Posts Tagged ‘hardy annual’

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!

‘Teddy Bear’ is back in favour

November 2nd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Sunflower 'Teddy Bear'

The new ‘Sun King’ sunflower was one of the hits of this summer in my garden. Its densely double, rich yellow flowers stood out for months, both in the garden and when cut.

But it’s tall, mine all reached at least 2m in height which in many of today’s gardens is rather awkward. They also needed stout support and while the flowers repay close inspection, you wouldn’t really want to grow them on a patio or a balcony. But there’s a shorter version.

I’ve been uncomplimentary about ‘Teddy Bear’ in the past, it’s a variety that’s been around for a while but a few years ago I found that my plants were not all double and were also all different heights, 60cm or 1.2m is a big difference. So I stopped growing it.

But in the 2017 Mr F trials I noticed that it was back to its original quality. It’s also recently received an AGM for use in containers and the RHS assessors commented: “striking double, large heads, rich yellow-orange, floriferous, performing well over a long period.” Fair enough.

My point is now that its quality is back and that the RHS has awarded ‘Teddy Bear’ the much coveted Award of Garden Merit, it’s been added to the Mr Fothergill’s AGM seed range for the coming season. So it’s available on the special Mr F AGM garden centre seed rack, on the Mr F website and in the Mr F seed catalogue.

Next year I’m going to grow ‘Sun King’ and the back of the border and ‘Teddy Bear’ in front where it will hide the bare stems of its taller cousin. I’m already looking forward to it.

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.

August seed bargain

August 24th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 2 Comments

California poppies (Eschscholzia) to sow in August

Heading to the garden centre over the Bank Holiday weekend? Well, here’s an idea.

For many gardeners, sowing seeds in August seems a bit odd: don’t you sow seeds in the spring? Yes, of course, but the end of August is a great time to sow California poppies and I’ll be doing just that. And the seeds are in the garden centre.

I live in an old cottage that’s right on the street, there’s no front garden. So I’m going to sow ‘Appleblossom Pink’ California poppies in the crack between the house wall and the pavement. I’m stealing the idea from a similar house nearby where for years orange California poppies made quite a show.

I’m going to sow the pink ones but you can also try mixtures if you refer. One good thing about ‘Appleblossom Pink’ is that it has very pretty silver foliage so it looks good even before it flowers – which should be early next spring, perhaps with a few winter flowers if the season is mild. Also, it’s naturally dwarf so as it leans away from the wall towards the light it’s less likely to fall over.

In the past I’ve sown California poppies in the gravel garden where, as they self sowed from year to year, eventually there was hardly a month when there were no flowers. They’re also good at the edges of gravel drives. The trick is to pull out any plant with flowers in colours you don’t like so that only the ones you really enjoy get to shed their seed for the following year.

So for a little over £2, you can pick up a packet of California poppy seed this weekend and get started with years of colour is any sunny place you have. Why wouldn’t you?

Sun survivor

August 10th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Amaranthus 'Velvet Curtains'Visiting the Mr F trial ground this week, it was clear that some plants had suffered badly in the heat while some had enjoyed it.

One that clearly loved the hot weather was Amaranthus ‘Velvet Curtains’, the RHS AGM winning hardy annual sown direct into the light and sandy soil of the trials field.

This dramatic relative of the familiar love-lies-bleeding is attractive from when the first richly coloured, reddish purple shoots emerge soon after sowing. The handsome foliage becomes more striking as it develops and I’ve seen it looking very dramatic emerging through a carpet of white alyssum. The white gypsophila that was also doing well in the heat would also make a taller and longer lasting partner.

Now, in August, the bold upright plumes of ‘Velvet Curtains’ are at their peak. I’ve grown them interplanted amongst orange dahlias and cannas to bring a softer look to the more structured dahlia and canna plants. If that’s the plan, raise the seedlings individually in pots from seed sown in a cold greenhouse, be sure not to let the plants dry out or suffer any shocks as this may spark them into flower prematurely.

‘Velvet Curtains’ is also splendid for drying, especially as the colour fades hardly at all. Cut the stems when the flowers are at their peak – about now! Strip off the lower leaves, tie the stems in bunches of half a dozen then hang them upside down in a cool and dry and well ventilated place. Drying in cool conditions (which is at last possible as everything cools down) helps preserve the richness of the colour.

Leave the plumes on the plants into the autumn and they will shed their seeds. This can be double-edged as you may end up with far more self sown seedlings than you need. The best compromise is to cut some for drying, cut back most of the rest to prevent self sowing and just leave a stem or two to shed seed. And if seedlings come up in inconvenient places next spring – well, you can always move them.