GARDEN NEWCOMERS

3: BEDDING PLANTS
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The Independent Culture
GARDENING

AFRICAN daisies, Osteospermums, are good value because they flower all summer, and their sherbet shades can be seen in pots and baskets all over the British Isles. Some of the newer hybrids, such as "Wisley Pink" and the Cannington series, have a good range of colour, and "Pink Whirls" and "Cannington John" have spoon-shaped petals, which makes them extra showy.

The daisies that were once called marguerites now go by the grander name of Argyranthemums. A recent introduction, "Vancouver", is a rich pink which flowers for much longer than its parent, "Mary Wootton". It should be available in most garden centres. "Jamaica primrose" is a discreet yellow; "Blizzard" is tiny and white. I have a secret fondness for copper- coloured flowers, so "Apricot Surprise" is one I might try this year.

Blue flowers look like being popular this season. There is a blue daisy, Felicia "Reads Blue" in a clear sky colour, but lobelias are the plants to grow if you like your blues untinged with pink. Lobelia richardii has been around for years, but until recently it was only available from a few specialist growers. It flowers for much longer than the normal bedding varieties. "Kathleen Mallard" is irresistible, with double sky blue flowers. It too is an old variety that has been kept going by small nurseries. The new Riviera lobelias are said to carry on flowering even in dry summers, but you would have to forgo real blue in preference for white with blue marking ("Riviera Splash") or pale mauve ("Riviera lilac"). I think they have a slightly dingy, faded look.

Another terrific new blue bedding plant looks like being the pimpernel. Anagallis monellii "Skylover" is in the gentian range, with a little red eye in the centre of each flower. It will not spread much more than a foot in width, but if piercing colour is the object, it may be the answer.

Not quite as much of an eyeful is a plant which started appearing in plantsmen's gardens a couple of summers ago. This year Scaevola aemula has reached mail-order catalogues and should also be in garden centres. The flowers are like little purple-blue fans and they keep on coming. Named forms are "Blue Fan" and "Blue Wonder".

For those for whom strong clear colours are not the first choice, there are plenty of subtle shades around. Verbena "Peaches 'n'cream", a bestseller in the US, has apricot, cream-orange and yellow flowers appearing on the same plant. Traditional-ists might prefer the apple-blossom colouring of another new Verbena, "Pink Parfait". This smells as good as it looks and is one that I will definitely try this year.

Apple-blossom colouring also turns up in tobacco plants. Nicotiana "Havana Apple blossom" may be as lovely as the catalogues claim, but I suspect that at 14in it is too short to be a winner. Dwarf Nicotianas lack the grace of their grander relations. I would rather grow Nicotiana "Lime Green", double the height and once more obtainable.

All these new flowers should be readily available as plants from garden centres or from one of the major seed firms.

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