As many plants become leafless and cease to show up in the cold months, the winter seasonals come to our rescue with their spectacular display in any garden setting, says N. Chandramohan Reddy

Flowers add colour and beauty to any landscape. Even the most beautiful garden will become monotonous if it is not studded with flowering plants. Especially during the winter months, when many of the plants go dormant, become leafless, and cease to show up, the winter seasonals will come to our rescue with their spectacular display in any garden setting.

Most of the flowering plants we grow in gardens are herbaceous ornamentals, which are categorised as annuals or perennials based on their life cycle. Annual flowers are those that complete their lifecycle – growing and blooming, in only one growing season while perennial flowering plants grow and bloom for two (also called biennials) or more years before they die. Annuals, otherwise known as seasonals, must be replanted each year, which entails substantial gardening operations.

Most of the seasonal flower plants can either be raised in garden beds or in pots of appropriate size. Manure rich soil media with good drainage is needed in either case. Visible and prime locations are to be selected for the flower beds or for placing the flower pots.

While selecting the species, one must make sure that each bed stands out with one single colour to have mass impact. However, flowers like Petunias and Dianthus may look pleasing when different hues are mixed in the same bed. Nowadays many dwarf hybrids of various species are available in the market, which produce large flowers with bright colours to form a visual treat. Winter seasonals are susceptible to aphids, beetles, mites, mealy bugs, scale insects, nematodes, thrips, termites, caterpillars, leaf miners and fungal diseases. Preventive as well as post-attack pest management measures will help in reducing these problems. The affected portion or plant shall be removed to avoid the spread of the disease. It is very easy to raise most of the winter seasonal flowering plants through seeds. Alternatively readymade ‘plug plants’ (small seedlings) can be procured from the nurseries and planted in the beds or transplanted into bigger pots. Certain seasonals like Chrysanthemums can be raised by stem cuttings. Plants like Dahlias can be propagated by division of clumps.

[The author is a forest officer and presently Additional Commissioner (Urban Biodiversity) in GHMC and can be contacted at ‘nchandramohanreddy@gmail.com]