Posts Tagged ‘biennial’

Wallflowers the old fashioned way

October 25th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Wallflowers 'Cloth of Gold', 'Purple Prince', Ivory White' and 'Fire King'

It’s wallflower time… No, I don’t mean that it’s flowering time, of course not, but it’s the traditional time for planting wallflowers grown in in the traditional way.

You can buy wallflowers in packs in the garden centre, these days, but the plants tend to be small and the varieties are usually only the dwarf ones; full size wallflower plants are far too big for packs. I’ve also seen wallflower plants sold individually in 9cm pots or in threes in 12cm pots. But that’s a very expensive way of buying them.

The traditional approach is to buy them as bare root plants, plants dug from rows on the nursery and grown from seed sown in summer. They’ve been on sale in my local market for the last few weeks but I’m always concerned about clubroot.

Wallflowers suffer from the same clubroot disease that attacks cabbages and other brassicas but market sellers – how can I put this politely? – are not always aware that they might be selling wallflowers infected with the disease. So I always warn people off market and farm gate wallflowers.

So order your bare root wallflowers from Mr F, they’re specially cultivated to eliminate the possibility of infection and checked carefully before packing – and in fact dispatch has just started. Old fashioned varieties such as ‘Cloth of Gold’, ‘Fire King’, ‘Ivory White’ and ‘Purple Shades’ reach about 45cm and need tall tulips planted amongst them as partners. The 35cm ‘Persian Carpet’ is a sparkling shorter mixture.

There won’t be much soil on the roots when they arrive but soak the roots for an hour or two in SeaSol Organic Seaweed Concentrate to speed up new root growth and plant them straight away. Even if they look a little bedraggled at first they’ll soon settle in and next spring – wow!

Fabulous foxgloves

August 2nd, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Digitalis 'Suttons Apricot'

I got some flack on social media last week, for my post about sowing seed to grow decorations for Christmas. Well, I apologise for any offence caused by mentioning Christmas in July! But, well, this is the time for sowing the seed. And this is also the time for sowing other seeds and, in particular, foxgloves.

In fact, it’s often suggested that we sow foxgloves in June or July but a couple of people said to me last autumn that the plants from outdoor June and July sowings grew so large by planting out time in the autumn that they didn’t establish very well.

I was surprised by this, as their fibrous roots usually hold the soil on well, but this year I’m trying sowing a little later. It will be interesting to see how big the plants are by transplanting time and how well they flower next year.

I’m going to try an old favourite this year, ‘Sutton’s Apricot’. To be honest, I sometimes doubt if “apricot” is the right word, but the one-sided spikes of flowers carry the usual foxglove flowers, hanging down slightly, in pale rose pink – perhaps with a yellowish flush – and dainty spotting in the throat.

That subtle shade – and the plants may vary very slightly in colour – are ideal at the back of the border behind English roses in pinks and creams or rich red. So why not try sowing ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ foxgloves this month?

Rainbow columbines

June 21st, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Multicoloured Aquilegia

If you’re from my generation, you were probably taught Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. Younger readers may know Really Offensive Youtube Games Built Into Videos. It’s the colours of the rainbow, and why is this of interest here today? Because columbines (aquilegias) are one of the few plants whose flowers come in all the rainbow colours: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

OK, you’re right, we don’t often come across orange columbines, the green is more of a green-tinted white and the options down at the violet end are a little thin. But the compensation is that so many of the flowers are bicolours, the outer petals in one colour and the inner petals in another. There are also some unexpected intermediate shades including chocolate brown.

And why are we talking about this as the flowers are starting to go over? Because it’s seed sowing time. In fact we’re getting towards the end of the optimal sowing period for flowering late next spring and early next summer. So let’s get to it.

All aquilegias are grown from seed, but they can be divided into two types according to how we go about it: there are those with a lot of seeds in a packet, such as ‘McKana Giant Mixed’ with 150 or those with fewer seeds in a packet such as ‘Lime Sorbet’ with 25.

We can sow those with plenty of seeds in a row outside in the garden, thin them out and transplant them to their final flowering sites in the autumn. Those with fewer seeds are better sown in pots and pricked out individually into 7cm or 9cm pots for autumn planting.

Me? I raise them all in pots, partly because at this time of year there’s hardly a bare piece of soil in the garden in which to sow them and also because I probably only want three plants of one variety and it’s just easier. Either way, if you haven’t got your columbine seeds in – get a move on.

Growing happy hollyhocks

June 7th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Hollyhock (Alcea) 'Chaters Doubles'

So. Hollyhocks. Mine are just about to start opening and now’s the time to sow seed. Sounds odd, doesn’t it, to be sowing seed of biennials at a time of year when plants in the garden have not even started to ripen their seed.

In fact you can sow this month or next and this will give you large, well developed plants to overwinter and which are best placed to survive the almost inevitable attack from hollyhock rust.

For rust will surely strike, covering the shrivelling foliage with rusty coloured blisters. It struck mine so a couple of weeks ago I stripped off all the diseased leaves. If I hadn’t thoughtlessly pulled most of them up when they were tiny, the self sown larkspurs would have hidden the bare stems.

Hollyhocks come in three main types: tall biennials with single flowers (‘Giant Single Mixed’) and tall biennials with double flowers (‘Chaters Double Mixed’) – these are the ones to sow now – and short annuals with double flowers (‘Majorette’) to sow in spring.

Sow the seed thinly this month, in a short row outside, in the veg garden perhaps or in a bright space at the back of the border. Thin the plants to about 20cm apart then in September move them carefully to their final positions.

They can also be sown in pots and then the seedlings moved into individual pots but the plants will become quite large and may well need 12cm pots, or larger, to accommodate the vigorous roots.

If rust shows its ugly self then there are sprays approved for dealing with the problem. The RHS recommends Provanto Fungus Fighter Concentrate, Provanto Fungus Fighter Plus, Toprose Fungus Control & Protect, Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra and Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra Gun. You can find out more about hollyhock rust, and an organic approach, on the RHS website.

But don’t let rust put you off – and be sure to allow your larkspur to self sow in the right spot.

Starting with stocks

May 31st, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Double flowered stock (Matthiola)

Stocks seem to have become unfashionable. It’s all a bit mad, really, because stocks provide some of the most beautiful, most fragrant and longest lasting of cut flowers. But the best of them are tall, they need support and it can be fiddly to work out which of the seedlings produce the beautiful double flowers and which don’t. So they’re hard to find in catalogues.

The ones that you can get hold of with no trouble at all are the shorter ones such as ‘Brompton’ stocks, which are genuine biennials, and even shorter ones (‘Hot Cakes’ and ‘Ten Week’) which are usually grown as half hardy annuals.

Sow the taller, 45cm,‘Brompton’ stocks now or over the next month. There’s enough seed in the packet (150 seeds) that you can sow them in a row outside, thin them to 10-15cm, then either transplant alternate plants and leave the rest in place or move them all and plant them 20cm apart. If your soil is heavy then raise them in pots and plant them out in the spring.

Raise ‘Cinderella’ in the same way or, along with the short ‘Hot Cakes’ and ‘Ten Week’, wait till the spring and treat them as short-term half hardy annuals.

Either way, choose a sunny site for all of them with fertile but well-drained soil. ‘Brompton’ will need support as the flower stems extend in spring, a slim green cane to each one is usually enough. They’re best cut and brought inside where you can enjoy their colour and their wonderful fragrance.