Rise of the bedding plants

Begonia semperflorens ‘Organdy Mixed’ F1 Hybrid from Thompson & Morgan
Fill your beds and borders with show stopping bedding plants
Image: Begonia semperflorens ‘Organdy Mixed’ F1 Hybrid from Thompson & Morgan

Bedding plants became incredibly popular in the Victorian era, when specialist plant hunters were dispatched to find new and unique specimens to add colour and interest to gardens. The surge in interest coincided with the abolition of the glass tax. This meant that, for the first time, more people were able to erect modest glasshouses in their gardens allowing them to grow a wider range of the new bedding plants that were brought back from warmer parts of the world. Here’s why this Victorian status symbol has stood the test of time…

Bedding plants became a Victorian status symbol

Bedding plants at Thompson & Morgan trial grounds
Bedding plants being tested at Thompson & Morgan’s trial grounds 
Image: T&M

As new varieties of bedding plants were discovered, their use became something of a status symbol as wealthy estates competed to create the most intricate carpets of colour. Only the most fortunate could afford to grow these new varieties, and so formal bedding plant displays became an ornate symbol of the Victorian era. However, due to changes in fashion and a lack of post-war labour, bedding plants fell from favour and less formal planting schemes like cottage gardens became more popular. 

How to use bedding plants in modern schemes

Monarda Censation™ 'Confetti' from Thompson & Morgan
Monarda Censation™ ‘Confetti’ is loved by pollinators and is fantastic in both wildlife gardens and cottage borders
Image: Monarda Censation™ ‘Confetti’ from Thompson & Morgan

To my delight, bedding plants are on the comeback. There’s an incredible choice of different varieties available today, and they’re no longer restricted to the wealthy. 

The best part about using bedding plants in your own garden is that they allow you to create a completely new design every year. You can easily change the colour scheme every year – annual summer bedding plants are the quickest way to transform your beds, borders, hanging baskets and patio containers, and the results are fairly instant. 

You can also use bedding plants to plug gaps in perennial or shrub borders while you wait for smaller plants to reach their full size. Densely planting bedding plants into gaps in your herbaceous borders keeps the weeds down too!

And bedding plants are not just for bright summer displays. If you replant your garden with winter bedding plants in the autumn, you’ll have a gorgeous show through the coldest months of the year as well.

When is the best time to order bedding plants? 

Geranium ‘Best Red’ F1 Hybrid from T&M
Geranium ‘Best Red’ is a top performer in beds, borders and containers
Image: Geranium ‘Best Red’ F1 Hybrid from Thompson & Morgan

If you have plenty of space and time, you can grow your own bedding plants from seed. 

Summer bedding plants should be sown from February to April and winter bedding plants need to be started off between May and July, ready for planting out in the autumn. 

However most people order trays of fuss-free plug plants for a quick, easy and cost-effective solution. Summer bedding plants are dispatched at the end of spring and winter bedding plants are sent out at the end of summer. If you have a particular purpose in mind, you can choose from our curated collections like perfect for pollinators bedding plants or bedding suitable for containers. Simply pre-order your selection on the website, and your bedding plants will be delivered at the optimum time.

For more information on creating spectacular displays, read our article on how to grow bedding plants. You’ll also find a wealth of tips, advice over at our dedicated bedding plant hub page.

Published at Wed, 01 Dec 2021 10:07:34 -0500

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