Posts Tagged ‘cut flower’

Larkspur with a flying start

September 13th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Larkspur 'Giant Imperial Mixed'

This summer, my larkspur grew as tall as my delphiniums. They were amazing. And the reason for so much vigorous growth? They were self sown seedlings that germinated in August and September.

Germinating in warm soil, they soon got their roots down, developed plenty of attractive divided foliage through the autumn and winter and then surged into flower in late May and June.

So, learning the lesson, I’ve already sown some larkspur seed and the seedlings were through in just a few days. Of course, you can simply scatter the seed around as if it was self sown but there’s a better way.

Choose somewhere sunny and sheltered. If the soil is heavy, work in some old potting compost to open it up a little. Use the point of a stick, or your finger, to draw a drill (a shallow furrow) in the soil. Take the rose off the watering can then gently pour a stream of water along the drill, put your thumb over the spout to limit the flow. Gentle is good.

Sow the seed thinly along the drill. A packet of ‘Giant Imperial Mixed’ larkspur contains three hundred seeds. Don’t sow them all! In a 1.2m/4ft row you’ll only need fifty seeds. At this time of year the soil is warm and, with the moisture you’ve provided, the seeds should be peeping through in a week. Beware of slugs.

Sowing in rows makes it clear which seedlings are the larkspur and which are the weeds. Pull out the weeds.

In a 1.2m/4ft row you’ll only need about eight or ten seedlings, so remove some as they develop to ensure that they don’t become too crowded. If you grow ‘White King’ you’ll need fewer than if you grow ‘Giant Imperial Mixed’, you’ll need more seedlings of ‘Giant Imperial Mixed’ to be sure you get flowers from all the colours.

Keep them protected from slugs through the winter and late next spring you’ll be glad you sowed seeds now.

Sow in August? Well yes…

August 9th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Cornflower (l-r) 'Classic Fantastic', 'Classic Romantic' & 'Classic Magic'

Am I mad? I’m looking at my cornflowers in full bloom and I’m going to suggest it’s time to sow seed for next year. OK, here’s the thing.

I sowed my cornflowers towards the end of March, this year, and they’re flowering well now. I should also mention that I got my ‘Black Ball’ seed from someone else, not Mr F, and half of them came up other colours. Not good. We know what the lesson is. Anyway.

Although my cornflowers are flowering nicely, the ones that did really really well are over. These are the self sown ones that sprung up last summer from seed that fell from last year’s spring sown varieties.

The plants they made were huge, multibranched, producing thousands of flowers. But they turned up in all sorts of places, including in my bark paths. I know, I could have moved the seedlings to better sites – as I’m about to with my self sown cerinthes – but I forgot.

So I’m going to sow cornflowers this month. And, thinking about posies for next summer, I’m going to sow the three varieties in the Classic Series. These are controlled colour blends in blue shades and white (‘Classic Fantastic’), in purple and lilac shades and white (‘Classic Magic’), and red and pink shades and white (‘Classic Romantic’). Colour themed posies in a packet.

Sow in rows in a sunny place this month. Draw out the drill with the point of a stick then soak the drill with water from the spout of the can. Then sow thinly. Thin the seedlings in stages to 20-25cm apart and they’ll start to flower in late spring next year. The plants will be big, so have some bamboo canes and string at the ready. And stand back and admire your achievement!

Snap to it for snapdragons

June 28th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Overwintered antirrhinum for cutting

I grew some tall antirrhinums last year. Many of them I cut for the house, and very pretty they were too. Some I left to do their thing in the garden and, I have to say, they were not dead-headed as diligently as I recommend here!

But the result was that seedlings started to pop up – not many, but enough to notice and enough to decide just to leave them to see what happened. And most of them survived the winter… and grew away in spring… and some were infected by rust disease and some not… and they began flowering in May.

So, I thought to myself, why not deliberately sow them in summer? And then I remembered what I’d said in my book on annuals from over thirty years ago, I recommended that antirrhinums be pulled up and prevented from overwintering as part of an approach to combating rust disease.

