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The onset of summer’s decline

Annuals can be used in the flower bed as a stand-alone form of carpet bedding

Hurricane Fiona came and went with varying degrees of damage however, the slowing down of growth is an indication of the onset of autumn, Bermuda style.

This is when growth stutters along, giving its last fitful spurt before taking the onset of autumn in its stride. Fiona did what she did and moved on; clean-up followed and hopefully, we will see new growth before too long though at a reduced rate as temperatures drop and days become shorter.

If temperatures stay on the high side growth will spur the last vestiges of flowering for the year, whilst many trees and shrubs will slowly but surely prepare themselves for the slowdown of growth. It normally takes a couple of weeks to see total leaf drop of windblown material which will then be more obvious if any broken or damaged branches are present and require pruning back to clean wood.

It is also important to rake up all debris that, if left, could become hosts for pests and diseases. With new growth comes the opportunity for pests to appear as the soft new growth emerges, so be on the lookout for green fly, caterpillars, mites etc and treat accordingly.

With luck, flowering could be found on lantanas if pruned hard back; the same with pentas however the thrust for colour will now be from annuals which, fortunately, are found in a wide range of colours. For the more open, less protected areas, use the lower growing types – the pansies, lobelia, alyssum and even petunias, all of which would offer a grand display for a long period of time if deadheaded regularly.

Annuals can be used in the flower bed as a stand-alone form of carpet bedding. They can either be laid out en masse with all of one type or colour, or a mix of different types.

Carpet bedding is better in more protected areas especially when a mixed design is used, as taller types are more likely to be damaged by wind. Annuals can be purchased from plant nurseries in cell packs but should be planted quickly to avoid them becoming pot-bound or lanky.

Growing annuals yourself from seed can be a satisfying achievement when seen in bloom and, after a few tries, doing so often becomes straight forward.

Seed can be sowed in a seed tray, especially when using fine seed. Use a potting compost for starting seed and place uniformly in a seed tray and firm. Sprinkle the seed carefully, it should be uniform when sowed. With fine seed, sieve over the seeded surface with a fine cover of the compost and gently water using a watering can with a rose head.

Keep the compost moist but not wet. When the first seed leaves appear the seeds should be pricked and put into small two-inch pots and grown until roots start to fill the soil mass. Thereafter, when weather is accommodating, plant out and water in.

It is advisable when attempting carpet bedding to draw a plan of the design and work from that starting in the centre of the coverage.

Infill plantings between shrubs should be used to highlight the area, with taller plants being used in the middle areas and lower growing types being at the front. Keep seedlings watered in after planting until active growth is seen. Do not soak as this could lead to root and leaf damage.

An application of a low nitrogenous fertiliser, with higher levels of potash and potassium, will give plants a boost through the cooler parts of the year. A follow up with a liquid feed after several weeks should keep annuals looking healthy and floriferous.

Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the United Kingdom. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society

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Published October 17, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated October 03, 2022 at 1:58 pm)

The onset of summer’s decline

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