Gardening: Forget the blanket of snow, give your beds a splash of colour

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MANY of you like to grow your own bedding plants from seed in the spring and now is a great time to start planning colour schemes and varieties for your beds.

All the garden centres will have lots of stands of seeds from A-Z with the most exciting range of flowers to pretty up your garden this summer. If you have propagated your own seeds before you will have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, but to the new gardener it can be a bit daunting, can’t it?

Some plants are really easy to germinate like pansies, dahlia and petunia and don’t need a lot of heat, so you could easily start these off without much trouble.

Some varieties like Begonia semperflorens and tuberous begonias, impatiens and geraniums need a lot more heat so a heated greenhouse with 
possibly a propagator would give the best results.

At Pentland Plants we supply over 50 million plug plants each year for growers and councils across the UK to grow on to a finished plant and this idea has also taken off over the last few years with many garden centres now offering baby plants. Plug plants are a great idea for some of the more tricky varieties as you get a plant that is already a few weeks old and all you have to do is pot it up into a larger container and grow it on for a few more weeks till it is big enough to plant out later in the spring.

If you like having hanging baskets round your house and garden you can really get ahead of the game by buying larger plug plants of trailing basket varieties, planting them straight into your finished container and keeping them in a frost free or even better a warm greenhouse. They are so much easier to plant when little, and if you have ever tried to squeeze a large root ball through those tiny holes in baskets you will know what I mean. The plants all then grow on and mingle together beautifully giving a wonderful display that will look full and flowery so much earlier that if they were started off outside.

• Carolyn Spray is director of Pentland Plants, Loanhead, www.pentlandplants.co.uk, 0131-440 0895, and a presenter on the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden.