Posts Tagged ‘seed’

Let’s go with gaillardias

July 19th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Gaillardia 'Arizona Red Shades'

My gaillardias have been flowering for a few weeks, now, so what makes me think that this is a good time to sow gaillardia seed?

Well, modern varieties are very different from the old and straggly types. I’ve been growing those, too, but I’m heaving them out this autumn. ‘Amber Wave’ is a recent variety in the old style and is not only very floppy, but in a couple of years the roots have run so much that shoots are coming up in the path. Not for long.

Modern gaillardias, the Arizona Series in particular, are shorter, bushier, don’t need support, don’t run at the root and come with enthusiastically upward facing daisies. Flowering starts in June or July and continues into the autumn, especially if the plants are deadheaded regularly.

There are three varieties in the Arizona Series: ‘Arizona Apricot’, ‘Arizona Sun’ (a red and yellow bicolour) and ‘Arizona Red Shades’. All are prolific plants for sun and soil that’s not too soggy. And you can sow seed now.

The trick is to raise the seedlings just as if you were sowing in spring: sow the seeds in a 9cm pot, prick the seedlings out into large cells or 7cm pots, grow them on until they’re big enough to plant, get them in and they’ll establish themselves before the winter.

At this time of year the seeds don’t need heat, they don’t even need a cold greenhouse. Simply cover the pots with a clear propagating hood, keep them out of the sun in case they get too hot, and make sure they don’t dry out.

I’ve seen them start to flower in May, they’ll certainly get started in June and if you dead head regularly they’ll just keep on going.

And if you just can’t be bothered with all that, as I write Mr F still has plants of ‘Arizona Apricot’ in 9cm pots and ‘Arizona Apricot’ in 2 litre pots available for planting now. Either way, give them a try.

Cosmos time – yes, really!

June 14th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Cosmos 'Xanthos' and 'Sea Shells'

Well, it’s been raining hasn’t it… The problem is that everything is now growing like mad and spilling out into the spaces I’d set aside to sow cosmos.

Yes, I know. Cosmos are half hardy annuals and they’re often sown under cover in April. But both shorter varieties like ‘Xanthos’ (above left) and taller ones such as ‘Sea Shells’ (above right) do really well sown outside in June, sown outside where they’re going to flower.

The seeds are long and slender and easy to handle, the soil is moist, so all you need to do is draw a drill (a shallow furrow) in the soil with the point of a stick – or even your finger. About half an inch deep is fine and then you can place the seeds an inch apart and then just knock the soil in from the edges to cover the seeds and pat it all down with your hand.

Put a label in at the end of the row and another label or a piece of stick in at the other end, to mark the row and ensure that you don’t sow something else in the same space! The seeds will soon be up, they’ll grow strongly and you can thin them out, in stages, till they’re 15-20cm apart.

The problem is all those floppy plants that the rain has beaten down – in spite of the fact that you supported them (or perhaps because you didn’t!).

Well, they can be rescued, propped up, and space for those cosmos revealed. If you’re fortunate enough to have some flat sprays of hazel twigs, these are ideal for gently raising shoots back into position. But the simple device of two short bamboo canes with a length of string run between can also lift leaning stems back close to vertical. And snipping off any wayward shoots won’t do the plants any harm.

So, wait for a break in the rain, heave those floppy plants out of the way and get some cosmos seed in.

More space, more shopping at this year’s Chelsea

May 24th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Okra and Orlaya

Down at the Chelsea Flower Show this week, seed has been flying off the Mr Fothergill’s stand. I spoke to Mr F’s David Turner, who’s been talking to show goers and answering their questions.

“We’ve sold more seed this year than in the last two years,” David told me, “and we’ve had some storming afternoons. And usually at Chelsea sales of flower seeds outstrips the veg but veg has been on top this year and we’ve had a surprising number of enquiries for okra.” Okra features on the Giving Girls in Africa a Space to Grow garden for CAMFED (the Campaign For Female Education), an African charity backed by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

“The RHS range of Award of Garden Merit seeds has done especially well this year with people asking for Ammi and rose campion in particular. And Orlaya, another informal white flowered annual, has also been popular.

“We also had a visit from Pudsey supporting our two children’s varieties, Sunflower ‘Pudsey’ and Pumpkin ‘Pudsey’, that raise funds for BBC Children in Need and his visit featured in the TV coverage.”

The other product that has gone well is Seasol, the organic seaweed concentrate plant tonic that promotes healthy growth of plants, flowers, vegetables and even lawns. I use it on my outdoor tomatoes and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons they develop such huge root systems.

Personally, I think one of the reasons sales have gone well is that the show is less crowded, more spacious this year and so visitors feel more relaxed and happier about carrying their purchases around. So they’ve bought more.

You can catch up on the last of the TV coverage of the Show today from 7:30pm-8pm on BBC One then from 8:30pm-9:30pm on BBC Two and finally tomorrow night from 8pm-9pm on BBC Two. Enjoy the show – in person or on TV.

Still time to sow sunflowers!

June 1st, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

'Teddy Bear' sunflowers

“It’s June, and you’re suggesting I sow sunflowers?” You know what, I’ve even had them flowering well from sowing in July. OK, it was July 2, but still.

But there’s two things to keep in mind. Firstly, don’t put your faith in a June sowing of ‘Titan’, which can reach 3m, or ‘Kong’, which can grow even taller. These need an early sowing. Secondly, give them a good start, keep them growing strongly and never allow them to get dry. And there are also two approaches getting them going.

You can sow them outside, in the border or even in a container, where they’re going to flower. The advantages are that you don’t need any special equipment and they never suffer any root disturbance so grow steadily. The disadvantages are that you may have to plant them between other plants which soon overshadow them and that they feed the slugs.

I favour sowing individual seeds in 7.5cm pots of fresh new compost and keeping them in a cold greenhouse with the tomatoes – full ventilation. Or in a sunny and cosy place outside. Be sure to set mousetraps, I’ve already learned the hard way this season that mouse traps are essential.

When the the roots are emerging from the pot, plant them outside, stake them with a slender cane and water them in well with tomato feed in the water.

Whatever your approach, water them every week with tomato food and watch them grow – and then watch them flower. And the varieties to try? I tried it with ‘Solar Flash’ and ‘Teddy Bear’ but I’d say that ‘Choco Sun’, ‘Little Leo’,‘Santa Lucia’, and perhaps even ‘Garden Statement’ would be worth a try.

Take a look at all the Mr F sunflowers, and choose for yourself.

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.