Monthly Archives: December 2015

Growing Cosmos For Cutting.

 

 

Cosmos 'Sensation' grown by @plansandplants LOVE that colour!
Cosmos ‘Sensation’ grown by @plansandplants LOVE that colour!

Higgledy Flower School 2016. #18. Cosmos.

NB. A big thank you to Facebook and Twitter folk for letting me share their flower pics.

Cosmos are some of the majestic heroes of the cutting garden. Big  and blossomy, easy to grow, and they last well in the vase.

Here’s  what Monty had to say about Cosmos when he wrote an article in The Mail back in 2012:

“I grow three different types of cosmos, two of which are annuals and have to be re-sown every spring and one, Cosmos atrosanguineus, which is a tuber and can survive for years with a little loving care.

Arty framing of Cosmos 'Purity' by the lovey @helenajbee. 'ansome.
Arty framing of Cosmos ‘Purity’ by the lovey @helenajbee. ‘ansome.

The two annuals are Cosmos bipinnatus and Cosmos sulphureus. Both are native to Mexico and South America, and both are tender annuals, so will only withstand the lightest touch of frost. 

I sow both in seed trays in March and April, pricking the seedlings out into plugs or pots and planting them out when the last hint of frost has gone.

Thank you to Caroline Mansfield for this pic, Carloine says the soil was quite dry.... I think this has made the plants a little lacking in foliage and perhaps more blooms...but lovely to see under the cherry.
Thank you to Caroline Mansfield for this pic. Great to see ‘Purity’ hanging about under the cherry.

 

Cosmos bipinnatus is a multi-stemmed plant with lovely ferny foliage.

The flowers are elegant, open daisies that will go on being produced until the first frosts if they are dead-headed regularly.

When dead-heading cosmos the trick is to cut the stem right back to the first leaf, rather than just pulling the flower head off.

Cosmos seedling...or plantlet...probably about six weeks old.
Cosmos seedling…or plantlet…probably about six weeks old. This chap would have been started off inside.

The two varieties of C. bipinnatus that I like best are the tall white ‘Purity’ and the plum-coloured ‘Dazzler’, which changes its colour as it fades to a magenta shade of pink. (At Higgledy, Instead of ‘Dazzler’, I prefer to grow ‘Sensation‘ as I think it has a greater range of tones.)

‘Purity’ works well in this garden because it will reach 122cm (4ft) tall, so it can be placed in among perennials and appear through their growth.”

The Don.

Link to: The Higgledy Seed Shop Of Dreams.

'Sensation' doing a sterling job at Mags Maynard's house.
‘Sensation’ doing a sterling job at Mags Maynard’s house.

Although I am always chewing at the bit to sow seeds in March, in my experience they can easily become leggy and weak if they are sown then…I think it pays to just hold off until April…unless you’ve got lights and a heated greenhouse…which is far too geeky for my tastes and not really ‘going with the flow’.

I also found some great growing tips in Alys Fowler‘s great column that she pens for The Guardian…Alys says:

Cosmos & Rudbeckia Loitering At Higgledy Garden....Slackers.
Cosmos & Rudbeckia Loitering At Higgledy Garden….Slackers.

“It is best started off in a tray indoors. You can direct sow, but if the soil is cold, it will take an age to germinate. Cosmos germinates most readily at 15-25C and takes about a week at these temperatures.

Cosmos seed needs light to germinate, so sow on the surface or cover with vermiculite. The soil must stay moist, so cover the seed tray with a propagation lid or clear polythene bag and leave on a warm windowsill. When large enough to handle, prick out seedlings into large modules or 9cm pots and harden off in a cold frame or under fleece.

Plant out when the danger of frost has passed, usually around mid-May. They may need staking if you are somewhere windy, but pinching out makes for a sturdy subject. Once planted, nip back the tip with your thumbnails to a lower set of leaves, and you will get a nicely branching plant. Tall varieties should be 45cm apart, shorter ones 30cm.”

The Mighty Alys.

cosmos

Instead of pricking out seedlings into 9cm pots…I sow a couple of seeds straight into 9cm pots…then if two grow I dispense with the smallest…generally you get more seeds than you need in a packet… ‘pricking out and potting on’ is one of the few gardening jobs that I don’t enjoy, so I try to avoid it….I know for some folk it’s the highlight of the year. Horses and courses and all that. Down here in Cornwall it coincides with the time that it’s possible to get into the sea with a 2 mm wetsuit…my hobbies start to conflict!

Higgledy Garden Tips For Growing Cosmos From Seed.

