LAST week was my annual pilgrimage to Ball Colegrave’s trial grounds near Banbury.
This is always a cue to come home disheartened and dissatisfied with my own garden, as, no matter the weather, they always manage to put on a magnificent show.
This trip is very useful for people like me, though, as it affords a chance to see what bedding plants and container subjects do well in extreme heat, like a couple of years ago; late springs, like last season; and excessive wet, as this summer has delivered to date.
After a few yearly visits, it is possible to pick out varieties that should do well in the average garden, no matter what the weather – this year, again, looking at the riot of colour in the immaculate planting displays and trial beds, it seems we should be thinking about French marigolds, or, if like many (not me, though, I confess) you can’t stomach their gaudy yellows and oranges, New Guinea Hybrid impatiens (which are disease-free so far), or coleus, as these always put up a brave show
The plant that grabbed me, however, was one that on our visit was only in the seedling stage, but, if the presentations are to be believed, should take the container market by storm this autumn.
This is the Cool Wave pansy, a vigorous, spreading variety which can trail up to 60cm (2ft) and has a better survival rate than some trailing varieties, which struggled in the cold spells of the last two winters and took so much time to recover in the spring that many plantings were only just reaching their best when it was time for the summer replacements.
Cool Wave is hardy down to -20°F (-28.9°C) and will continue to flower throughout the winter if not too severe, but will resume flowering quickly in early spring even if it has been another harsh one.
The flowers are small, but produced profusely, so they stand up to rain and spray damage (if there are signs of pansy aphid, which can’t be ruled out for any member of the viola family) better than the very large flowered cultivars.
They come in various single colours, plus a mixture, so should fit in with most colour schemes.
Now August has arrived, it’s time to order winter bedding plug plants, and I shall certainly be getting mine in for Cool Wave this week.
Checking the internet, it seems that Thompson and Morgan are the main suppliers to the amateur gardener; they offer 24 plug plants for £9.99; 36 plugs for £12.99 and £72 plug plants for £16.99.
The real bonus of this new variety, however, is the fact that the best container display is had by spacing the plants out widely – no more than five in the top of a 12”-14” hanging basket.
This will ensure they trail properly; the plants tend to grow upwards rather than outwards with over-close planting and can eventually smother each other.
This means that to have a good show by the time the summer containers are replaced, you need to order early and get your baskets and the like planted up soon, so it’s even more important to order early.
It’s worth remembering that Ball Colegrave open their summer trials to various organisations looking for a trip out with a difference.
It’s probably too late for this year, but certainly worth thinking about for a future outing.