Sweet William…Foxgloves…Hesperis (Sweet Rocket)….Lunaria (Honesty) and Wallflowers are all old school, quintessential cottage flowers. They seemed to have somewhat gone out of fashion in the last couple of decades but thanks to the new British Flowers movement they are once again in demand and all is well and bouncy in the Biennial-land.
Folk are put off because of the lack of instant gratification as they take nearly a year to flower…but this shouldn’t be an issue with a modicum of planning.
What do biennial flowers have to offer us flower growing types?
*Biennial flowers provide early flowers at a time when few other plants haven’t quite got with the program. Autumn sown annuals will be starting to get into gear about early June but Biennials are strutting their funky chicken from April/May (Depending on how far north or south your flower patch is). For commercial growers this is of course a Godsend but domestic growers who have a biennial flower patch can bathe in the glory of having flowers earlier than their neighbours, and can enjoy skipping around the village with a handband of Hesperis while singing songs about Jesus or squirrels.
*Biennials are among the most productive plants you can grow. These babies just keep on giving. Foxgloves less so…but…if you harvest the main stem fairly early you will be rewarded with several smaller stems growing from whence you cut the stem….these smaller stems are much easier to use in the vase too. A small patch of Sweet Williams will give your armfuls of flowers for weeks on end. (Go for ‘Alba‘ to be chic and sophisticated or ‘Auricula Eyed‘ to be cool and edgy and the type of chap that once had a skateboard)
*If you have never grown Biennial flowers before you will find them easy to get along with. I sow mine in June & July in pots and then plant out in a bed that has had spent annual flowers taken out in early September. If you have plenty of space you can of course direct sow them too. The usual practice of sowing in rows a foot apart works just fine. Foxys need to be sown on the surface however. Personally I would go with the pots method.
*Biennial flowers such as Sweet William , Hesperis and Wallflowers all have good scent.
*An early patch of Biennial flowers is a most welcome thing for our friends the bees.
Jane says: “I am so pleased that you reminded us to plant seeds last autumn for a vibrant start to summer!” Thank YOU Jane…love this photo Eschscholzia ‘Orange KIng’ rocks…still time to make a late sowing too. ..and Purple Hesperis in the back there….proper ‘ansome.
“A happy riot of @higgledygarden hesperis & ever reliable eschscholzia” Thanks to the good folk of Natural Favours for this one…Eschscholzia/Hesperis combo is clearly all the rage up country this season. 873 extra points. (Hope business is good for you this year.)
” looking good ! Now where did I put the beans ??” …who cares about the beans when you have this combo of ‘Ivory Castle & Orange King’…First class gold medal and 465 extra points. #TeachersPet 😉
“Foxgloves going great guns!” Indeed they are Hannah…but because of your cheeky honed horti skills….11 out of 10 for Foxy success.
Rose takes blinding photos….so looking forward to her pics this year. Rose says “the orange king are looking great as well lovely big blooms- all sown last autumn”. Good show…Autumn sowing can be hit and miss…but you seem to do rather well at the game.
“When you said your sweet peas had long straight stems I didn’t imagine them THIS long!! Amazing!” Thanks Penny…these are really long stems…longer than I seem to get from my own plants. #Winner
“Foxgloves and hesperis setting the “woodland” scene.” …and splendid it is too….cracking blend of plants all having a splendid time…and who can blame ’em.
Thanks again for sharing your photos…please keep them coming. I shall post up as many as I can.
I have rented a parcel of land on a smallholding here in Cornwall. The smallholding is no longer operating as the owner is busy helping to run a charity. My plan is to help the owner by keeping the land properly managed but allowing big chunks to stay nice and wild and woolly.
In the centre of the reserve I am putting in a smallish cutting patch with beds space amounting to about 75 square metres. Not so much that it will become a chore on top of running the Higgledy Garden seed empire, and managing a cutting patch at Port Eliot house.
The smallholding sits atop a hill with beautiful views over Cornwall and is a delightful place to hang out with Furface.
Once I’ve settled in I shall be adding more growing space for a small ‘Bee Meadow’ from which I shall harvest seeds for my ‘Bee Friendly’ seed collections….but I can’t see this being sown up until late August.
The cutting gardens within the reserve are effectively the new ‘Higgledy Garden’…so if you hear me wibbling on about what I’m growing in the ‘Higgledy Garden’ you will know where I’m talking about.
All in all it’s all exciting stuff…for me at least….happy days! 😉
A big thank you to Sara Venn for writing this post for Higgledy…Sara is the head of compost tea making in Northern Europe and her words of wisdom must be heeded by all. I am using Sara’s methods on my beds in the walled garden at the Port Eliot Estate….it really does work wonders. You can find Sara on Twitter and she is a very approachable lass. NB I added some images…so if they don’t quite fit, then it’s my fault not Sara’s. 😉
The excitement of seed sowing and germination continues but most people will, by now at the beginning of June planted out their first sowings of the wonderful Higgledy Garden range and will be patiently waiting for them to put their roots firmly into the soil and start to grow upwards, ready to begin flowering in a few weeks time.
