Saturday 21 September 2019

Spring seeds to enjoy in your garden

Ammi majus
Ammi majus
Calendula
Centaurea
Cosmos
Nigella
Papaver rhoeas
Petunias
Sunflower
Zinnia

Nothing is more rewarding in gardening than the feeling of propagating plants from seed. If you are keen to have a go this year, I'm delighted to say that this is the perfect time to start. And it's simple.

Nature creates these little packages, some so tiny they are little more than dust. Most are incredibly simple to germinate.

What they need is some warming soil, a little bit of water, and to be given their own patch. Within days or weeks they will appear - two tiny leaves at the end of a short stem pushing up out of the compost. And from these small beginnings, you can have the basis of an amazing garden.

The best way to learn about seeds is just to have a go, and through trial and error, you will learn a lot. And you will get a great sense of achievement when it works.

Nigella

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Nigella

Love-in-a-mist is an easy-to-grow annual. Lots of ferny foliage and tonnes of sparkling blue flowers, followed by attractive seeds heads. Also available in pink and white colours

Sow: Hardy - sow outdoors from now until May.

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Flowers: June to August

Height: Up to 0.5m.

Cosmos

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Cosmos

This exuberant Mexican native never fails to delight. Big daisy-like blooms in pinks, purples and white, with a very distinctive, fine foliage. The Sonata series are more compact for smaller spaces, such as containers. Pinch out while growing to form bushy plants, or plant en masse where they will support each other. Bee and butterfly friendly

Sow: Half-hardy - sow under cover now, or outdoors in May.

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Flowers: July-October

Height: Up to 1.2m.

Papaver rhoeas

From the poignant, red Flanders poppy to the delicate, white 'Bridal Silk', their beauty is fleeting and fragile. Wonderful pepper pot-type seed heads, which are great for drying, or crack them open in autumn to scatter in the garden

Sow: Hardy - March and April outdoors

Conditions: Fertile, well-drained soil in sun.

Flowers: June to August

Height: To 0.75m.

Centaurea

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Centaurea

The annual cornflower is an easy-grow annual - bright blue, nectar-rich flowers will attract bees and butterflies. Makes a lovely cut flower and makes a striking garnish in salads

Sow: Hardy - March to May outdoors

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Flowers: June to September

Height: 0.1 to 0.5m.

Calendula officinalis

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Calendula

The common marigold is a no-fuss, hardy annual - you can plant the seeds where you'd like them to grow and it doesn't require good soil, it will do fine on poor soil, in sun or partial shade. The reward is their dazzling orange petals. Traditionally, they were used as colouring or flavouring in cooking, and you can sprinkle the petals on your salad

Sow: Hardy - March to May, outdoors

Conditions: Sunny; well-drained soil

Flowers: Summer and autumn

Height: 0.1m to 0.5m.

Ammi majus

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Ammi majus

Bishop's weed is one of those floaty, Cow Parsley-type flowers, beloved of designers at the Chelsea Flower show. Flat heads of lacy, white flowers are beautiful and introduce informality to planting schemes

Sow: Hardy - March to May outdoors

Conditions: Fertile, well-drained soil; sun or partial shade

Flowers: June to August

Height: Up to 1m.

Zinnia

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Zinnia

If you like a riot of colour in your pots and borders, be sure to sow some zinnias. These colourful daisies hail from South America and Mexico and will bring some Latin exuberance to your plot - plus, they are easy to grow from seed

Sow: Half hardy - sow indoors now, or outside in May

Conditions: Fertile, well;drained soil in sunny, sheltered spots

Flowers: July to October

Height: Up to 0.75m.

Sunflower

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Sunflower

Grow sunflowers with your kids - have a competition to see whose grows tallest. They look wonderful and cheerful in a late summer garden and their sturdy stems make them great cut flowers. Attracts beneficial insects

Sow: Tender - sow outdoors in April and May

Conditions: Fertile, well-drained soil in sunshine

Flowers: July to October

Height: 0.5m to 3m.

Petunias

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Petunias

One of the top-selling bedding plants, suitable for containers and hanging baskets, you can grow your own if you like a bit of a challenge. The reward - prolific blooms all summer long. The seed is fine, so tricky to handle - a good tip is to mix with some sand to help spread evenly

Sow: Indoors (a heated propagator is best at 22°C) where they will take 10-21 days

Conditions: Fertile, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade

Flowers: June until first frosts

Height: Variable.

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