bushy habit, soft grey velvety foliage with lobed ovate leaves are the perfect complement to its giant four inch rose pink trumpet hibiscus shaped flowers.
All the flowers are produced from the axiles of the upper leaves on new growth sitting atop the leaves, which will remain evergreen providing the winter is relatively mild.
Choose a sunny site that is well drained with light sandy soil, though they will tolerate some shade if necessary. Lavatera is an ideal plant for covering up bare fence boards or the side of a shed as it will quickly reach six feet in height by four foot wide. Before planting water well and then remove the container and plant with some humus and a handful of bone meal.
Keep the plant well watered in its first year as the flower buds begin to swell. If required, prune it back in April to the young growths at the base of the old wood. This will produce vigorous new growth that will flower the same year.
Lavatera is also a plant that is suitable for cutting, whilst in full bud for house decoration. It offers true value for money and is a great favourite of mine. I would say no garden should be without such a pink delight.
With warmer weather and an early Easter, the garden centre is busy at the moment with customers stocking up on summer bedding plants - snapdragons, cornflowers, cosmos, verbena, phlox, petunia, As well as filling planters, hanging baskets and borders with colour that will last all summer, there are always plenty of jobs to do in the garden during April and David Coton has these suggestions.
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