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January 19, 2010, 12:08 pm betterhomesgardens
Think of a spring garden and your mind quickly turns to bright flowers overflowing from just about every corner of the landscape.
However, you’ll find that many gardens suffer from a flat and dreary period in late winter to early spring before this colourful tide rolls in. Fortunately, you can easily overcome this in-between time by filling your pots and garden with early-season annuals. Here’s our pick of gorgeous – and nearly foolproof – favourites for you to try.Lobelias
When you need to create a neat colourful border or a dainty cascading display in rockeries, pots and baskets, lobelias are ideal. They’re a breeze to grow, are quick to flower and are reliable repeat bloomers. Care is simple, just plant them in enriched soil or potting mix, liquid feed regularly with a bloom-boosting formula, give them a light haircut after flowering and water during dry periods. Your reward? Lush foliage and masses of miniature blooms in stark whites, brilliant blues, warm mauves and even reds. They bloom best in full sun but also perform well in moderate shade.Primulas
The cultivars of Primula malacoides are ideal mass-planted in full sun through to dappled shade. Their long stems of tiny flowers are held high above their foliage to create low billowing clouds of candy pinks, purples and mauves, whites or mixed shades. Plant them in quality soil or potting mix, liquid feed regularly with a flowering formulation and, to promote further flushes of blooms, remove flowers at their base as they finish. You’ll often find that primulas will self-seed, popping up in all sorts of nooks and crannies.Pansies and violas
If ever there was a group of plants that could be said to always show a cheery face, then it would have to be violas and pansies. Their cute-as-a-button blooms are borne in abundance over a long period. Care is simple, you just need to keep them reliably moist, liquid feed for vigour and trim lightly to help them repeat flower and retain their bushiness. They flower well in full sun through to part-shade, with varieties available in just about any colour you can imagine – even black. Use them for a bold splash of colour in pots, window boxes and garden borders, or beneath tall shrubs. And for a colourful crunch, you can add the flowers to salads!Cinerarias
For an absolute knockout display of mounding colour it’s hard to go past cinerarias. Over many months they’re covered with daisy-like blooms in a huge range of solid colours and bi-colours. They look fabulous planted en masse, but they can also be potted and displayed indoors as a delightful table centrepiece. For best results, plant in a position out of the hottest sunlight. Use quality, free-draining soil or potting mix and liquid feed regularly. Remove flowers as they finish to encourage new blooms.Poppies
A true traditional favourite, poppies are an enchanting sight as they sway gently in the breeze. Featuring long-stemmed blooms with crepe-like petals, when mass-planted their charm is second to none. A little work to prepare the soil and ongoing care will ensure a brilliant display. Poppies like free-draining soil that has been improved with compost or quality manure. Keep them well watered and mulch with a fast breakdown straw, such as lucerne or pea straw. A regular liquid feed with a bloom-boosting fertiliser will also help greatly. Although poppies are famous for their stunning red blooms, they also come in white, pink, yellow and orange. They make great cut flowers – cut them in the morning as they open and they’ll last in a vase for a week.