Be they Orlaya or Calendula, Centaurea or Papaver, they will all benefit from a good bit of feed at this time of year and when the lovely Ben asked me to write this piece for his blog, we thought between us that a bit about how to feed your plants and your soil for free, might be a grand way to help you help your plants grow big and strong and bloom floriferously throughout the summer and into the autumn.
So to begin a really great idea is to feed your soil with compost tea, a magical brew that fills your soil up with beneficial bacteria and fungi, ensuring there’s no room for the bad guys and making the soil an ideal home for your precious flowers. Whether you are a gardener growing in your own garden or allotment, or a flower farmer relying on your flowers for the season ahead, the health of your soil is the most important part of everything you do, so start doing this in early April and repeat monthly and your soil will thank you by ensuring your plants are healthy and perfect! It’s very simple and the only thing you really need is a large bucket or plastic drum or old bath. Into said vessel add a shovel of horse manure or cow manure that is fairly fresh, half a shovel of homemade compost and a scattering of comfrey leaves and fill the vessel with water. After 24 hours you will find the whole brew is bubbling slightly and at that point it is ready to be watered onto the soil at a rate of one part tea to 9 parts water. Once the brew has stopped bubbling, throw it away as it has become anaerobic and so won’t be much use.
Compost tea feeds the soil, but of course your precious plants need feeding too and for that there is also a free, if somewhat stingy answer! Well not too stingy as long as you’re wearing gloves, as the main ingredient for this recipe is nettles. This tea is used in the spring and early summer to boost the plants and help them put on lots of leaves and greenery so that we can go ahead and keep pinching them out to make fuller, healthier plants that will flower more and uses those fresh, young, green nettle shoots that we see in late spring and that are full of nitrogen which young plants need to thrive and grow before they start to flower later in the season.
Again all you need for this is a bucket or plastic drum, enough nettles to fill your vessel and enough water to cover the nettles. Leave them for 3 to 5 days to brew and then water onto your newly planted out seedlings, 1 part tea to 10 of water, on a weekly basis and watch them start to grow away like crazy things. Soon they will be full and you’ll be pinching them out and refeeding and the season will be pootling along and then suddenly it will be midsummer.
On midsummer’s day, the old nurseryfolk will tell you, you must stop feeding nitrogen to your plants and move onto feed rich in phosphorus and potassium. They are completely right as now what is needed is a feed that will help with flowering and fruiting and thickening of cells for plants that are to be overwintered. It is also around this point that the nettles begin to get woody and flower, making them no good for teas and so we move onto another old favourite, that again is free!
Comfrey has been grown in gardens for centuries as both a medicinal herb and to help feed our plants and it is rich in the nutrients needed for good flowering and fruiting. A small patch of comfrey in the garden will soon spread and this is a way of keeping it under control whilst utilising it in the best way possible. One warning though……Make sure you remove all the flowers before making the tea as the seeds don’t die in the process and you will end up with a garden full of comfrey if due diligence is not taken. You have been warned. And yes, that is the voice of sad experience many years ago.
To make the tea, again fill a vessel with comfrey leaves and then cover them with water. You will need a vessel with a lid for this, and some patience as the tea takes 10 days to 3 weeks to be ready, so for ongoing feeding you will need a couple of vessels successionally filled so that you don’t run out. Now the reality of comfrey tea is that you know it is ready when, and only when, it smells as bad as anything you have ever smelt, of something rotting, or even as some have described it, of death……..
But bear with the pungency and water it onto your plants at the same rate as nettle tea, 1 part death smell to 10 water, and watch your plants flower as they never have before. Use on everything that flowers and fruits and you will see flowers a plenty and your crops will be abundant. It is particularly good for chillies and tomatoes as well as an abundance of glorious cut flowers from your Higgledy Garden seeds!!
This season I have been trying out a new idea. Most of my customers aren’t lucky enough to have greenhouses, so I do without one myself…keep a level playing field and all that. I have tried various of the plastic grow tunnels of varying sizes….most blew away in the storms that rush off the Atlantic Ocean and send all my outdoor possessions towards Devon.
This year it came to mind to try out growing seedlings in storage boxes. Can you imagine just how smug I felt when the plan came together? If you could produce electricity from smugness I could have powered I small seaside town through a cold Christmas.
The only modification I have made is to put holes in the bottom for drainage. You could drill these holes…I melted mine with a red hot poker that I heated up in the wood burner. There are health and safety issues when one welds a red hot burning poker but I did mine blindfold at the tail end of a meth and tequila binge…and no one died.
Why this is a genius idea:
*Seedlings are kept double super cosy and warm.
*Slugs and other pesky wildlife have a tricky time getting in the boxes to cause trouble.
*The lids can be taken off when it’s warm and sunny…or left on if it’s raining.
*If a sharp frost is forecast…just bring the boxes indoors and stack them up.
*After you plant out your seedlings you can use the box to store a massive packed lunch.
*These boxes are made by ‘The Really Useful Box Company’ and they are 64 litres. They cost about £12 each. They take 40 x 3inch square pots snugly. This covers just over four square meters of cut flower patch.
If you think this tip may be useful to your chums please share it by clicking one of the buttons below the post. Thank you in advance.
PS It’s not too late to sow seeds for a cutting patch. I sow throughout May. If you fancy a shot at it please visit my seed shop.