The annual big gamble

SMALL WONDER: Wax begonias guarantee months of blooms.

SMALL WONDER: Wax begonias guarantee months of blooms.

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Many gardeners will already have gambled; most will have won, but some, particularly in the colder, higher parts of Yorkshire, may have lost.

Which is why they have been back to the garden centre or B&Q to buy another lot of bedding plants to bring a bit of colour to summer.

The guys and gals who produce all those millions of plant plugs (perfectly-formed little flowers waiting to be planted out in the nation’s gardens and pots) must rub their hands with glee when a late frost or storm devastates newly-planted beds and borders. Summer bedding plants are big business and earn lots of pennies.

But if you did gamble by planting out tender plants before the end of this month (June 1 is normally the recommended time, although even then it’s possible to get a sneaky frost) then, hopefully, your plants should bloom a few days earlier than those of the gardeners who are still waiting for the big day to arrive.

Whatever the case, I bet many thousands of people will have plumped for the same sort of flowering plants – and top of the pops will be pelargoniums and wax begonias, aka Begonia semperflorens, probably the longest-blooming of any. Wax begonias aren’t the biggest, but they are among the best; pound for pound they can bloom from June till the first autumn frosts turn them into a mush fit only for the compost bin.

These fibrous-rooted, mound-forming, tender plants can have single or double, white, pink or red flowers and they can transform beds, borders and planters like no other flower. Plus, they take virtually no looking-after.

They like a rich, well-drained garden soil beefed up with generous amounts of compost or other organic matter to help retain moisture.

Alternatively, just use a good compost and, if you’re feeling generous, add a handful of slow-release fertiliser granules.

These little begonias like plenty of sun but they will also flower relatively well in a shady spot.

Water them regularly and even if you don’t dead-head, they should continue to produce plenty of new blooms.

And when the weather man (or woman) warns of impending frost, you can lift 
your baby begonias, cut back all the dead and dying foliage and flower-heads, replant in fresh compost in containers 
and take them indoors somewhere 
cool where they should grow 
to become a welcome houseplant.

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