*Either direct sow your cosmos seeds direct into the soil after all threats  of frost have disappeared….or sow six weeks earlier in pots…in a greenhouse or on your windowsill. Best just not be in too much of a rush to get them started…one bit of frost and our Cosmos chums will keel over…and you will be all sad…guilty….and be in the shallows of  despair….well…maybe. I sow mine from April (undercover)…outside after 15th May (after the frosts have been chased off to Scotland)

'Purity'...another arty shot...this time by yours truly.
‘Purity’…another arty shot…this time by yours truly.

*Prepare the bed you are going to grow them into…make sure it gets lots and lots of sun and is weed free. Add some home made compost if you have some but not manure which will be too rich.

*I thin my seedlings to a foot apart…many other flower folk sow two feet apart….either way your plants will need staking if your site is exposed.

I hope this of some use.

Kindest regards

Benjamin Higgledy.

Related posts:

Higgledy Flower school #15 Nigella.

Higgledy Flower School #16 Briza.

Higgledy Flower School Introduction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cornflowers.

Thanks for this one Majorie Morrison...this pic demonstrates what an intense colour cornflowers can have.
Thanks for this one Majorie Morrison…this pic demonstrates what an intense colour cornflowers can have.

Higgledy Flower School 2016. #17. Cornflowers.

Emma Abrew's cornflower meadow...I bet the bees were having kittens......well...you know what I mean...
Emma Abrew’s cornflower meadow…I bet the bees were having kittens……well…you know what I mean…

I asked some friendly folk from the Higgledy community on Facebook if they would share some of their Cornflower photos from the summer. Many thanks to those that did…I have posted most of them up here.

Elaine Smitheman grew these flowers for her daughter's wedding...how cool is that! ...Some Cornflowers among them...lovely!
Elaine Smitheman grew these flowers for her daughter’s wedding…how cool is that! …Some Cornflowers among them…lovely!

Cornflowers were made for the cutting patch…beautiful, prolific and easy peasy lemon squeesy to grow from seed.

Pearl Button photographed this delightful lot that were loitering in a council sown verge. Well done all...proper 'ansome.
Pearl Button photographed this delightful lot that were loitering in a council sown verge. Well done all…proper ‘ansome.

Cornflowers are hardy annuals and as such can be sown in either Autumn, for an earlier show in spring…with much larger plants…and also in the spring, for flowers from June. I sow during both of those periods. Autumn sown cornflowers can easily get to shoulder height by late May with a good warm spring.

Top Tips:

Mark Harrison grew this 'Classic Romantic' beauty..one of the three variety of Cornflowers that I stock in the shop.
Mark Harrison grew this ‘Classic Romantic’ beauty..one of the three variety of Cornflowers that I stock in the shop.

*You can sow in Autumn (I sow in September) and also in the spring…I don’t make a sowing until the soil warms up in April, but many folk sow in March and have good results. The seedlings can take a light frost so don’t worry yourselves on that front.

Faye Lane has managed to grow some mauve ones...well...I think they're mauve...I'm not totally sure what mauve is being that I have a limited 'bloke spectrum'.
Faye Lane has managed to grow some mauve ones…well…I think they’re mauve…I’m not totally sure what mauve is being that I have a limited ‘bloke spectrum’.

*It is super important to ensure that your cornflower bed is weed free before you sow…and make sure the bed gets lashings of lovely sunshine too.

More wedding flowers...this time grown by Julia Bliss...I've never seen that roses and cornflowers combo before...top banana!
More wedding flowers…this time grown by Julia Bliss…I’ve never seen that roses and cornflowers combo before…top banana!

*Cornflowers are happy in a poor soil and a free draining, poor soil is their Holy Grail.

Louise Hatfield has gone for all three varieties in this bed...that's what we like! Yeah!
Louise Hatfield has gone for all three varieties in this bed…that’s what we like! Yeah!

*I sow my seeds in straight drills about a foot apart.

Amanda Jarrett's cosy little patch...looking very warm and sheltered. Perfect.
Amanda Jarrett’s cosy little patch…looking very warm and sheltered. Perfect.

*Autumn sown cornflowers can get HUGE…so support can be a good idea….I lost hundreds of plants in a storm a few seasons ago.

Clearly an abundance of the critters in Penny Dommet's patch. I think I spy some Malope in the back there too.
Clearly an abundance of the critters in Penny Dommet’s patch. I think I spy some Malope in the back there too.

*Thin out your plants when they are a couple of inches tall to a spacing of about foot apart…perhaps a little less.

