Posts Tagged ‘flower’

Get ahead with spring sowing

February 16th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Calendula 'Snow Princess'

Well, last week I was talking about seeds not to sow this month, so this time I’m reversing the idea – what can we sow now that we should have sown in the autumn?

I’m always bashing on about how autumn is a really good time to sow a number of popular annuals, especially those that grow naturally in the Mediterranean region where they germinate at the end of summer and in autumn as the rains begin. Sweet peas, nigellas, cornflowers, cerinthe, calendulas, and annual chrysanthemums all produce superb plants from an autumn sowing. But we don’t always get round to it. So can we sow them now and still get ahead of the usual March or April sowing? Yes, we can.

The problem is that in February the soil is so cold that germination is very slow and slugs and rots of all kinds can kill seedlings before they get anywhere. But if we can get them to start to grow in February they’ll make better plants than if they’re sown a month later. Here’s what I suggest.

If you have a cold greenhouse, then you’re all set. Sow sweet peas in Rootrainers and the others in regular modules, sow them and grow them on in the cold greenhouse and plant out in April.

But, if you don’t have a greenhouse, here’s what to do. Sow the seeds in Rootrainers or other modules and keep them in the house, anywhere warm. The seeds need more warmth for speedy germination than they do for growing. Then, as soon as the seeds show signs of emerging, move them outside. Don’t wait until their leaves unfurl and the stems start to stretch. Where, exactly, you move them is important.

Choose somewhere warm and cosy, a position that benefits from as much low late winter sun as possible. Ensure that surplus moisture can drain away and, crucially, protect the emerging seedlings from slugs. I use organic SlugClear™ Ultra³  slug pellets which I find work very well.

I used this method with sweet peas and with calendulas last year, I’m expecting to prove the point with other annuals this this year. Why not give it a try?

RHS award winners: Essential climbers

January 5th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue' and Mina lobata

The new collaboration between Mr F and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) features seeds of flowers and veggies that have been awarded the prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). I discussed these new ranges briefly here last year but I thought, as seed sowing season approaches, I’d take a closer look at some of the floral highlights. And the ipomoeas are especially interesting.

There are two AGM ipomoeas in the Mr F catalogue and, at first sight, they look completely unrelated.

Mina lobata (above right) features in the RHS range and, although long known by that name, it’s now been recognised as so similar to ipomoeas that it needs to be classified as one: so it’s now known, botanically, as Ipomoea lobata.

Fiery orange buds are held along arching stems, maturing to yellow and then cream but even as they pass their peak the new flare and the flowers stay tubular. It makes a great deal of growth, reaches 1-8-2.4m depending on the richness of the soil and the watering, and needs stout support. It flowers for months. Sow in frost free conditions from April.

The closely related Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ (above left) is also an AGM variety but has been listed for years so is not in the new RHS range. It’s very different, with large flared sky blue flowers that open early in the day and close by afternoon – which is why it’s called morning glory. It reaches the same height as Mina lobata but its growth is less bushy and dense. It’s one of the most beautiful of garden climbers, no garden should be without it.

Just to emphasise how varied the ipomoeas are, Mr F also lists two special varieties of sweet potato grown for their coloured foliage; they’re ideal in sunny containers and trail neatly. These foliage varieties of Ipomoea batatas do not have AGMs – but I suspect this is only because the RHS has not yet held a trial.

I think these varied ipomoeas deserve a try, don’t you? I’ll be growing them all this year.