As summer beckons, many gardeners will now be deciding which patio plants to feature in their scheme, but it’s a difficult job as there’s so much choice and plants can vary greatly in quality.

The perfect summer container plant should be long-flowering and disease-resistant.

But many simply don’t do that job.

To save you some of the bother of trial and error, Which? Gardening, the Consumers’ Association magazine, has now produced a report after growing more than 35 new varieties suited to containers or baskets before they were released to the public.

The plants, which were bought as plugs or young plugs last April, were grown in good quality container compost with added slow-release fertiliser.

The planted containers were kept in polytunnels until all risk of frost had passed and then brought out in June, watered and deadheaded as required.

Among the pick of the crop were Osteospermum Serenity series (Mr Fothergill’s; Unwins), with its soft pastel or terracotta-toned flowers that mature to a deeper, warmer shade, and the Nemesia Lady series, a deliciously scented variety which looked great in mixed plantings with Calibrachoa ‘Can-Can Rose Star’ and Pelargonium ‘Caliente Pink’.

The white Nemesia ‘Sweet Lady’ was the longest flowering of three highly scented varieties and still looked good in September.

For those interested in new basket plants, winners included Petunia ‘Sanguna Atomic Blue’, which brings drama to any arrangement, with its dark throated flowers with dark veins leading to a deep-mauve colour of the rounded petals.

It carried on flowering when other plants were waning, trailed well and didn’t suffer from having all the flowers at the bottom of a curtain of green growth (B&Q; The Garden Centre Group; Homebase).

For a burst of yellow in a mixed planting basket, Bidens ‘Solaire Semidouble’ didn’t disappoint, forming a dense trailing mat of fine foliage covered with hundreds of tiny, vibrant flowers that have an extra set of petals around the eye, forming a frilly collar.

The plants grew well, flowered strongly all summer and were easy deadhead. (B&Q; garden centres) Lovers of busy lizzies (Impatiens) whose plants succumbed to a widespread outbreak of downy mildew last summer may be better off growing alternatives such as the New Guinea-type hybrid impatiens or begonias, both of which will succeed in similar conditions, according to Which? Gardening.

The full report on new patio plants is in the April edition of Which? Gardening. To get a free copy of the Which? Your Easy Guide To Gardening, call 0800 389 8855 and quote code VEG441F


Cover strawberry crops with tunnel cloches, opening the sides every day to allow pollinating insects to do their work.

Sow sweet peas into their flowering position.

Chit maincrop potatoes and plant sprouted tubers of early varieties.

Sow and plant out vegetables including beetroot, broad beans, carrots, celeriac, spinach, onions, peas and turnips.

Prepare grass for sowing or turfing.

Support pea plants using twiggy branches, to stop pods resting on the soil.