Posts Tagged ‘annual’

Poppies for foliage and flowers

April 27th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

There was a short time, about thirty years ago, when it looked as if growing ornamental opium poppies was going to be banned as it was thought people would buy seed in garden centres and grow heroin on their allotments! No.

It’s the same basic species but varieties developed for the garden – and to provide seeds for baking – are entirely different from those cultivated in Asia for legal (and illegal) drugs.

So, lest we forget, the increasing range of garden varieties of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, provides some of the most colourful of annuals you can buy.

From soon after they germinate, the plants are making their presence felt with their attractive blue-grey rosettes of glossy foliage. Then, from midsummer, the stiffly vertical stems are topped by large open flowers.

Those impressive flowers come in several forms: four-petaled single flowers, some with impressively frilled edges and some with black or white blotches at the base, and there are also frilly or peony-flowered double flowers.

The colours too range from soft pastel shades (‘Maanzaaad’), rich tones (‘Lauren’s Grape’, above), more vibrant colours (‘Victoria Cross’) and an appealing double flowered mixture (‘Peony Flowered Mix’).

Sow outside where you’d like them to flower, give them the usual hardy annual treatment but I find it often pays to wait until April to sow. Unless you dead head ruthlessly, you’ll have self sown seedlings next ear. And if you grow more than one colour, who knows what colours those self sown seedlings will provide.

Pastel poppies

April 20th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Poppy 'Falling in Love'

There are two main kinds of annual poppies. There are those derived from our native field or corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas, and those derived from the Asian opium poppy, P. somniferum. This week I’m taking a look at field poppies, next week opium poppies.

Papaver rhoeas is the scarlet annual poppy of our cornfields, although these days we only see it when the plough goes a little deeper and long buried dormant seeds come to the surface.

The first named variety was introduced after the Reverend Wilkes of Shirley in Surrey noticed a wild form with a white edge to the petals. From this plant he developed single- and double-flowered varieties in softer colours and without the black blotch at the base. These are still available as ‘Shirley Single Mixed’.

By the 1960s bright reds had crept back in so the Suffolk painter Cedric Morris developed a strain made up of soft misty and smoky shades, picotees and flowers with delicate veining. From these were developed ‘Dawn Chorus’ and ‘Falling in Love’, blends of doubles in softer shades.

There’s also the original wild corn poppy, ideal for annual meadows, and ‘American Legion’, with a white blotch on each petal.

Sow them all now, either by scattering the seed through your borders (some packets contain 2000 seeds, so you’ll have plenty!) or by sowing in patches or rows. You can also sow in the autumn, the flowers will start to open earlier than those of spring sown plants.

You can even cut them for a vase: dip the cut stems in boiling water for 20 seconds then arrange them in tepid water. They’ll last for ages.

Mediterranean must-have

February 23rd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Cerinthe major 'Purpurescens'

Cerinthe is relatively new in our gardens. It’s not a flamboyant plant and until about thirty years ago it was very rarely seen. But one particular variety began to catch our attention, Mr F spotted the growing enthusiasm and so it’s listed here, both as seed and as plants.

Cerinthe major is the species with the largest flowers, and is found around the Mediterranean, on both the African and the European sides, often where the soil retains a little moisture. It makes an upright, rather succulent plant whose seed often germinates in the autumn and flowers in spring.

The tubular flowers hang down in clusters and are usually yellow and white but in ‘Purpurascens’, the variety to look for, they’re deep purple and surrounded by smoky purple-tinted bracts. The flowers are very popular with bees, which explains its common name: honeywort..

Seed can be sown in autumn or spring – as usual with Mediterranean plants autumn sowing produces better plants, and they’re happy in any reasonably fertile soil in sun. They’ll flower for months, especially if deadheaded.

The stems also last well when cut, which is perhaps surprising when you see how succulent and juicy they are. Searing the ends in boiling water for twenty seconds will ensure that they last at least a week, and often ten days.

But don’t cut or deadhead all the stems, leave some to make seed and self sow and you’ll never be without this colourful and intriguing flower.

RHS Award Winner: Best Behaved Convolvulus

February 2nd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 1 Comment

Convolvulus 'Blue Ensign'

I’ve often wondered why so few plant breeders have worked on improving the annual convolvulus, the dwarf morning glory. The wild species, Convolvulus tricolor, grows around the Mediterranean, especially on the African side, as well as in the Balearic Islands and it’s impressively colourful even in its natural wild form.

With blue edges to the bold trumpets, there’s a white ring and a yellow eye and in the spectacular ‘Blue Ensign’, included in the new Mr F range of seeds that have received the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit, the blue is a deep and shining shade.

‘Blue Ensign’ has the neat and restrained growth habit of a semi-trailing petunia with a combination of flower colours never seen in a petunia – and it’s a hardy annual. It’s related to bindweed, yes, but the whole plant dies after flowering.

And here’s the thing. The ‘Flagship’ mixture gives us a glimpse of the potential: so many other colours. Most of the colours have that starry yellow eye with a white zone round it but as well as flowers with deep blue edges there’s red, pink and pale blue edges as well as simpler pale blue and yellow and pale pink and yellow. They’re very pretty.

AGM winning ‘Blue Ensign’ is prolific and good in baskets and the front of sunny borders. ‘Flagship’(not an award-winner) is a little more variable in habit and flower-power, sometimes rather straggly, but I’m sure that with a little work neat and prolific plants could be developed in some lovely colour combinations.

In the meantime,‘Blue Ensign’ is easy to raise from seed sown outside and a packet of a hundred seeds costs only £2.05. I haven’t grown it for years but it’s on the list for this year. I’m going to plant it on the corners of my 1.2m raised veg beds – to hide my less than expert carpentry where the boards join!

  • Please take a look at my article on RHS award-winning lobelia for containers and borders in this week’s Amateur Gardening magazine – print edition only.

RHS Award Winner: Lovely Lavatera

January 26th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Lavatera 'Silver Cup'

Back in 1978 the very first Silver Medal was awarded by Fleuroselect, the across-Europe flower seed awards organisation that trials new varieties in 20+ countries and gives awards to the very best. It went to Lavatera ‘Silver Cup’ (it wasn’t until 1989 that the first Gold Medals were awarded).

But here’s the thing. Forty years after it received its Fleuroselect Silver Medal, ‘Silver Cup’ is still going strong. Not only is it still around, but it received the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1996 and still retains both that and its Fleuroselect award. And it’s a star of the new RHS range of award-winning flowers from Mr F.

I rated it so highly that I put ‘Silver Cup’ on the front cover of my first book about annuals back in 1986. Here’s what I said then:
“It is a hardy annual to sow in spring or autumn which grows to about 2ft (60cm) making bushy plants branching from low down if thinned to about 15in (38cm).

“The flowers are stunning. Big, soft pink, open bells up to 2in (5cm) across with dark veins, they appear from mid-June to the autumn. Lavateras like sunshine and any soil which is reasonably fertile and well-drained. The only problem is that in hot dry summers they tend to give up flowering rather early in the season leaving a singularly unattractive clump of dead twigs. So soil that retains a little moisture helps. Ruthless thinning at the seedling stage will encourage branching low down to give a succession of flowers.”

And then I wrote: “‘Silver Cup’ is ideal in the favourite pink, blue and silver schemes with tall or short ageratum, silver foliage cinerarias and pyrethrums, and maybe white petunias and Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’.”

The advice still stands. Even after all these years Lavatera ‘Silver Cup’ is still a star.

  • Please take a look at my article on RHS award-winning dogwoods for winter twigs in this week’s Amateur Gardening magazine – print edition only.