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Where did the fun go?

Gardening used to be fun. In the days before designers and makeovers, it was ok to put clashing colours together and plant bright colours for the summer: tangerine marigolds, fiery red salvias, pompom geraniums, blue lobelia or powder-puff Ageratum and golden plumes of Celosia. Yes, they only lasted through the summer, but what a display!

In this hot, dry summer of 2018, the plants that have survived the best have been… yes, you guessed it, marigolds, salvias, geraniums (or, more properly, Pelargoniums) and Celosia. The marigolds in the trial grounds at RHS Wisley are looking absolutely superb. This is the International Year of the Marigold and it could not have been timed better for these resilient plants to shine.

Mr Fothergill's Seeds, who are celebrating their 40th year in business this year, have created two identical gardens side-by-side in their trials area to depict the sort of garden people had in 1978 and the low-maintenance type that someone might have in 2018. The 1978 one features a small lawn edged with colourful bedding plants, whereas the 2018 one is covered with grey slate chips and has containers filled with colour-themed plants. Many visitors to the recent open day preferred the 1978 one because it felt “more relaxing”, even with the bright colours.

Bright colours are attractive, making us feel more cheerful as soon as we see them. It's clear, if you watch, that everyone approaching the marigold trial begins to smile. It's an effect that pubs in London are catching on to, because they have realised that a glorious display of blooms is very photogenic. Visitors are making their way to see the best pubs from all over the world, because they've seen pictures on social media and want to add their own photos. This is relatively cheap publicity and very good for business!

Passing through any village or town as you drive around the UK it's immediately obvious where Britain in Bloom groups are active. Well-tended flowers greet you everywhere; on roundabouts, road verges and shop fronts. These pro-active High Streets are much more likely to survive these changing times than dull, grey, flowerless ones. Sponsoring a few hanging baskets is well worth the investment to your business if it means attracting customers away from Amazon and the like. If you are considering selling your home, bear in mind that an attractive planting at the entrance can add thousands to the value, chiefly because it gives a cared-for, cheerful impression that makes a visitor feel welcome. A simple container of petunias will last all summer if you keep it fed and watered.

So don't worry about planting for drought or climate change, plant for fun. No matter how much space you have to garden, make it somewhere that catches the eye and makes passers-by smile.

Smiling is infectious, you catch it like the ‘flu
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin
When he smiled, I realised I passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile, then realised its worth
A single smile, just like mine, could travel round the earth
So if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected
Let's start an epidemic quick and get the world infected.

John leroy Maxwell

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This story was published on: 11/08/2018

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