Posts Tagged ‘seed’

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.

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

Poppies for foliage and flowers

April 27th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

There was a short time, about thirty years ago, when it looked as if growing ornamental opium poppies was going to be banned as it was thought people would buy seed in garden centres and grow heroin on their allotments! No.

It’s the same basic species but varieties developed for the garden – and to provide seeds for baking – are entirely different from those cultivated in Asia for legal (and illegal) drugs.

So, lest we forget, the increasing range of garden varieties of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, provides some of the most colourful of annuals you can buy.

From soon after they germinate, the plants are making their presence felt with their attractive blue-grey rosettes of glossy foliage. Then, from midsummer, the stiffly vertical stems are topped by large open flowers.

Those impressive flowers come in several forms: four-petaled single flowers, some with impressively frilled edges and some with black or white blotches at the base, and there are also frilly or peony-flowered double flowers.

The colours too range from soft pastel shades (‘Maanzaaad’), rich tones (‘Lauren’s Grape’, above), more vibrant colours (‘Victoria Cross’) and an appealing double flowered mixture (‘Peony Flowered Mix’).

Sow outside where you’d like them to flower, give them the usual hardy annual treatment but I find it often pays to wait until April to sow. Unless you dead head ruthlessly, you’ll have self sown seedlings next ear. And if you grow more than one colour, who knows what colours those self sown seedlings will provide.

Mediterranean must-have

February 23rd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Cerinthe major 'Purpurescens'

Cerinthe is relatively new in our gardens. It’s not a flamboyant plant and until about thirty years ago it was very rarely seen. But one particular variety began to catch our attention, Mr F spotted the growing enthusiasm and so it’s listed here, both as seed and as plants.

Cerinthe major is the species with the largest flowers, and is found around the Mediterranean, on both the African and the European sides, often where the soil retains a little moisture. It makes an upright, rather succulent plant whose seed often germinates in the autumn and flowers in spring.

The tubular flowers hang down in clusters and are usually yellow and white but in ‘Purpurascens’, the variety to look for, they’re deep purple and surrounded by smoky purple-tinted bracts. The flowers are very popular with bees, which explains its common name: honeywort..

Seed can be sown in autumn or spring – as usual with Mediterranean plants autumn sowing produces better plants, and they’re happy in any reasonably fertile soil in sun. They’ll flower for months, especially if deadheaded.

The stems also last well when cut, which is perhaps surprising when you see how succulent and juicy they are. Searing the ends in boiling water for twenty seconds will ensure that they last at least a week, and often ten days.

But don’t cut or deadhead all the stems, leave some to make seed and self sow and you’ll never be without this colourful and intriguing flower.

RHS Award Winner: Best Behaved Convolvulus

February 2nd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 1 Comment

Convolvulus 'Blue Ensign'

I’ve often wondered why so few plant breeders have worked on improving the annual convolvulus, the dwarf morning glory. The wild species, Convolvulus tricolor, grows around the Mediterranean, especially on the African side, as well as in the Balearic Islands and it’s impressively colourful even in its natural wild form.

With blue edges to the bold trumpets, there’s a white ring and a yellow eye and in the spectacular ‘Blue Ensign’, included in the new Mr F range of seeds that have received the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit, the blue is a deep and shining shade.

‘Blue Ensign’ has the neat and restrained growth habit of a semi-trailing petunia with a combination of flower colours never seen in a petunia – and it’s a hardy annual. It’s related to bindweed, yes, but the whole plant dies after flowering.

And here’s the thing. The ‘Flagship’ mixture gives us a glimpse of the potential: so many other colours. Most of the colours have that starry yellow eye with a white zone round it but as well as flowers with deep blue edges there’s red, pink and pale blue edges as well as simpler pale blue and yellow and pale pink and yellow. They’re very pretty.

AGM winning ‘Blue Ensign’ is prolific and good in baskets and the front of sunny borders. ‘Flagship’(not an award-winner) is a little more variable in habit and flower-power, sometimes rather straggly, but I’m sure that with a little work neat and prolific plants could be developed in some lovely colour combinations.

In the meantime,‘Blue Ensign’ is easy to raise from seed sown outside and a packet of a hundred seeds costs only £2.05. I haven’t grown it for years but it’s on the list for this year. I’m going to plant it on the corners of my 1.2m raised veg beds – to hide my less than expert carpentry where the boards join!

  • Please take a look at my article on RHS award-winning lobelia for containers and borders in this week’s Amateur Gardening magazine – print edition only.