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:
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.
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.
Cosmea – a popular plant, that looks at home in any scheme traditional or contemporary, with ferny foliage and white, pink or red flowers.
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.
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.
Morning Glory – another climber I wouldn’t be without, this one has large heart-shaped leaves and simply stunning, blue, trumpet-shaped flowers.
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.
French Marigold – a popular choice for formal bedding schemes, the bright yellow and orange flowers make a bold statement in any border.
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.
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