3 Happiness Flowers
Some of midsummer’s flowers are like garden Prozac. Being amongst them has the ability to turn anxiety and a ‘down’ day into a happy day. Soothe your soul, make yourself happy and celebrate summer with the following:
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Sunflowers grow quickly and easily, and can be sown from early spring to midsummer. Garden centres will even have some of the modern and dwarf varieties in colour bags now, ready to plant and nearly in flower. Plant tall varieties of sunflowers in full sun in the background of a flower bed where they will shade other plants, and use the dwarf varieties somewhere in the middle. Enrich the soil with compost and plant the seed about 3mm deep and about 50cm – 90cm apart. Water well and keep the soil moist until germination, which is between 5 and 10 days. Growth thereafter is fast and furious.
• ‘Dwarf Sunspot’ – A classic yellow with big seed-filled heads on dwarf bushes up to 60cm high.
• ‘Cut Flower Mixed’ – A lovely mix of yellow, red and brown shades with a height of between 100cm – 170cm.
Coneflower (Echinacea x hybrida)
Echinaceas will grow in full sun to light shade, in any type of well-draining soil enriched with compost. The plants can reach a height of 30cm – 90cm and should be spaced 45cm – 60cm apart. Water well at first to establish this tough perennial, and then reduce to deep and regular watering when the soil feels dry. These plants have thick roots that reach deep into the ground to protect them against heat and dry conditions. Remove spent flowers and cut back the old stems to encourage new blooms. Butterflies love coneflowers in summer, and if the cones of some spent flowers are left on the plant in winter, the birds will come to feed on the seeds.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
A rudbeckia can be identified by golden-yellow daisy-like flower petals surrounding a prominent conical disc. These bushy plants, with their scratchy, hairy leaves, are regarded as annuals or, where conditions allow, short-lived perennials that produce masses of colourful flowers for months on end. You can ring the changes with different hybrids ranging from dwarf to intermediate to really tall, and enjoy flower colours varying from golden- yellow to russet and bronze. Plant your rudbeckias in full sun in well-composted soil. Water them regularly and preferably at soil level to prevent possible fungal disease on the leaves. Feed every couple of weeks with a liquid fertiliser and deadhead fading flowers to encourage more blooms, which last well in the vase.