Posts Tagged ‘hardy annual’

Catch up with seed sowing

May 4th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Larkspur, cornflower and calendulas

Not been much of a spring, has it… But things have changed and this Bank Holiday weekend looks to be a great chance to catch up and get some seeds in.

The thing is, just because the packet says sow in March or April, it doesn’t mean you can’t sow in May. Soil temperature is key to seed germination and seed that has been sitting there in the chilly and wet soil may just not come up at all. Now that the soil is warming up, you have another chance.

So all those hardy annuals such as calendulas and larkspur and cornflowers and annual poppies and sunflowers that would usually be romping away by now – pop down to the garden centre and pick up some seed. And get them in soon.

I sowed some sunflowers outside and most have failed to come up – actually, I think the mice might be partly responsible: the longer the seeds sit there not germinating the more chance the mice will find them. So yesterday I checked the racks in the garden centre, bought some seed and it will be going in today.

Of course, if we can spark the seeds into prompt germination, so much the better. After I’ve made the drills but before sowing the seed, I always water along the drills, preferably with liquid feed in the water. That may be less necessary this weekend, after rain earlier this week, but it’s generally a good idea. I’ve even been known to fill the can with warm water from the tap – but I realise this may be going too far!

The important lesson is that it’s not too late. So take a look in your seed tin or pop down to the garden centre and get sowing.

Mr Fothergill's sunflowers in the garden centre

Pastel poppies

April 20th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Poppy 'Falling in Love'

There are two main kinds of annual poppies. There are those derived from our native field or corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas, and those derived from the Asian opium poppy, P. somniferum. This week I’m taking a look at field poppies, next week opium poppies.

Papaver rhoeas is the scarlet annual poppy of our cornfields, although these days we only see it when the plough goes a little deeper and long buried dormant seeds come to the surface.

The first named variety was introduced after the Reverend Wilkes of Shirley in Surrey noticed a wild form with a white edge to the petals. From this plant he developed single- and double-flowered varieties in softer colours and without the black blotch at the base. These are still available as ‘Shirley Single Mixed’.

By the 1960s bright reds had crept back in so the Suffolk painter Cedric Morris developed a strain made up of soft misty and smoky shades, picotees and flowers with delicate veining. From these were developed ‘Dawn Chorus’ and ‘Falling in Love’, blends of doubles in softer shades.

There’s also the original wild corn poppy, ideal for annual meadows, and ‘American Legion’, with a white blotch on each petal.

Sow them all now, either by scattering the seed through your borders (some packets contain 2000 seeds, so you’ll have plenty!) or by sowing in patches or rows. You can also sow in the autumn, the flowers will start to open earlier than those of spring sown plants.

You can even cut them for a vase: dip the cut stems in boiling water for 20 seconds then arrange them in tepid water. They’ll last for ages.

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.