How to keep your plants flowering

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With us now into September and really the beginning of the end for the gardening season, many flowers, both annuals and perennials, are producing and abundance of seed heads.

Keeping plants flowering as long as possible is achieved not just by regular feeding but, equally important, by dead-heading.

Dahlias, “the” flower of September, comes to mind. Then there are the many varieties of fuchsias. If allowed to set seed the latter will soon not be at their best – their aim in life has been achieved, the flowers have bloomed and formed theirseed – but his is not what the gardener wants to see.

With some varieties of fuchsias – usually the small, single-flowered types – there is no seed head, while most do produce what are green at first, then turning to maroon “fruit”. They are easily removed using one’s finger and thumb, alternatively, a pair of scissors will get the job done quickly. They are usually to be found in pairs further down the stem than the current crop of flowers.

While on the subject of seeds, this is an ideal time to collect seeds from a range of plants. The challenge is then to harvest some, dry them off, store over the winter in envelopes of paper bags (never a polythene one) and sow in the spring.

Seed has to be mature before being collected so flower heads have to be left on the plant until ready for collection. Cut stems can be placed in a paper bag and the seed pods will burst and the seed collected.

One of the easiest seeds to collect are from lupins, they are ready to be collected when the pods turn black.

Earliler in the season, a few annuals were on sale in pots at various outlets, cosmos being a firm favourite seen and, along with the late-flowering hardy herbaceous ones, can have their colour extended by continually removing the faded flowers.

The perennial alchemilla mollis, better known as Lady’s Mantle, popular in herbaceous and mixed planting borders, has to be one of the easiest plants to grow, thriving in sun or shade, in any well-drained garden soil and a great ground-cover plant.

That said, it grow so well it’s invasive but produces a profusion of tiny, pale yellow flowers in clusters. By now, however, the foliage and flower stems are best cut back to tidy up the border.