Good ole Mandy Wright causing some floral chaos with this mixed bunch...something for everyone in this lot. :)
Good ole Mandy Wright causing some floral chaos with this mixed bunch…something for everyone in this lot. 🙂

*Seedlings will happily transplant but best done when they are smaller than your thumb. (It’s my rule of thumb)

Thank you to Jan Bingley for this. You can see how the older blooms start to go pale. Cornflowers are best harvested just as they are starting to open. Don't forget you can dry them if you have too many.
Thank you to Jan Bingley for this. You can see how the older blooms start to go pale. Cornflowers are best harvested just as they are starting to open. Don’t forget you can dry them if you have too many.

*Cornflower Trivia: In the ye olden days way back yonder…young men in love would wear blue Cornflowers in their lapels…if the flowers faded then it was seen as a sign that their love would fade also…(In my experience they always fade!)

These were grown by Sally Geragharty...loving the Cosmos 'Purity' next door too...these flowers are wonderful together and both are simple to grow.
These were grown by Sally Geraghaty…loving the Cosmos ‘Purity’ next door too…these flowers are wonderful together and both are simple to grow.

*In some parts of Russia…the blue dye is extracted from cornflowers and used to dye Vodka blue.

Sharon Murphy has her bees well trained. Good show.
Sharon Murphy has her bees well trained. Good show.

Link To: The Higgledy Seed Shop.

What a handome bunch...grown by the good folk of 'Natural Favours' to be turned into confetti.
What a handsome bunch…grown by the good folk of ‘Natural Favours’ to be turned into confetti.

I hope this has been of some use to you if you haven’t grown cornflowers before…give them a go…you’ll love em!

Helen Bond's flowers....reliable as ever......roll on spring.
Helen Bond’s flowers….reliable as ever……roll on spring.
Last of all...a lovely silhouette...big thanks to Aurore Whitworth for this.
Last of all…a lovely silhouette…big thanks to Aurore Whitworth for this.

Kindest regards

Benjamin Higgledy

...oops...I nearly missed out this bucket of love from Annie Jenkins. This were her first harvest of least season.
…oops…I nearly missed out this bucket of love from Annie Jenkins. This was her first harvest of last season.

 

 

 

Raif Badawi.

RaifBadawi

For just £1 I will add a packet of seeds that I think will compliment your selection. At the end of every month I will send the full total raised (with no costs deducted) to Amnesty International. Amnesty International spearhead the campaign for the release of fellow blogger Raif Badawi who is being held and tortured by the Saudi government for promoting free speech and for being in open opposition of the Saudi air strikes on Yemen. In this small way, Higgledy Garden is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Raif.

Kind regards

Benjamin Higgledy

 

Briza Grass. Greater Quaking Grass.

Beautiful Briza grass as photographed by @carolinereading. Briza is a very useful chap in the cutting garden...and one I have found very hard to photograph myself...so if Caroline allows I shall steal this image from time to time. #PrettyPlease
Beautiful Briza grass as grown & photographed by @carolinereading. Top banana!

Higgledy Flower School 2016. #16. Briza Grass. Greater Quaking Grass.

In the future I will stock more grasses…Briza Grass has proved itself to be uber useful in the vase…it lends a relaxed country vibe to proceedings….and makes everything go all ‘Homes And Gardens’.

“Quaking Grass (Briza maxima) – If you like adding ornamental grasses to your fresh and dried arrangements, you will want to start Quaking Grass seeds. This ornamental grass is an easy to grow perennial that forms dense clumps and bears graceful, nodding, oval-shaped seed heads. They emerge an iridescent green from April through June and turn golden with maturity and look like little fairy lanterns or the end of rattlesnake tails. The seed heads shiver and become almost animated when touched by summer breezes. Quaking Grass Briza maxima is drought tolerant and requires little maintenance.” OutsidePride.com USA

briza-grass

How To Grow Briza Grass From Seed.

*Being Hardy Briza Grass can be sown in both spring and autumn.

*The general consensus is that direct sowing provides the strongest plants but I find sowing them in pots works just fine…and the seedlings have a simple charm that I love. I always have a tray of seedlings around for a few weeks in spring…they are good company for when the dog isn’t talking to me.

briza

*One can plant (or thin) the seedlings a little closer together than you may have thought…a hand span is fine, I tend to make a staggered line. This year I have grown some alongside my sweet peas…no…I’m probably not going to win any awards for that but I suspect it will have a certain twinkle.

*They don’t like having soggy roots…and who can blame them…so plant them in free draining soil.