Yes, those antirrhinums of mine that overwintered were infected by rust, but not severely. One died, I think, and the rest grew out of it in spring.

The problem with sowing outside in the garden during July or August is finding a sunny place that’s not already occupied. If you have such a spot, sow thinly, thin to about 10-15cm, and transplant alternate seedlings elsewhere in the autumn.

But sowing in large cells is a better bet. You can use the plug trays that your mail order seedlings came in, wash them thoroughly and sow a few seeds in each. Keep them cool and moist, move them into a brighter place when they’ve emerged, thin the seedlings to one or two and plant when their roots start to fill the cells. Choose one of the taller varieties such as ‘Tootsie’ with flowers in pure white and rich pink or medium height varieties such as ‘Night And Day’. I think it’s well worth a try.

Growing for cutting

March 1st, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Lupin 'Pink Fairy', Nicotiana 'Babybella' and Ridolphia segetum.A customer came into my friend’s florist shop recently and said: “You can’t get British cut flowers any more.” Well, apart from the fact that if she’d just looked out of the window she’d have seen the cutting garden from which flowers for the shop are cut – well, she could always grow her own!

So could we all and Mr F are helping out with a new range of plants specifically chosen for cutting. They’ll arrive in May, ideal planting time, and give you colourful cut flowers all summer.

Nicotiana ‘Babybella’ is a new deep red variety that I discussed here a few weeks ago that mixes well with ‘Florence Blue’ cornflowers. This cornflower variety is a lovely vivid blue but it’s shorter than most cut-flower cornflowers so doesn’t topple over in anything above a gentle breeze.

Both these plants are new to the Mr F plant range but I also picked out one or two familiar favourites from the Mr F range that are invaluable for cutting.

Salvia viridis, which used to be called Salvia horminum, is exceptionally long lasting in the garden and in the vase – mainly because it’s not the tiny flowers that generate the colour but the large leafy bracts around them.

Annual lupins make lovely cut flowers, they should be better known. The flowers of ‘Pink Fairy’ open white and then take on pink tones as they mature, they come on long string, but not think, stems and they have a strong scent too.

Finally I’d suggest a plant that you may not know, Ridolfia segetum. It’s a little like a sharp yellow cow parsley but far more refined and long lasting and it goes with almost anything in a garden bouquet.

There are more. Check out the new Mr F Cut Flower Range and be sure also to take a look at other annuals and perennials that are ideal for cutting. My list is getting longer, I’m not sure where I’m going to grow my veg this year…

Happy cornflower harmonies

October 12th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Cornflower 'Classic Fantastic'

One of the easiest ways to ensure harmonious colour co-ordination in our borders is to choose plants whose flowers come in different shades of the same colour. Mahogany, gold, yellow and primrose, for example.

But it can take a lot of chasing round and picking varieties from different catalogue and nurseries to get the blend right. Fortunately, this spring sees the introduction of three rather cleverly formulated cornflower mixtures that do the choosing for you.

The Classic Series of cornflowers comes in three different colour formulations, all of which are made up of tallish plants reaching about 75cm in height, ideal both for borders and for cutting.

‘Classic Fantastic’ (above) comes in dark blue, mid blue, pale blue and a white with a blue eye. ‘Classic Magic’ comes in deep red shades, various pink tones and a white with a pink eye. In the ‘Classic Romantic’ blend the flowers are plummy purple, some almost black, dark purple with white tips to the petals, various purplish and lilac shades and white with a purple eye.

All three blends will look good sown in clumps between roses, especially between English Roses or long flowering shrub roses. Sow in a few short rows to create a patch to fill the space and thin the plants to about 15cm apart. Don’t thin too severely or you might end up with an unbalanced range of colours.

I’d be tempted to sow a few now, if you’ve got your borders all tidied, although I’d usually prefer to get the seed in by the end of September. Otherwise leave it till March. For cutting, a few rows of cornflowers can transform your veg garden. And the harmonious colouring is all there in the packet.