June 16, 2018 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2018 issue
Colour for Summer
Words Victoria Galea
What could be better than relaxing in your terrace or garden on a summer day, with the scent of flowers wafting up and fresh greenery all around you?
There are some things we tend to overlook when it comes to gardening. Many think that a hot, dry summer means an empty dry, arid garden. Well, it shouldn’t be like that actually.
There is so much one can do to make our outer spaces just as lush and fresh-looking in this season which sees most people use their gardens, terraces and outside areas most.
There is great choice for the hot season, even for those who are not keen gardeners but would like to enjoy some summer plants in their garden, courtyards and terraces.
A little tender, loving care will make a big difference in any space that can hold one or two living plants. And if we’re clever with our containers we can enjoy the benefits of a garden without the hassle!
Clever use of evergreen plants, vines, bushes and hedging is the solution for large areas as well as small or limited space. Flowering climbers will produce blooms and greenery that last for many months, and, in some cases throughout the year. Also, when strategically placed and trained, they will create a great focal point and some welcome shade too.
The bougainvillea is a highly unappreciated ornamental vine with colourful paper-like leaves that surround its flowers. It can be trained into any shape including topiary and hedges. It is a tough plant that thrives in Maltese weather and awards you with a riot of colour that seemingly never fades. It can be seen growing nearly wild in many local gardens – that in itself should be enough of an indication into its hardiness. It is a pity though, that it is not given more attention. Hard pruning and training can make of this plant a spectacular feature in your home. It comes in many colours, types and sizes, from white to every shade of orange, red or purple, with variegated foliage or double-flowered. It can give your garden or open space a dramatic touch when mixed and trained over an arch, trimmed into a tree or used as hedging. Some types are ideal for ground coverage – perfect to cover the dry soil in the hot, dry summers while dwarf varieties can be grown in tubs or large containers.
Planting: The bougainvillea can grow perfectly in a large pot in the sun. Choose a sunny spot and prepare a hole twice as wide as deep. Make sure it is free draining and add organic compost and water very deeply.
Requirements: Bougainvilleas love warm, dry climates. They need a lot of sun – at least six hours a day. If they do not have enough sun they may not bloom so profusely.
Care: It needs to be watered well as long as you let it drain out. Once established they are drought-tolerant. Be sure not to over water as this may prevent copious blooming. They are very vigorous growers and need to be trained. A light trimming after each flowering will help keep them in shape. Watch out for the long thorns!
Bougainvilleas don’t cling or attach themselves so you need to train them but if you have a trellis or a chain link fence it needs little guidance and will attach itself. Prune it as it grows.
As a child I loved the lantana with its pretty, perfectly formed bouquets of tiny child-sized flowers which attracted some beautiful butterflies. But I always thought that they were rather underestimated especially in open landscaped areas. They seemed to just be placed there and left to their own devices.
The Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the verbena family. The fact that they are used in public areas is indicative of how hardy these evergreen plants can be. This and the fact that they have an extended flowering period which makes them an excellent choice for landscaping, hedging and container growing adding easy colour and interest to the driest areas. They can also be grown in hanging baskets offering multi-coloured flowers that are a delight lasting for months. If you are particularly determined, you can also train it into a beautiful tree shape.
Planting: This plant needs sun so choose a sunny location and plant in spring in well-draining soil. Once they settle in they will grow and flower abundantly.
Requirements: Although these plants are tolerant of many soil conditions, lantana flowers prefer slightly acidic soil. Mulching with pine needles is one way of raising pH levels when the soil is low acid. They need sun as if they are placed in a shady place they will not bloom profusely. To encourage re-flowering make sure you deadhead regularly. If you allow it to form seeds it will stop blooming. Cut off the green seed-pods to stimulate new flowering.
Care: While newly planted lantanas require frequent watering, once established these plants require little maintenance and are tolerant of dry conditions. A good watering once or twice a week should suffice. Let it drain totally before the next watering as the plant may develop root rot if it is kept too wet.
Although not really necessary, a light dose of fertilizer can be administered in spring. Do be careful as too much may actually inhibit flowering.
Lantanas do not really have many problems but sometimes you may encounter some powdery mildew if the plant is not given enough light. Regular pruning in spring will give overgrown plants a new life.
There are many more varieties to choose from this summer. Here’s a short list of some attractive choices.
Heat-loving dipladenia is a tropical and subtropical flowering vine also known by its common name, rocktrumpet. With its colourful trumpet flowers and deeply green and slightly glossy leaves, this is a great vine to have in summer. It needs frequent watering but let the surface dry out between watering. It flowers best in well-lit areas.
This plant can infuse your spaces with unusual texture and colour with their unusual flaming red, pink, purple, gold or bicolored flowers which can last up to 10 weeks. The flowers come in many shapes, colours and sizes. It requires full sun and humid but not wet, soil.
An ideal plant for the summer with its perfect flowers which range from pink to purple, red, white, magenta and bi-colours. It grows to a height of 30-40cm tall and best of all, if loves the sun and thrives in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Vinca is drought-tolerant but you should water whenever the surface inch or so of the soil is totally dry. Do not overwater. It does not require much care as the vinca doesn’t need deadheading to continue blooming. Some types can self-seed in the garden.
This is a very pretty choice for summer with its succulent leaves and delicate blossoms which actually tolerate blazing sun. Its flowers come in red, orange, violet, white and pink. All it needs is fertile soil with good drainage and full sun. They are excellent for containers or ground cover. Pinch back plants every few weeks to stimulate the growth of new bud-bearing branches. Avoid overwatering.
Contact Louis Micallef at Green Supplier Ltd, Flower & Plants Growers, Mdawra Road, Burmarrad. Enquiries: 2157 1428