The snow has melted, the temperature has risen, the birds are singing, it’s March – surely that means it’s officially Spring! In an uncharacteristic fit of restraint, I have thus far resisted the temptation to sow annuals. There’s little point in sowing them in February, even if the packet suggests one could. Later sown seeds will catch up as the conditions will be better suited. In theory I could extend this logic into April, or even May but, quite frankly, sod that for a game of soldiers! I have typically focused mostly on perennials from seed, having thought annuals to be too much bother given that they are compost fodder after one season. In their quest to reproduce as fast as possible, the sheer flower power of annuals has finally persuaded me to have a go.
It was an unusually busy weekend work-wise, but I managed to sneak into the potting shed for an hour on Sunday afternoon to see what I could sensibly sow. I didn’t throw caution to the wind entirely. Any packet that said “sow Feb to April” was in, any that said “sow March to May or June” was out, I’ll sow those in April.
Even with this sensible filter, I still had close to 20 seed varieties that I could sow. For the most part I have employed the method which has worked well for me the past two sowing seasons. I fill a 7cm square pot two thirds full of multi-purpose compost then tamp that down, topping up the pot with vermiculite to half a centimeter below the lip. For small seeds I sow on to the surface and water in. For medium sized seeds I do the same but stir them into the top layer with a dibber, then water in. For larger, pea-sized seeds I sow onto a shallower layer of vermiculite then cover with more vermiculite.
So, what have I sown this time?
From the Suttons Seeds 2018 range.
These seeds were given to me by Suttons in return for me wittering about them here.
Felicia ‘pretty blue’. I’ve never grown these before. I aim to plant these up in containers on the patio. They grow to about 25cm so are perfect for this purpose. Blue is hard to come by in a garden flower, so I am looking forward to these doing well.
Tithonia ‘red torch’. Again, never grown these before, indeed I had never heard of tithonia before browsing the Suttons range for this year. They grow quite tall, and resemble a lanky bedding dahlia.
Lobelia ‘Mrs Clibran’. I always have some lobelia. In the past I bought them as plugs or cheap trays and grew on. Last year I grew from seed and was pleased with the results – bias aside, I thought they were better plants than the cheaply bought version. Anyhow, this variety comes in “Supasow” form, the seed is coated to make it easier to handle. I did note that it also comes at a price per seed significantly higher than its uncoated brethren (0.3p per seed vs 0.08p per seed). Whether it is worth the significant price premium will have to wait till germination and resulting plants. I can say that the seeds themselves are a lot easier to handle and can be seen clearly when sowing, making for better dispersal. As lobelia come in the hundreds or thousands per seed packet, I have sown these into a seed tray rather than a small pot, using half a tray for this variety, half for a different lobelia variety, see below. When they germinate I will prick out in small clumps and move them to modules.
Snapdragons. From the kiddies range, my youngest daughter is looking forward to growing these. I grew antirrhinum from seed last year and they were a straightforard way to add some colour to the front of a border.
Cosmos ‘white knight’. Sigh. Cosmos have been a disappointment for me the last two years. They germinated well enough but I got only two or three plants to grow to a useful garden size. Nonetheless, I do like them, so I continue in my quest to grow them. I have always grown pink or deep red cosmos, so was intrigued by these pure white doubles.
From my assorted end-of-season bargain seed purchases
Coleus ‘Prize strain’. Strictly speaking a tender perennial, these are usually grown as an annual or as a houseplant in the UK. I sowed a batch of these back in September, but they succumbed to damping off over the winter. I have it in mind to plant these up in a patio container for a bit of foliar colour.
Coreopsis ‘ Incredible dwarf’. These will probably go in gaps at the front of a sunny border. It’s hard to tell from the picture how big the flowers are, but they do look colourful.
Lobelia ‘crystal palace’. The naked, unadulterated version. The seeds are like very fine dust. I use lobelia in containers for the most part. It’s easy to plonk a few in amongst fading spring bulb foliage, then when said foliage is cut back later, there’s plenty of room for the lobelia to spread out.
Brachycome ‘purple splendour’. Another first for me. Quite low growing, each plant allegedly drips with over 100 flowers. I imagine the flowers to be small then! Destined for pots and maybe the odd gap in the border.
Aster ‘starlight mixed’. A dwarf, topping out at 20cm, I forsee these going into a container. I’m going to need a lot of containers.
Rudbeckia ‘rustic dwarf’. A half-hardy perennial that we are advised is best grown as an annual. These should give some good hot colour throughout the summer and early autumn.
Marigold ‘naughty marietta’. You might think I chose these for the name, imagining a cheeky French maid with a coquettish manner. Utterly wrong. Not me guv. Honest. I might dot a few of these around the veg plot.
Begonia ‘summer rainbow’. Who wouldn’t want a rainbow in their garden, hmm? Although a tender perennial, I find I can usually persuade them to give another year or two’s service, if kept in a patio pot and not allowed to get too wet and ‘orrible over the winter. But these I shall consign to the heap when done.
Nemesia ‘carnival’. Another first for me, these look quite jolly.
Mesembryanthemum. Another blast of colour, these are mini at just a few inches high. Front of border for these fellas, I think.
Busy Lizzie ‘safari’. I did grow some of these last year, just a few plants, they flowered away all summer, brightening up the patio steps. I am aiming for a similar effect.
Salvia ‘blaze of fire’. I’m not convinced I will like these judging from the picture on the packet, but the flowers should be long-lasting, from July through to the frosts. These are a bright red and 30cm tall at most.
That’s it for now. This is just the first batch, though, I’ll have more to sow in 4 to 6 weeks time. No such thing as too many plants…
I’ll be back in a while with an update on germination, pricking out and the like.
PS. The term a-go-go is thought to derive from the French à