14 planting tricks for rapid results
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Large architectural plants such as yuccas, phormiums, tree ferns and bamboos give instant impact. They are generally pricey, but they will last for years, and you can balance out the investment by surrounding them with low-cost bedding plants for the first season.
Seek out plants with ‘ready-made’ good looks
In summer, you will be able to find well-grown fuchsias, coleus and other attention-grabbing plants at most nurseries and garden centres. Buy containerised roses in flower, and you can have a rose bed in full bloom at the end of a day's planting. Roses and fuchsias grown as standards (on a tall stem) add height in a flash.
Read more: How to prolong flowering displays
Consider mature plants
Mature perennials in big pot sizes are also increasingly available, as are climbers that are developed enough to clad an obelisk in no time. Take a look at heathers and conifers, too. Most growers produce plants in a range of pot sizes; the bigger the pot, the quicker the plant will settle and fill out, with proper care.
Mature trees and shrubs can be found on the internet if your local garden centre cannot help you.
With a generous budget, you can have a newly planted shrubbery that looks as though it has been growing for years. It will need more watering than if you'd started with young plants, but on the plus side, you can see the effect immediately, and there is no danger of over-planting to fill up the bed.
Ready-made topiary and even pre-grown box hedging sold ‘by the yard' are other expensive but immediately satisfying options.
Choose vigorous shrubs
Shrubs that make rapid growth will soon give your plantings substance, if you prepare the ground really well. Look out, too, for smaller shrubs that are cut back hard in spring and flower late in the season, such as hardy fuchsias, perovskia and Spiraea japonica; in a year, just one of these can bush out to fill as much space as several small perennials.
A framework of strategically positioned, fast-maturing shrubs gives a border an established feel while other plants grow to realise their potential.
Read more: Create an easy-care garden with wild flowers
Grow a ‘lavender hedge’ in half the time
Use a row of fast-growing nepeta (catmint) for much faster results; or choose Perovskia ‘Little Spire' or Caryopteris ‘Ferndown’. All three can be cut back hard in spring.
Add quick-growing perennials
Fill gaps between larger plants with fast-growing, spreading perennials. Plant closely so that the leaves are almost touching and they will soon knit together.
Fill beds with fast-growing flowers
Everyone wants to see a border full of permanent colour as soon as possible, yet there are times when you might need or prefer a temporary solution for part of your garden.
Let annuals and bedding plants come to your rescue: in a matter of weeks they can make a dazzling display, while you can concentrate on designing a long-term planting scheme.
Read more: How to get your garden watered right
Make a cheap and cheerful bed with hardy annuals
You will find a good choice of seed varieties at garden centres, and an even wider one if you order from a seed company's catalogue. Sow a seed mixture for a meadow effect, or sow different varieties in patches or drifts for a more structured look, placing the tallest annuals, cleomes, for example, and sunflowers at the back.
Create the look of a mature border
Hardy and half-hardy annuals aren't just for creating a small-scale, cottage-y look. There are annual species of classic border perennials such as lupins, rudbeckias and delphiniums (larkspur).
Papaver somniferum varieties can be every bit as blowsy and showy as perennial oriental poppies. Hordeum jubatum and Lagurus ovatus are lovely annual grasses, while Euphorbia marginata, with white-splashed leaves, is a fantastic foliage plant, or for the lime green of perennial euphorbias, try Bupleurum rotundifolium.
Make a splash with brilliant bedding
Ready-grown in individual cells or pots, bedding plants take no time at all to fill out. The best time to buy bedding that will grow away quickly is just as it is reaching the flowering stage.
Plants in full bloom are tempting, but these may well be stressed from being too long in their pots and will take much longer to re-establish. Space the plants slightly closer than recommended and water regularly to see bare earth covered quickly.
Don’t overlook edible plants
Most vegetable plants grow to maturity in a single season and many look great in a border. You could opt for an entirely edible planting, or add in traditional kitchen garden flowers such as dahlias, marigolds and zinnias.
Mix the coloured foliage of beetroot and red lettuce with bright bedding, or liven up a border edge with ferny carrots and bright nasturtiums (which have edible flowers) for a productive and attractive display.
Keep the foliage coming with leafy crops
Choose ‘cut-and-come-again’ varieties, so that you can pick just enough for a meal without leaving gaps in your plantings.
Look for pretty looseleaf lettuces that you can harvest over time, or the chard ‘Bright Lights', with its bold leaves and brilliantly coloured stems.
Give height to the planting
Make wigwams of runner and climbing french beans, many of which have beautiful flowers. Sow or plant sweetpeas between the beans and they will scramble up the supports too. You could complete the display with an edible edging of ‘Hestia' dwarf runner beans.
Visit a herb nursery for more inspiration
Some of the more unusual leafy herbs make really substantial and quick-growing plants. Look for lovage and borage, hyssop (agastache), fennel, valerian and lemon verbena, and edge beds with fast-growing, fragrant sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum).
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