By: Jacqueline Franklin, Tysoe WI, Warwickshire Federation
Member Jacqueline shares her tips for spring sowing and eco-friendly planting ideas, as well as her favourite summer flower varieties.
With the longer days, lighter nights and, hopefully, warmer days of spring, thoughts turn to planning your garden for the summer.
It pays to do your research. A happy winter’s evening can be spent scanning through seed catalogues and websites. You could also visit your local garden centre, where there will be plenty of choice for seeds and tubers.
Choosing your flowers
Flowers bring joy, and smells bring back nostalgia, evoking emotions and memories of childhoods spent in grandparents’ gardens.
Some of my favourites that add colour and zest are Zinnia Envy, a zesty lime green, or Zinnia Mammoth, a hotbox mix of oranges and bright pinks.
Aster Ostrich Plume is another favourite, with an amazing hot mix of purples, mauves and pink shades. Mix these with Cosmos Sensation for a lovely hot border, suitable for flower cutting – if we are as lucky as last year to still be cutting in October.
Many traditional cottage garden flowers that can be grown from seed are favourites such as Nigella (Love in a Mist) and Centaurea Cyrus (Cornflower Blue Ball).
Another is Scabiosa, with its little pincushion heads. It is an all-time favourite that comes in many shades including a dark maroon, called Scabiosa Back to Black.
One flower that is a must is the Sweetpea. Sweetpea Mammoth has such an amazing smell and holds a place in everyone’s heart. With its long scented blooms that come in shades of white, pinks and lilacs, it has got to be the choice for summer blooms.
Maybe you would prefer to add some varieties to your cutting garden that are a little different. Look at Scabiosa (Stellata ‘Sternkugel’) with its pale blue flowers that when dried turn to cream-white, parchment-like heads.
Understanding the label information
So what does the information on the label mean? Here are some definitions:
- Perennial – a plant that lives for more than two years, usually a lot more
- Annual – a plant that completes its whole life cycle in one year, germinating from seed, growing and flowering within 12 months
- Biennial – a plant that lives for two years, growing leaves in the first year and flowering in the second
- Hardy – will survive temperatures below freezing
- Half-hardy – needs to be brought into a greenhouse or put on to a windowsill during very cold weather
- Tender – won’t survive temperatures below freezing
Sowing your seeds
There is no need to buy new seed trays each year. Recycling is the best way forward – just wash and reuse your plant pots.
Why not sow sweet peas in empty toilet rolls or cut up a kitchen roll? You can also use egg boxes, yoghurt pots and fruit trays. So many empty containers we put into the recycling bin can be repurposed and reused.
Other eco-friendly planting ideas include:
- Mini coir pots – can be bought in garden centres and online.
- Origami newspaper seedling pots – the paper needs to be no thicker than newspaper, as it will not crease. Glossy paper is a no-no, as it does not degrade quickly enough to allow the roots their freedom.
- Plug plants – small plants with rootballs, less than 10cm high. There are garden-ready ones that can go straight into the soil or a pot, if planting into the soil.
Tip for planting: Wait until the last frost is over in May. Plant into pots and let the plants grow and harden off before planting out in the soil.
My must-have cut flowers
- Dahlia Cafe-au- Lait, Redskin
- Calendula Art Shades, Pink Surprise
- Clary Sage Tricolour mix
- Ammi Majus
- Delphinium Misty Lavender, Exquisite series
- Digitalis Foxglove Alba, Apricot Beauty
Larkspur Regal Mix
- Sweetpeas, Mammoth, Charles Angel
Zinna Mammoth, Envy
- Cosmos Purity, Fizzy Rose Picote
- Aster Ostrich Plume
- Papaver Flemish Antique
- Callistephus King size Appleblossom
- Alchemilla Mollis
- Achillea Flowerburst Lilac shades
What are your favourite summer flowers? Let us know in the comments.