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Child's play in the garden: Beginners’ guide to what to sow outside now


Children love flowers that tickle the senses Stock picture

Children love flowers that tickle the senses Stock picture

Children love flowers that tickle the senses Stock picture

Children love flowers that tickle the senses. Try them with these...


The fluffy heads of grasses appeal to children. Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’ (height, 0.3m) has delicate bottlebrush flowers in pink while Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ (height, 1.5m) has the darkest burgundy, sword-like leaves that give rise to huge plumes of deep-purple flower heads.

They will both be happy in a mixed border or in patio pots. Grow in a light, moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun.

Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ has dramatic, large, silky, silver-white leaves that just invite you to stroke them, and its unusual ghostly appearance will pique children’s interest.

It is low-maintenance, drought-resistant and suitable for coastal areas. Grow in well-drained soil in full sunshine. It reaches a height of about 0.4m.


Dahlias come in a great range of sizes and shapes, and children will love the big cactus and pompom varieties. Lots of Smartie-type colours are available and can be grown from seed, tubers or established plants.


Scented plants delight, such as Cosmos atrosanguineus or chocolate cosmos; the chocolate-vanilla aroma from its deep-crimson flowers is straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Lemon verbena is a vigorous herb with lemon-scented leaves.


Snapdragons or antirrhinums are easy to grow from seed and long-flowering in a huge range of fun colours. The structure of the flower will intrigue youngsters — watch the bees go right into the flowers for nectar and see the ‘doors’ snap shut behind them.

What to sow now...

Don’t scatter, drill ’em

When sowing, pick roughly where you want the plants to grow outdoors, but sow in rows rather than scattering so that, as they grow, you can spot the weed seedlings.

Hardy annuals are the easiest of all seeds to germinate and will create wonderful borders full of colour. The joy of them is that you don’t need a glasshouse or a heated propagator to get them going and there’s no dibbing or potting on as you just plant them in situ, whether that’s in a border, pots and containers or window boxes.

It’s gardening that’s not expensive and very satisfying — and right now and into May is the time to be doing it.

Asperula orientalis or blue woodruff is a relatively small annual, creating mounds around 30cm high and covered in sweetly scented blue flowers from May to late summer. It likes full sun/partial shade.

Setaria italica ‘Hylander’ is an ancient crop, a millet, that produces lovely densely arching flowers. It likes full sun/partial shade and flowers June to September. Height: 1.2m

Papaver ‘The Giant’ is a poppy that flowers in different colours followed by amazing architectural seed pods. Height: 90cm

Anethum graveolens is the herb dill, and when it flowers, it produces big flat heads of acid-green flowers. Best grown in well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade and flowers from July to October. Height: 90cm

Lagurus ovatus or hare’s tail grass: Don’t forget grasses in your annual border — this has lovely fluffy white flower heads that look great dried as well. Also Briza maxima (quaking grass) will create a more delicate effect with nodding slender flowers.

Amberboa muricata or sweet sultan: Good for attracting bees and butterflies into your garden, this has purple-mauve fluffy flowers atop tall stems, scented with a long flowering season from July to October.

Cerinthe ‘Purpurascens’ looks a little unusual and very lovely. Its foliage is a pretty blue-green but the purple bell flowers surrounded by blue bracts really catch the eye. It’s a little bit exotic, coming from southern Europe, but it’s actually a very hardy annual.

Limnanthes douglasii or poached egg plant, so called for its bright yellow centre, bordered with white. Hoverflies and other aphid-eaters such as ladybirds and lacewings love this plant so it’s a good companion to sow beside plants with this problem, like lupins and roses.

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