I sell the lovely Briza Maxima at £1.95 for 200ish seeds.

Happy Briza-ing!

Best wishes

Higgers

If you have any questions then please ask away…you can find me on Twitter or Facebook.Should you wish you can join ‘Club Higgledy’ (see the right hand side bar).

 

 

Nigella. Love in a mist. Lust in the dust.

 

 

Nigella photographed by the talented Fiori Della Vita…(blog)
Nigella photographed by the talented Fiori Della Vita…(blog)

 

Higgledy Flower School 2016. #15. Nigella.

Nigella must be loudly applauded as they  manage to pull off a horticultural triple whammy. They have handsome and tactile foliage, ferny and deep green…atop of this they dispay what can only be some of the most beautiful flowers in all of Flowerville….then later in the season these flowers become quirky, horned seedpods which have a touch of the 1960’s gothic about them….BRAVO!

Growing Nigella from seed is a  pretty straight  forward affair which can be attempted by even the most lackadaisical and laissez faire among us. The flower is a wonderful addition to the cutting patch or indeed a cottage style planting plan. Nigella just shouts ‘old school’. I first remember it as a child growing in the grounds of Great Uncle Finkle-Higgledy’s estate….he was always moaning that is was being flattened by the house cheetah. It was Finkle-Higgledy who put me on the right path to growing Nigella from seed. Here follows his method:

Nigella-Miss-Jekyll-1024x680

*Although it is quite possible to start Nigella off in pots in March/April and plant them out after the frosts. Uncle Fink used to prefer direct sowing into the soil in April. As Nigella has a relatively short flowering time before it turns the flowers into outrageous, horned seed pods…Finky would sow another batch in early May…also as they are hardy he would sow again in September to have early flowers the following year. NB This was all in his cutting patch…other nigella in the estate would just simply self seed…but after a few years they would all seem to revert to a pale blue…very pretty though.

*The Finkster employed the three row method that we use today at the Higgledy Garden.

*Don’t try to transplant Nigella seedlings that you have direct sown…they don’t seem to take…just eliminate the extra seedlings. The plants can grow closer together than most annuals at 6-8 inches apart. I still leave a foot between rows however…keeps things neat and shipshape.

Nigella seed pods
Nigella seed pods as grown by the delightful Alison Leevey.

*Your soil needs to be free draining…if her feet are kept wet she will sulk…she may even sulk herself to death…..such a drama queen. Keep in mind that Nigella is native to the Med.

*Finkypops alsways sowed his Nigella in a Sunny spot.

*Try not to cut all the flowers…leave some to turn into seed pods…they are amazing…obviously you need to leave them if you want the plant to self seed.

Lovely and simple little combo from @bessybrad (Twitter). Nigella and Hesperis.
Lovely and simple little combo from @bessybrad (Twitter). Nigella and Hesperis.

*Nigella seem  to love gravel drives…always worth just casting some seed down and seeing if it takes…if you want flowers in your drive that is…and…er…if you have a gravel drive…if the answer to both questions is ‘no’…then let’s move on. (Finkmeister had eight gravel drives.)

“Nigella damascena, commonly known as love-in-a-mist, is a short-lived annual flowering plant that can be grown as filler between perennials and longer-blooming annuals in container gardens, rock gardens or flowering landscapes. Love-in-a-mist plants bloom with showy bluish-violet, white or rosy-pink flowers and feather-like, vibrant green leaves. Plants grow to heights of 12 to 18 inches, with a spread of 6 to 8 inches. Requiring minimal maintenance, Nigella damascena adapts to a variety of soil conditions and is relatively easy to grow nearly anywhere.” Homeguides.com (couldn’t have put it better myself)

Nigella Persian Jewels
Nigella ‘Persian Jewels’..grown by yours truly…these ones look like they’re just going over.

I grow ‘Dark Blue’, ‘Light Blue’ & the marvellous ‘Persian Jewels’…all are very charming and of course can be found in The Higgledy Garden Seed Shop.

‘Persian Jewel’ play a gripping role in my ‘Bee Friendly‘ seed collection.

Kind regards

Benjamin Higgledy

Other fine delights in this series:

*Tithonia rotundifolia #11

*Hesperis matronalis #10

*Calendula officinalis #9

*Larkspur #8

*Perennial Flowers #7

*Biennial Flowers #6

*Half Hardy Annual Flowers #5

*Hardy Annual Flowers #4

*What Flowers To Grow In The Cutting Garden #3

*Preparing Cut Flower Beds #2