I always try to sow my biennials before the summer soltice (20th June) so that the plants are big enough to plant out by the autumn equinox (22 September) and can establish well before the winter. We have not had rain for many, many, many weeks but today was a wet one and ideal for spending time in a cozy greenhouse sowing next year’s flowers.
Just as the garden is coming into full swing it does seem a little strange to be starting things off for next year but that is how we will enjoy the same fabulous show again in 2021.
Here are the things I have been sowing today and my Six-on-Saturday for this week.
One: Foxglove ‘Pam’s Choice’
I love to have foxgloves popping up around the garden and Pam’s Choice is a particular favourite with its white flowers and purple throat. It is similar to Elsey Kelsey which I also like. This year it has looked striking growing with the purple hesperis.
Two: Hesperis (Sweet Rocket)
We grow both the purple and white forms of Sweet Rocket. They are just coming to an end now and are making way for planting out summer annuals. The white form is lovely for brightening up a shadey corner or setting off a dark hedge. As an added bonus it seems to attract many early butterflies.
For me Hesperis looks best when planted in a decent group of plants rather than singly. This year we have grown it to great effect with Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Tulip ‘City of Vancouver’. It does however need a bit of staking.
Three: Erysimum (Wallflowers)
Over the years Wallflowers have been used extensively in municipal parks and gardens as part of brightly coloured carpet bedding schemes. They have perhaps become a little ‘out of fashion’. We try to use ours in a much more informal way within our early spring borders. They give a range of rich colours which are unusual in the early spring and sit very well with tulips and other spring bulbs.
Today I have been sowing ‘Blood Red’ and ‘Fire King’ (which look great together amongst pale blue forget-me-nots) as well as ‘Vulcan’ and ‘Ruby Gem’. In addition I have sown ‘Ivory White’ which you can just see in the picture above with the Alliums. It wasn’t particularly successful this year but its creamy yellow flowers showed great promise and I think I will try and get more going for this bed next year.
Four: Foxglove ‘Apricot’
This tall Apricot foxglove creates a very different effect from the ‘normal’ pink and white forms. I put it with the Sweet Williams this year and they create a lovely contrast.
Five: Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)
We started to grow the variety ‘Auricula Eyed Mixed’ when we were cutting flowers as event florists. It is tall with nice robust stems and seems to be generally free from rust problems if you don’t overcrowd the plants.
The plants produce masses of seeds each year which I collect and keep for sowing in June. I try to create new plants each year but many of the plants seem to be perennial. If you cut them back hard after flowering they produce new fresh growth and keep flowering into the autumn. They seem to stay green most of the winter in our garden and a bit of a tidy up and a feed in the spring produces another crop of flowers the following year. Here they are growing amongst Nigella to great effect.
This is not a biennial but I came across the seeds we collected last year from these dark pink astrantia plants. What is wonderful about collecting your own seed is that you get so very much more than you receive when you buy seeds from commercial companies. You do seem to get less and less seeds in a packet these days.
The astrantia seeds from last year all look really good so rather than let them go to waste I will have a go at getting them to germinate. Many perennials like to have a period of chilling so that they think they have had a winter and are now emerging into the warmer springtime. To mimic this I have put the tray of sown seeds into the fridge for 4 weeks in a plastic bag and will then bring them out into the warmth to let them germinate. I will report back on how I get on.