Posts Tagged ‘flower seed’

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.

The lovely Canary creeper

May 18th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Tropaeolum canariense (canary creeper)A climbing nasturtium can be a bit of a thug. Vigorous growth, large leaves… A climbing nasturtium can smother even the most robust of plants. The closely related canary creeper, Tropaeolum canariense, on the other hand, is a climbing annual that’s altogether more acceptable – more delicate – in its habits.

Like clematis, it clings to its supports by twining its leaf stalks around anything it meets, but its leaves are small, prettily divided and never smother. Its flowers are bright, delicate, beautifully shaped in bright butter yellow with a delightful patterning of red spots on the petals. It produces a long succession of flowers all summer. It’s very pretty, and repays a close look. Can we agree that it’s a lovely plant? But how to use it?

I’m sowing seeds now, three seeds in 9cm pots, and when they’re up and growing I’ll be planting them at the base of my outdoor tomatoes. And at the base of climbing outdoor cucumbers. And on the sunny side of established shrubs such as sarcococcas and daphnes. And under the delphiniums so that when the delph flowers are long gone, there’ll be canary coloured flowers snaking over the foliage. And amongst my hardy chrysanthemums, to twine over the dull foliage before the flowers come.

As I mentioned, sow three of those big fat seeds in 9cm pots. Do it today. Place the pots on an indoor windowsill or in a cold greenhouse (set mousetraps!) for the seeds to germinate and, when the windowsill plants start through, move them to a sunny sheltered place outside to develop.

When the roots emerge at the base of the pots, plant them out. As the plants grow, they may need guiding in the direction of the supports that I hope you’ve provided to help them get going. Then sit back and enjoy the show.

* The Chelsea Flower Show starts on Tuesday, but I’ll be there getting an early look at how things are coming together from Saturday morning and will be posting here every day for week starting on Sunday. So please check back here every day.

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.