Posted by Toni Jux on Monday 10th January
Don’t forget when you’re out at the January sales to include a visit to the garden centre, as now is the time to purchase seeds (if you haven’t done so already). That way you’ll be ready next month to sow indoors half-hardy annuals to stock your garden for the coming year and at a fraction of the cost of buying full-grown plants at the nursery.
Here are ten that I’ve found to be easy to grow, that will give you colour throughout the summer months, and some of which are slightly more unusual than the ones you generally find at the garden centre:
1. Amaranthus –
Love Lies Bleeding – an unusual plant with spectacular, 45cm long tassels of deep purple-red blooms on a bushy plant. The season of interest is continued into the autumn when the leaves and stems turn an attractive bronzy-red.
2. Cleome –
Spider Flower – lending a slightly exotic look to the border, this bushy plant bears scented, pink and white flowers with long stamens that give the plant its common name.
3. Cosmos –
Cosmea – a popular plant, that looks at home in any scheme traditional or contemporary, with ferny foliage and white, pink or red flowers.
4. Eccremocarpus scaber –
Chilean Glory Flower – a climber with a profusion of tubular, red, orange or yellow flowers, it will often survive the winter if you live in a mild area and can self-seed very easily.
5. Heliotropium –
Heliotrope – a popular plant in Victorian gardens, but now somewhat neglected, which is a shame as it has large heads of very fragrant, purple flowers and makes an excellent foil for showy yellow flowers, such as marigolds.
6. Ipomoea –
Morning Glory – another climber I wouldn’t be without, this one has large heart-shaped leaves and simply stunning, blue, trumpet-shaped flowers.
7. Nicotiana –
Tobacco Plant – one of my Dad’s favourites and I always think of him when I see them, or should I say smell them –as their long, trumpet-like flowers in colours ranging from white through to deepest purple are intensely fragrant in the evening air.
8. Tagetes –
French Marigold – a popular choice for formal bedding schemes, the bright yellow and orange flowers make a bold statement in any border.
9. Thunbergia -
Black-eyed Susan – not really a climber although it is most often grown as such, but it will need a trellis or wires for support. Yellow flowers with a distinctive black ‘eye’ give it its common name, although there are many varieties available now in other colours.
10. Tropaeolum -
Nasturtium – double-easy to grow, this annual comes in many varieties – some climbing, some trailing and some dwarfs to grow as bedding. They all have brightly coloured flowers and, as a bonus, they’re edible too, adding a peppery flavour to summer salads.
All of the above are quite easy to grow if you follow the instructions on the packet, but just remember you will need a bit of space in which to propagate them and grow them on. A heated greenhouse is of course ideal, but if you haven’t got that, a large window sill is sufficient to grow at least a couple of trays.
To start off you will need:
> some seed trays
> some seed compost
> a watering can with a very fine rose (so that you don’t wash the seeds away!)
If you buy trays without lids, you will also need some cling film to cover them with (to keep the moisture in while the seeds are germinating).
Once the seeds have germinated and grown a little bit you will need some small pots or a tray with separate cells into which the little plants can be transferred to grow on.
Remember these are all Half-Hardy Annuals so don’t be tempted to plant your little darlings outside until all risk of frost has passed or all your work will have been for nothing!
Next month I will be talking about Hardy Annuals, which are even easier as they can be sown outside directly where they are to flower.
By Helen Ellison
Posted by Toni Jux on Wednesday 5th January
Happy New Year to you all from everyone at Floral & Hardy!
I think everyone in the country has had some pretty severe weather in the last few weeks, but don’t worry, the garden will come through it - that’s nature for you!
We can soon look forward to longer days and the growing season ahead, however, in the meantime many of the plants mentioned in my December blog will still be in flower now and many others will also provide interest through their bark, their foliage, or their structural form.
Floral & Hardy’s Top Ten Plants for January:
1. Asplenium scolopendrium -
Hart’s Tongue Fern – an evergreen fern with distinctive glossy green, wavy-edged, strap-like leaves – easy to grow even in dry shade.
2. Buxus sempervirens –
Box – this is a small leaved evergreen that can easily be clipped into living sculptures, and we have probably all seen topiary varying from peacocks to dinosaurs to trains at one stately home or another, but there is no reason why a more modest spiral or sphere or two should not grace our own, more modest plots. Whatever shape you choose, topiary is particularly effective as a focal point in the winter garden.
3. Cornus alba -
Dogwood – a medium sized shrub whose vivid red, orange, yellow or purple stems in winter really stand out amongst other planting. In summer it has green leaves, sometimes margined with white or cream and white flowers in June followed by white tinged blue berries in autumn.
4. Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ –
Contorted Hazel – a large shrub or small tree with pale yellow catkins in February and rounded green leaves turning yellow in autumn. But it is in winter, when its curious twisted shoots are more visible, that it really comes into its own.
5. Euonymus fortunei ‘Blondy’ –
Spindle - one of a range of varieties of useful evergreen shrubs, this one is bushy and low-growing with really striking dark green foliage splashed with vibrant yellow – guaranteed to brighten up the dullest winter day!
6. Jasminum nudiflorum –
Winter Jasmine – although not fragranced like its summer flowering cousin, the cheerfulness of this spreading shrub’s brilliant yellow flowers more than makes up for this, making it a justifiable favourite in many gardens.
7. Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’ –
Blue Arrow Juniper - an evergreen conifer with vivid blue-grey foliage whose extremely narrow columnar habit makes an excellent punctuation mark in the border at all times of year.
8. Phormium –
New Zealand Flax – a bold, structural plant with sword-shaped, evergreen leaves, often striped in colours varying from green and gold to pink and purple. A useful plant, at home both in contemporary and traditional schemes.
9. Phyllostachys nigra –
Black Bamboo - a non-invasive bamboo with conspicuous black stems that really stand out in a contemporary scheme, particularly if grown against white walls – and you get the lovely, soothing sound when breezes ruffle through the leaves in summer.
10. Rubus thibetanus –
Ghost Bramble – this large, open shrub gets its common name from its wonderful arching, white, prickly winter stems looking good in association with many other plants, particularly the Cornus above. In summer it has ferny, grey-green leaves with white undersides and pink flowers.
January Tips and Advice
1. If the ground’s not too hard or wet, borders can still be dug over this month in preparation for spring planting. Clay soils can be improved by adding plenty of grit, old potting compost if you have it, or well-rotted leaf mould.
2. If possible, try to stay off existing lawns when it’s frosty.
3. New turf can be laid as long as the ground isn’t frosty.
4. Carefully brush off worm casts from existing lawns to prevent bare patches later on.
5. Bare rooted trees and hedging can still be planted this month.
6. Check on tree ties to make sure they’re secure against winter winds.
7. If you get more snow, make sure you carefully brush it off shrubs and hedges to prevent damage.
8. If you’ve got a greenhouse, make sure you ventilate it whenever possible and water plants only when absolutely necessary to prevent rotting.
9. If you’ve left a pump submerged in a water feature, continue to run it for a few minutes at a time every week or two. Remember to maintain an ice-free patch in ponds both to protect the fish if you have them, and to prevent cracking in the pond liner.
10. Finally, the exciting task of sowing seeds indoors can start this month. Many shrubs, climbers, perennials, annuals and vegetables can be sown now – just follow the instructions on the packet and stock your garden for a fraction of the cost of buying plants fully grown from the garden centre! Just remember though you will need somewhere protected to keep the little chaps until all risk of frost has passed.
By Helen Ellison