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Looking forward

Lockdown and social distancing are affecting everything this summer, even the open days at the seed and young plant companies. Normally open to the public for one glorious evening every year and to the press and growers for 2 weeks, Ball Colegrave have adapted their Oxfordshire trial grounds this year to compensate for reduced numbers.

Their display is intended to offer “finishing” growers the best choice of plants for this coming autumn and next spring. Ball Colegrave sell young plants as tiny “plugs” raised from seed or cuttings for the growers to pot on and sell as larger plants in pots or trays. To give a better idea of how the plants will perform, they are grown in various situations around the trial grounds. There are also a large number of Experimental Plants being grown to see how they perform, some of which will go into production, others may be used in a breeding programme.

Bedding plants provide some of our best summer colour and are ideal in hanging baskets and pots, but people are increasingly tiring of these temporary plants in favour of something that lasts longer. Perennial plants that will grow from seed and flower in the first summer are ideal replacements and the range is expanding every year. Iberis ‘Summer Snow’ is a new version of an old springtime favourite, one of the best whites and now an ideal ground-cover plant.

There are several new “catmints” coming along, including Nepeta ‘Purrsian Blue’ and N. ‘Kitten Around’, both of which will flower profusely and are purr-fect for attracting pollinating insects.

Lavandula ‘Blue Spire’ is a low-growing lavender that produces large heads of deep purple-blue flowers in its first summer, from seed. Bees love it! Achillea is always popular for summer colour and now breeding is producing lots of vibrant new varieties, including the lipstick-pink ‘Peggy Sue’ and this Sassy Summer collection.

The Monarda Balmy series come in various shades, including pink, and are both compact and covered with flowers. They are just as attractive to bees and other pollinating insects as their taller counterparts, but are much smaller, making them ideal for patio or balcony gardens.

This new Coreopsis ‘Double The Sun’ is a bright splash of yellow with the added attraction that each generation of flowers is taller than the last, so fading flowers are hidden beneath the new ones and the plant gets bigger and better as the season progresses.

There are many new Echinacea and Rudbeckia in the pipeline, in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes. All make extremely tolerant garden plants and are ideal for growing in the border or to give height in containers.

Look out for these in garden centres next spring and also for the Ball Colegrave Virtual Tour for anyone who missed their visit there this year.

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This story was published on: 25/07/2020

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