Whether you are starting a border from scratch or just need to fill a few gaps, why not fill it with annuals?
Annuals are plants that you can sow direct into the ground or into pots and then plant out when the weather is a bit warmer. They are a wonderful show in your garden and give you the advantage of being able to cut fresh flowers over and over throughout the summer to fill vases all around the house.
Annuals are easy to sow, germinate and grow and are ready to plant out in May. Follow these simple rules to have great success with fresh cut flowers or border colour.
Sowing Direct Into Soil.
We find that sowing direct in the soil can have varying success. This can be due to a number of reasons:
- Colder than average spring weather
- Birds or mice stealing the seed
- A great many garden soils can be very stony or the soil clumped together. This can affect whether the seed has a good chance of germinating or not.
- If heavy rain occurs, the seed can easily get washed deeper into the soil, under stones and easily disappear under inches of soil, all of which lessen the chance of germination.
If you like the thought of sowing your seeds directly where they are to grow, then it really helps to lay some potting compost down in the space where they are to be sown. This will not only give the seed a great start but stop it disappearing down into the soil below. Sprinkle the seed and then give them a very light covering of potting compost and a light watering with a fine rose watering can. There is nothing worse than applying the hose pipe and almost jet washing the tiny seeds into oblivion!
Sowing Seed in Pots
1. Fill a one litre pot (6” across) with compost.
2. Firm down with the bottom of a pot of similar size and sprinkle the seed over the top.
3. As a guide, sprinkle 30 seeds to a pot.
4. Using a potting sieve, sprinkle a very fine layer of compost over the top to just cover the seed.
5. Label and water in with a fine rose watering can.
You can see our how-to sow seeds video here.
If you are growing very small seed like Gypsophilia. You can sow in packs and plant straight out in the warmer weather
Using a Heated Propagator
It helps to have a heated propagator but ensure it gets enough light. Propagators can be quite wide and do not often fit on windowsills. They usually end up on the floor! So be careful to look into the dimensions if you want to place it on a windowsill.
If you can’t get hold of a propagator, just pop the sown seeds on a sunny windowsill and ensure they are damp at all times but not soaking wet.
Once the seeds have germinated (sprouted and have their first leaves) they need to be moved to a pot all of their own, to grow on until planting.
1. Fill a 9cm (mug size) pot with potting compost.
2. Using a dibber or a pencil make a hole almost to the bottom of the pot.
3. Push the dibber right into the compost that the seedlings are in and gently lever up.
4. Gently take hold of one of the leaves of the seedling and at the same time lever the seedling up and out of the compost. It is very important not to damage the stem hence taking hold of the leaf.
5. Lower the seedling into the hole you made with the dibber as far as you can (the stem/root can often be quite long) preferably so the leaves are just a few millimetres from the compost top and gently push the compost around to fill the hole.
6. Do not compress the compost with your fingers. Simply tap the pot to settle the compost and water in with a fine rose watering can.
See our how to video on pricking out here
Leave the plants for a week or two inside to get used to their new pot and then move outside. The plants now need to be protected from the cold, however they do not need to be kept warm as this will encourage too much early growth and the plant will grow leggy and weak. This process is called hardening off.
A cold frame is best to protect the plant. Or a simple frame covered with garden protection fleece.
When all danger of frost has past (usually by May) get planting!
We have chosen many from Sarah Raven’s collection. A connoisseur of growing cut flowers!
We have listed below the varieties we have chosen this year.
Has chinese lantern buds, dark pink. Height 4ft
Scabious Black Knight
A velvet crimson flower right through to autumn. Height 3ft
Months of flower with a lovely scent great as a vase filler. Height 2ft
Clary Blue Denim
A good foliage filler in arrangements or planted along a path as a flower filled edging. Height 18”
Larkspur White King
These are annual delphiniums. Larkspur have a great vase life. Height 3ft
Gypsophilia Covent Garden
This is another great arrangement filler. Height 18”
Pink flowers with soft foliage. Height 4ft
Cleome Colour Fountain
A wonderfully scented flower for borders or for cutting. Height 4ft
Larkspur Giant Imperial
A lovely cottage garden annual. Height 3ft
Cosmos Dwarf Sonata
Compact fine foliage for small gardens. Height 18”