Producing Spring & Summer Bedding

Speaker: Peter Chivers
25th February

Peter Chivers – fingers came before dibbers! Photo by Pauline Powell

Peter Chivers – fingers came before dibbers! Photo by Pauline Powell


16 members attended the first talk of 2009 on spring and Summer Bedding given by Mr Peter Chivers at the Havant Arts Centre venue.

Peter started his talk by telling us that he would be firstly showing slides of floral beds and then doing some practical demonstrations of how to better succeed with our own floral displays. He invited us to ask questions as he went along.

Peter worked in the Portsmouth Parks Department all is life and helped produce the colourful displays around the city that we are all familiar with.

His colourful slides included beds out and about in Portsmouth and Southsea and some of the trials beds at Thompson and Morgan’s and RHS Wisley.

Of the favourite summer bedding plants (Brian Kidd is predicting a good summer) we saw examples of fibrous rooted begonias, canna lilies and standard fuchsias (for height), petunias, sunflowers, nicotianas, gazanias (good for hot summers), salvias (need watering in hot summers and don’t like to be moved), impatiens or busy lizzies (seeds need light to germinate) and marigolds. He stressed the need for spot plants to add height and interest and edging plants to set the beds off.

For some plants seeds should have already been sewn (begonias in January) but for some of the other plants it is not too late to sew now to try for a good show from June onwards.

A tip for sewing very fine seed is to put ¼ of a teaspoon of dry silver sand in the packet with the seed shake and sew. Begonia seeds take several weeks to germinate.

Peter advised sticking to one colour for large island beds but for long borders and as fill ins around shrubs mixed colours are allowable. He advised buying F1 hybrid seeds which are more reliable and produce better plants.

For spring bedding the seeds need to be sewn the year before the plants are needed. Polyanthus seeds need to be kept in the fridge for two weeks before sewing. Pansies should be sewn on Bastille Day or St. Swithin’s Day for flowering the following spring. Again use f1 hybrids. Tulips and wallflowers are good standard bys and make a superb show.

Peter demonstrated seed sewing in moist but not wet (a handful sticks together) compost in a seed tray and use a float or box press to tamp it down firmly. If using plant pots use a pot press or tamper to firm down. Cut the edge of the foil packet for ease of even sewing. Top off with sieved compost or vermiculite if seeds need light to germinate. Use a fine rose No. 2 to water and start off watering at the side of the tray to avoid flooding. Don’t forget to label up! Cover over with a sheet of glass or plastic or fleece or use a propagator.

Transplant the seedlings into multi cell trays using a dibber or widger, hold the leaves only and put the same size plantlets together, dib a hole, drop in the plant and firm gently. Water with a fine rose and place in maximum light, don’t let them dry out or get scorched in a greenhouse. Pot on into 3½ inch pots after 5/6 weeks.

This was a very useful and interesting talk with lots of practical tips for successful plant rearing for our flower beds based on Peter’s extensive experience.

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