By Julia Till
Spring is just around the corner and here at Blooming Green we have just started the seed-sowing season. A selection of hardy annuals (those that can withstand colder temperatures and can be sown in early autumn and spring) have been sown in seed trays and will be sown again directly into the soil in March. These are just the sorts of flowers for those who want to grow their own. They will be the first to flower, bringing an early pop of colour to the plot and many of these little toughies are particular favourites of mine and the pollinating insects!
Cornflowers… for a pop of blue and a ‘country’ look
Centaurea (Cornflowers) not only have bright blue blooms that remind me of wild flower meadows, but also comes in mauve, white, pink and the striking, nearly black, ‘Black Ball’. To complement their fluffy appearance are the structural umbellifers, Orlaya grandiflora (White Lace Flower). As the common name suggests, they are delicate and romantic. These were completely new to me when I joined the Blooming Green ‘family’, but are now a firm favourite of mine and the floristry team! You can’t fail to create a simple, but stunning arrangement with these and some Nigella (Love in a Mist) that have seed pods that are just as beautiful as their delicate blooms. These are the first of the flowers that we’d recommend for ‘growing your own‘.
The cheerful marigold
One more hardy annual that I couldn’t fail to mention is Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold). With colours ranging from the jazzy oranges of ‘Neon’ to more subtle creams and apricots of ‘Arts Shades’, these make a bright statement on the Blooming Green plot and in the garden with a long flowering season if cut regularly. Last year we used them for a large Indian wedding and couldn’t get over their cheeriness and also their distinctive, aromatic scent. They are also a great flower for companion planting if you are a fan of organic growing techniques.
On to the half-hardy annuals
As the flower season moves on and the daylight hours increase, we will begin sowing our half-hardy annuals. These are not as robust as the hardy annuals and are susceptible to freezing conditions, so will be nurtured with a bit more care and attention, then planted out when there is no risk of frost. This is when it’s hard to choose my favourites out of the hundreds that we sow, but I definitely go for the ‘hot’ colour palette. My number one is Zinnia elegans (especially the ‘Queen Lime’ varieties), followed closely behind by Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan) with the bright orange ‘Prairie Sun’ and the lesser-known ‘Cherry Brandy’ variety. We have to wait a while for these to produce an abundance of flowers, but they will continue well into the autumn
And one more, just because I love it
My last mention has to be the upright spikes of Agastache rugosa ‘Liquorice Blue’ (Korean Mint). Okay, it’s not an annual, but I just can’t resist the minty/aniseed smell and neither can the bees!!! Grow some of these tried and tested Blooming Green favourites of mine in your own garden — we’re running a Grow Your Own workshop called Awesome Annuals, later this month — or come and see if you can spot them on the plot this summer.
Seed companies we love:
Picture credit Marianne Majerus