It's time to plan your summer garden
SUMMER has its particular challenges in the garden. The harsh sunshine can burn and damage flowers and foliage, so you need to choose wisely.
If summer colour is what you're after, then petunias, portulaca, salvia, dianthus, zinnias, vinca and marigolds are hard to beat.
They love the heat and will flower prolifically for months. Seedlings planted now will be in full bloom by Christmas. If you need an instant effect, pick up some advanced seedlings or potted colour.
Annuals put on a fabulous show and enable you to change things around with the seasons. If you don't want to bother with that, though, choose hardy perennials like agapanthus, angelonia, geraniums, mandevillas, hibiscus and sunpatiens. They are showy and flower profusely, and you will not need to replace them as often as annuals.
Chinese star jasmine, gardenias, magnolia Little Gem and frangipanis will reward you with summer fragrance, ideal for outdoor living areas.
Summer is particularly challenging for pots in sunny positions as they dry out quickly. Choose plants that enjoy those conditions - dwarf bougainvilleas (including the Bambino range) and dipladenias will thrive. Both will flower pretty much all year in a really warm, sunny position. Succulents are great in pots of all shapes and sizes, making an impressive and easy-care display. Sunpatiens are also fantastic in pots, flowering non-stop throughout the year. But they are very thirsty, so will need watering once or possibly twice a day if they are in full sun. If you struggle to keep them from drooping try them in a less sunny position.
For shadier places, consider begonias, spathyphillum (peace lily), plectranthus, bromeliads, ferns and anthuriums. The lush, tropical foliage plants such as ctenanthe and calathea also bring vibrant colour to shady areas. For semi-shade, there are two tropical shrubs that I love - medinilla and vireya (tropical rhododendrons). Both are best in a position that gets morning sun but is protected in the hottest part of the day. They make spectacular potted plants.
Heliconias and gingers are great summer performers in a tropical garden. They are certainly not drought-tolerant, though, so you will need to make sure they get adequate water if they are to look really good.
A great way to create a cool feel in outdoor areas in summer is to use lovely large water bowls filled with water lilies or lotus. I find that water bowls are really easy to look after - you need to top the water up if the level drops, but this is certainly not a daily chore. The plants grow quickly and need to be fed with a slow release fertiliser tablet every four to six weeks.
A beautiful summer garden relies on careful plant selection, as well as gardening practices that help plants to withstand the heat. But with a bit of planning and preparation, the garden can be colourful and enticing all summer long.