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THE Autumn teasers are out ? word has just reached me about the new seedling releases, together with the announcement of `Flower of the Year 2000′.

Flower of the Year is selected annually by Bedding Plants Australia as its choice to be distributed nationally ? this year’s winner is Your Highness* Sweet Pea.

Cutting through its given title and facts such as, the mix of colours contains `Spencer’ type flowers from the garden of Althorp Park, Princess Diana’s resting place and promotional material claiming it’s been awarded the `crown’ for the year 2000 and you’ll find `Your Highness’ to be a highly perfumed mix of a beautiful range of colours.

Now to relevant information ? this lovely mix of sweet peas has a large range of colours and patterns, picotees and even marbled effects.

`Your Highness’ is a very tall growing sweet pea which can reach even higher than 2m if planted early in the season ? colour variations are white, pinks, blues, reds and violets.

Ideal for cutting, Flower of the Year will flower from September through December. It should be planted in full sun from February to April.

Also being released by BPA for autumn planting is Crackle* Snapdragon. The name is better than a thousand words ? these vibrant new snappies are designed to bring colour and warmth into dreary winter gardens. It is a compact (25cm) fiery mix of bright red and yellow bi-colours which can be brown in window boxes, in pots or as a colourful border.

`Crackle’ needs the sun, but will require a little shade in hot areas and will flower from May to October. Cutting off spent blooms will encourage further flowering ? this snappie shouldn’t be allowed to dry out and regular applications of a soluble fertiliser will maintain flowering.

The release of Torch* Pansy for autumn planting is a wonderful stimulus for those gardeners who’d like to represent their garden on the `Olympic’ stage. I think the idea has merit ? `Torch’ has been selected to reflect Australia’s sporting colours, green and gold. It would look fabulous if gardeners throughout the country planted Torch* Pansy en mass to welcome overseas visitors. Besides which, it’s a damned good pansy ? the plants are very hardy, long flowering from March-October, with large flowers growing to 8cm in diameter.

Here’s something totally new ? Pixi Pansettas! These highly perfumed annuals are halfway between pansies and violas. They will be available in a very colourful mixture which will flower through autumn, winter and spring.

Newport Nurseries have also released Tiny Tots Violettas ? this new series feature two shades ? Oranges and Lemons or Fruit Salad. The colour Oranges and Lemons is self explanatory, while Fruit Salad is a chic blend of mauve and vanilla spiced up with a very bright orange.

Following on the amazing success of geraniums in a punnet is the release of Cascade Ivy Geraniums in Newport’s three cell punnets. Available in cherry red, rose and white, `Cascades’ will be ideal for Mediterranean style gardens.

Now, for serious spring gardeners, a new rich blend of cineraria has been released for autumn planting. Cineraria Monaco, a hybrid will perform better than the old varieties with more flowers on compact plants. They will provide a longer flowering display in semi-shaded positions with rich shades of blue and red.

When you finish planting out your beautiful autumn gardens you might still have time to visit Australia’s premier gardening event ? the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show. This year the Show is being held April 12 to 16, 2000, and will coincide with school holidays.

Now, whether or not serious gardeners will think the school holiday idea is clever planning, that’s when it’s on. Held at the magnificent Royal Exhibition Building and surrounding Carlton Gardens it is certainly a special event designed to inspire, stimulate and educate gardeners and garden lovers.

I wish I was going to see garden designer Rick Eckersley use mass plantings of violet impatiens, purple and blue salvia, midnight blue lobelia, purple bonnet alyssum and `Midnight Dreams’ petunias to create a striking contrast to the autumn tonings of the trees and the stark white of the Royal Exhibition Building.

This year more than 250 exhibits will be showcased representing horticulture nursery products, landscape gardening and design, floristry and cut flowers at their very best.

If your children are accompanying you they are well catered for in the children’s play area designed to accommodate kids aged 7 years and upwards in a garden designed to encourage play. For the tots, a free Children’s Creche will cater for 3 to 6 year olds.

Don’t forget the fabulous twilight sessions held Friday and Saturday night until 9pm ? entry from 4pm. Adults $10, day entry: $15 for adult and concessions $12. Keep in mind the wonderful tours on offer which also cover other lovely Victorian gardens.