It may not shock you to learn that I’m growing far too many things from seed this year. My seed eyes are definitely bigger than my garden.
For the last couple of years I’ve tried to grow plenty of annual climbers, with mixed results. I’ve either had poor germination or the resulting plants were a bit too small to complete with the surrounding vegetation when planted out. This year is going to be different, I hope. I’m making use of the indoor heated/lit propagator for some of them that might prefer cosier environs early on.
First up then, cobea scandens, cup and saucer vine, mentioned recently in a SoS post. I’ve had zero luck with this in the past but this year I have three very nice seedlings, little plants now really, that I think will do very well. I will plant one to grow up a fence, the other two I might plant in the same tub on the patio and arrange some canes for them to scramble up. I’m hoping for a cascade of flowers. Like many plants grown as annuals in the UK, cobea scandens is actually a tender perennial and can be overwintered indoors.
Ipomaea lobata, formerly mina lobata, or spanish flag. This is another annual climber I have struggled to grow consistently. A couple of years ago I had some fantastic plants from seed which covered a good section of fence with a long lasting show. Last year, nothing at all. Nothing germinated. This year I bought some fresh seed from Sarah Raven. The usual advice is to soak the seed overnight, but noting the absence of this advice on this packet I didn’t bother. I sowed them on Friday last week and they are already up. They clearly like the warmer propagator!
Rhodochiton atrosinguineas, purple bells. Another plant I’ve failed to grow successfully. Also from Sarah Raven, I’ve sown the tiny seeds two to a cell and popped them in the fancy propagator. No sign of germination yet, but it is early days.
Thunbergia alata, black eyed Susan vine. In contrast with some of the other climbers, I did OK with this last year, ending up with several plants that went in a pot on the patio. I’m going again this year. No sign of germination yet, however.
Asarina scandens, snapdragon vine. This is a new one to me, it apparently flowers non stop for 5 months once it gets going. It will also cascade happily, trailing from a window box or a planter. I’m not sure where I’ll put these (a common theme in my plant growing experience!). I should see seedlings in another week or 10 days.
Ipomaea, morning glory. These are collected seeds from last year’s plants which grew very well against the trellis at the back of my patio planters. They are clearly keen to grow, they are up in numbers. I think I will do the planter/trellis trick again this year.
Lathyrus odoratus, sweet peas, I nearly forgot. The first batch was sown in October last year and I’m afraid were allowed to dry out over the winter, they looked quite sorry for themselves when I planted them out. However, they seem ok now and are beginning to grow more enthusiastically now the sun is warm and the days are longer. I think they’ll shoot up in no time. I do have a second batch sown this spring which are a few inches high now, an insurance policy it seems I didn’t need.
I used to be sniffy about growing annuals. My thinking was that it’s a lot of faff to grow plants from seeds (an enjoyable one, to be sure, but a faff nonetheless), I should put that energy into growing plants that’ll be in the garden for years, not for months. The trade off is that perennials are often slow growing, and can take a few years to reach full flowering potential. Annuals, on the other hand, are up and at it straight away and many flower their socks off for months, till the first frost. In recent years I have relented and sown some of both. This year’s annuals are the usual suspects:
Cosmos. A summer stalwart, last year I had some excellent and very robust plants from ‘Dazzler’ seed, so I’m growing more of those, and some ‘Candy Stripe’ which had been in my seed drawers for years, and some other collected seeds from last years ‘Apricot Lemonade’
Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’. I had so much seed, collected from my own plants, I was happy to give loads away, sending them out to all corners of the UK. Like an idiot, I forgot to reserve some for myself so last year I didn’t have any in the garden at all! I got some this year via the HPS scheme and they have germinated nicely, and like the cosmos they are now in 9cm pots. I might pot them on again but more likely I will plant them straight out from these pots in a few weeks, once they’re hardened off.
Centaurea cyanus, cornflower ‘Purple Haze’. I grew a different variety last year, ‘Blue Boy’, with some success. ‘Purple Haze’ is a mix of, you guessed it, purple tinged flowers, from quite light with a lot of white, to almost black. I have sowed into modules in the hope of moving them on without disturbing them greatly.
Calendula ‘arty shades’ and Calendula ‘Ice Maiden/Snow Princess’. I was given these seeds by Higgeldy Garden for being a smartarse, pointing out an error in one of his tweets. I’ve sown them, early days yet…
Malope trifida ‘Vulcan’. I grew these last year but the resulting plants were swamped by other things. It’s a shame as they are a beautiful flower, magenta pink with a bright green star in the middle. I am determined to have these grown properly this year, but we shall see.
Tithonia ‘Red torch’. Another will they/won’t they plant for me. A few years ago I had tremendous plants, 5 or 6′ tall, loads of lary orange flowers. Since then, rubbish weedy plants or no germination at all. I’ve got some fresh seed from Sara Raven this year, perhaps that’ll be the trick.
Another surprise, I’m growing (or trying to) a couple of dozen different perennials this year. Most are seed from the HPS scheme, some are bought in. Here are just a few of them.
Digitalis, foxgloves. An investment for the future, next year anyway, these will not do anything exciting this year aside from putting on a good root system. I have sown d. mertonensis, the strawberry foxglove, and some d. ‘pam’s choice’. I have some of both (I think) in the garden, sown last year and getting ready to flower in the next month or so. Once they are done I will hoik them out and replace with annuals or possibly dahlias. These have been pricked out into individual cells and I will pot them on to 1L pots once they have grown a little.
Melianthus major, honey flower. A shrubby perennial, this can grow quite large if the conditions suit and frost doesn’t knock it back over winter. I’m growing for the foliage which is beautiful en masse, a lovely sea green, blue almost, and interesting shapes too. In my garden it will probably die back in the winter and go again the following spring. There are those that say it should be pruned back hard regardless as the new foliage is a better colour and it will be a more manageable size too. I have three seedlings. I might stick one in a large pot on the patio, one in the garden, and one for spares.
Linaria purpurea ‘Canon Went’. Went where, we wonder? To the garden centre, I expect. These might not all come true, some may revert to the more usual purple shades, but I’m hopeful for several in the pink for which the Canon is justly famous. I have a few quite mature plants of the purple variety, I mainly like them for the leaves, but the flowers are obviously welcome to the garden party. They are still in their original 7cm seed pot dormitory, I really need to prick them out into their next individual homes.
Eucomis bicolour, pineapple lily. Not a plant I’ve grown or even bought before. Actually that’s not quite true, I did buy a eucomis comosa ‘Oakhurst’ last year in a rush of plant sale adrenalin. It is doing nothing much yet, so I am wondering if I didn’t provide sufficient protection over the winter. Anyhow, it’s fun to try something new. These have germinated and I suspect more to come. i started this year’s growing season without any grit or vermiculite which I normally use to top dress the pots. Aside from looking neater it also reduces the potential for liverwort or other green slime to take up residence.
Anchusa leptophylla, bugloss. Another one that is new to me, I can apparently expect dark green leaves and small blue flowers with a white centre. A native plant, it’ll be good for the bees.
Aquilegia x ‘Nora Barlow’. I collected these seeds from an excellent plant I’d grown from seed the year before. I am hoping to add to my collection. Nora should be happy in any aspect, including the full shade from whence she came.
That is far from everything, but it’ll do as a decent cross section of what I’m growing (or trying to) this year.
If it doesn’t all get too hectic, I’ll be back in a few weeks with a follow-up to this, hopefully with some germination or growing news.