I clapped eyes on this wondrous thing during my first visit to the Chelsea Flower Show, where they were displayed in huge, shallow bowls, and looked like fluffy, pastel clouds of candy floss. I vowed to do the same thing at home and went straight out to find some at the garden centre. Nemesia come from South Africa where they hang out in scrubby places (I love this, because it means they’re not too fussy). Their flowers are exquisite and, on close inspection, quite comical. They’ve got this frilly upper petal with four lobes like a crown, and then a lower petal that looks like a tongue sticking out. The upper and lower parts are often different colours, with a splash of yellow in the centre, which serves as a landing pad for pollinators, and sure enough, if you press down on it gently, the two bits part and you can see down the flower’s throat. This is one of my summer stalwarts, prettifying my pots for months on end.
YOU WILL NEED
Nemesia plants These are very popular and on sale throughout April and May in a vast array of different colours. My advice is to go and get some now in those polystyrene or plastic cells, as they will be really small and therefore cheaper.
A pot To get the puff effect, you need to go for girth, but it can be quite shallow as these are not deep-rooting plants.
Compost I use a half-and-half mixture of multi-purpose compost and John Innes No. 2 to which I often add some granular fertiliser and a few water-retaining granules if I have them to hand.
Simply half-fill your pot with compost and then gently plant the Nemesia at regular intervals to cover the surface. To get the close-knit cloud-like effect, I place my plants quite close together – if you’ve bought individual plants in cells, that means 5–7cm apart. If you’ve bought your Nemesia plants at a more mature stage, in pots, then plant each one 3cm apart. Fill in around the plants with more compost and firm everything in well. Then give the whole thing a really good soaking and wait for the magic to happen; the plants will knit together and start blooming their socks off within a couple of weeks.
The lovely thing about Nemesia is that it lasts for ages. Eventually, the flowers will get tall and start to flop over, and when this happens, I give the pot a haircut, snipping the whole lot to about halfway down the stems. I then give it a liquid seaweed feed and it starts flowering again after this brutal clipping.