Posts Tagged ‘seed’

Larkspur with a flying start

September 13th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Larkspur 'Giant Imperial Mixed'

This summer, my larkspur grew as tall as my delphiniums. They were amazing. And the reason for so much vigorous growth? They were self sown seedlings that germinated in August and September.

Germinating in warm soil, they soon got their roots down, developed plenty of attractive divided foliage through the autumn and winter and then surged into flower in late May and June.

So, learning the lesson, I’ve already sown some larkspur seed and the seedlings were through in just a few days. Of course, you can simply scatter the seed around as if it was self sown but there’s a better way.

Choose somewhere sunny and sheltered. If the soil is heavy, work in some old potting compost to open it up a little. Use the point of a stick, or your finger, to draw a drill (a shallow furrow) in the soil. Take the rose off the watering can then gently pour a stream of water along the drill, put your thumb over the spout to limit the flow. Gentle is good.

Sow the seed thinly along the drill. A packet of ‘Giant Imperial Mixed’ larkspur contains three hundred seeds. Don’t sow them all! In a 1.2m/4ft row you’ll only need fifty seeds. At this time of year the soil is warm and, with the moisture you’ve provided, the seeds should be peeping through in a week. Beware of slugs.

Sowing in rows makes it clear which seedlings are the larkspur and which are the weeds. Pull out the weeds.

In a 1.2m/4ft row you’ll only need about eight or ten seedlings, so remove some as they develop to ensure that they don’t become too crowded. If you grow ‘White King’ you’ll need fewer than if you grow ‘Giant Imperial Mixed’, you’ll need more seedlings of ‘Giant Imperial Mixed’ to be sure you get flowers from all the colours.

Keep them protected from slugs through the winter and late next spring you’ll be glad you sowed seeds now.

Whiskered wonder

September 6th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Viola 'Network Improved'

I’ve visited the Mr F trials field a couple of times now this season, the first time from under the umbrella and then last week on a scorching morning, and both occasions I was struck by this dainty little viola. It’s called ‘Network Improved’.

To be honest, the plants themselves did not look so very impressive, they’d been suffering in the heat. But the individual flowers are so delightful that I knew I had to recommend it.

And here’s the thing. The plants in the trial were grown from seed sown in plugs in spring and then planted out. So they’d had the heat of a record breaking summer to contend with. And they’re violas, after all, no wonder the plants were looking a bit sad.

But the individual flowers of ‘Network Improved’, with their old gold petals boldly whiskered in black, are just so pretty. Have to grow them somehow…

So what about sowing them now? And instead of putting the plants into a field, or a border, plant them in a patio container? They’d be lovely with dark blue grape hyacinths. And if you site the container near a path or in a porch, you’ll be able to admire the pattern in the flowers every time you pass.

Sow the seed as soon as possible in a plug tray with large cells, perhaps one that you’ve kept after receiving some Mr F plants, or try this plant raising kit. Sow two or three seeds per cell of fresh moist seed compost and cover lightly. Place the tray in a cosy place outside, or indoors on a bright windowsill. Never let them dry out. When they’ve reached planting size they can go in a container for a lovely spring treat.

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.