May at The Reigate Garden Centre Plant Department
Plant of the Month
Petunia is a very popular and widely planted genus, which originated from South America, and is closely related to the humble potato. Petunias are ideal basket and container plants which can flower all summer long providing that you dead head them regularly.
Petunias come in a variety of blooms including single and double, ruffled or smooth petals. They can be striped, veined or solid in colour, with mounding or cascading habits. Most of the petunias sold today are hybrids developed for specific design purposes such as fragrance. The two oldest types of petunias are grandifloras and multifloras. Both types are mounding in their habit of growth, grandiflora has larger flowers whilst the multifloras perform better in wet conditions.
Spreading type petunias which include the ‘Surfinia’ series are some of the most popular petunias because they do not need dead heading and they can be used as bedding plants, groundcovers or trailing in containers and hanging baskets.
Calibrachoa or ‘Million Bells’ look like tiny petunias but are in fact an entirely different species.
Petunias can be grown in blocks, or mixed with other bedding plants to produce a vibrant range of colour and flower shapes. They need full sun and can tolerate a wide range of soils. Multipurpose compost is suitable when growing petunias in containers. They are not frost tolerant, so only put them out once all danger of frost has passed.
In Your Garden
In May the gardening season is in full swing. Our garden centres now offer a world of exciting plants and trees to choose from – many of them in flower now. Why not pay a visit to our the garden centre and see what’s new for you to enjoy in your garden?
It may freeze…
As the weather continues to improve, you’ll want to get started on container plants. Don’t get caught out though, beware of damaging late frosts. If you wait until the second week in May, when the risk of night frost has passed, you might save yourself time and effort. If you have stored container plants inside during the winter months, then they too can go outside now. Its best not to place them in full sunlight all day immediately, but allow them to acclimatise to the warmth and the light first.
Making pretty pictures
• Plants in pots are ideal for enhancing your garden or balcony.
• You can create a stylish feel by opting for a particular colour theme or a particular type of plant in different colours.
• You can also create attractive combinations by mixing flowering plants with eye-catching foliage plants.
• Also don’t forget hanging baskets and containers for dressing dull walls or forgotten corners.
You can prune early-flowering shrubs which have finished flowering now. On varieties like Forsythia, Ribes and Spiraea cut off a few of the oldest branches every year. This constantly rejuvenates the bushes and means that they continue to bloom magnificently every year.
Cut the brown sprays that have finished flowering from the lilac. This will ensure it flowers even better next year. Also prune the winter heather that has finished flowering now.
It is time to trim hedges in order to prevent them from growing too vigorously. Careful not to prune any hedges if birds are nesting in them.
Plant evergreen shrubs and conifers
You can continue to plant evergreen plants until mid-May - they are sometimes supplied with the rootball in sacking.
Plant, divide and replace
• If perennials are not showering signs of life yet, then they have not survived the winter. Replace them with new plants and enrich the soil there with fertiliser and compost.
• Dig up plants which show few signs of life, cut or divide off the young edges, replant them and throw away the old hearts.
• You can also consider planting tropical flowering plants like Canna outside now.
• You can continue to put in summer-flowering plants until mid-May.
Everything that can grow, flower and live in the pond can go into it now. This includes water hyacinth, water lettuce and other tropical varieties. Ensure that two-thirds of the surface remains free of plants. Turn the pump on again and place fresh bacteria in the bio filter.
You can sow sunflowers now: these big flowers are easy, fun and lovely for children.
The grass is now growing vigorously and you will have to mow it more often. Don’t forget to feed the grass, since whatever you cut and remove is a potential store of energy for the grass plants.
Tall perennials need extra support now. Its best not to bind bunches of stems to canes, ideally take account of the shape of the plant.
Guide and tie climbing plants
Guide new shoots to where you want them. In many cases they can be inserted between the existing stems, but you will sometimes have to prune in order to keep them under control and regularly tie them again.
Plant herbs in the sunniest, most sheltered spot possible. Most kitchen herbs also grow very well in pots and troughs.
Fertilise hedges at the roots in order to prevent them from looking elsewhere for food and competing with your other plants. Preferably use special food for hedge plants.
If you want to keep bulbs, they need to take up a sufficient reserve of food. That can only happen if you leave the foliage to wither slowly. Only remove it when it is completely yellowed. This applies not only to bulb crops that you want to allow to go wild, like snowbells, crocus and narcissi, but also for bulbs that you want to dig up and store, like tulips. Mow around withering bulbs in the lawn.
Young plants in particular need regular watering. Ideally give them rainwater at the right temperature. Water caught in a water butt is perfect. When watering plants with a hose from the mains, allow the water to fall in a fine mist, it will have had time to take on some of the ambient temperature, which is preferable