I have a sneaky weakness for petunias and surfinias. They must be the only real rival to pelargoniums for the title of the ultimate balcony plant. Stick 'em in a container, give them the right amount of tender loving care and they'll grow, and bloom, and grow and bloom all summer.
This year though, I have to admit that I've gone a bit over the top. It all started back in April when I saw that petunias had started to come back into the garden centres, and immediately started buying. I hadn't seen ordinary petunias for a couple of years, as surfinias had become so poular here that they'd pushed them right out of the garden centres. This year, I thought, I'd go for petunias, just for a change.
But then the surfinias started appearing too, and I couldn't resist. Especially when I saw this yellow one which did so well for me a couple of years back. So I now have far more than I ever intended. And guess what - I don't care a bit.
Surfinias are a Japanese invention. Back in the mid-1990s two Japanese companies - Suntory (better known for whisky) and Kirin (better known for beer) - each developed a variety of trailing petunia. Suntory's was known as surfinia and was propagated from cuttings, while Kirin's was propagated from seed and went under the name of Wave petunias. They became immensely popular, to the detriment of the upright varieties, but now, if our local market is anything to go by, ordinary petunias seem to be making a come-back.
An enormous number of new varieties of petunia (of whatever type) are produced each year - anything up to a thousand - so don't be surprised if you've never seen exactly the ones I have here. They're sun-lovers, and extremely thirsty - when it's really hot you'll need to water them a couple of times a day. But they're fairly resistant. When they get thirsty they flop immediately and look exceptionally pathetic. But a drink soon puts them back on their feet.
They also get fairly hungry and need regular feeding with a high potassium but low phosphorus fertiliser. They also dislike alkaline conditions and prefer an acidic compost.
If they have a disadvantage, it's that they need constant dead-heading. They bloom copiously, but the blooms don't last long. And they're sticky- yerk.
But they're so lovely it's worth it. Bloom on, babies.