Biennial Flowers.


Higgledy Flower School 2016. #6. Biennial Flowers.

Many Biennials are flowers that our Grandparents would have known well…but that lost favour over the last couple of decades, victims of an ever increasing clamour for instant gratification. Foxgloves, Sweet Williams and Honesty were exchanged for petrol station Gerberas. Wallflowers, Icelandic Poppies & Hesperis were paved over, their  place taken by over made up supermarket bunches that loiter in the foyer like cheap hotel tarts.

What are Biennial flowers?

Biennial flowers are sown in the early summer, usually June, during the rest of the year they will produce small amounts of top growth whilst the roots get busy doing what roots do best…the following early spring the plant will rocket forth and will be flowering weeks before your annual flowers have got into their groove.
Now…there are many amongst us who think that waiting nearly nearly a year for flowers is just too long…whilst on the face of it this is an understandable view point, it is nonetheless the wrong view point and it should be rectified. In the Higgledy Garden I grow everything from seed…I don’t grow flowers from bulbs…it’s just not my bag. However, I still want a long flower season…my annuals will flower their socks off until the first frosts of November…(I generally stop harvesting flowers on Halloween and leave the plants to go to seed for the finches)…BUT even my Autumn sown annuals won’t start dancing at the flowery disco until late June, this is where my good old chums the Biennials come into their own as they will get working on producing flowers in May.
If you have limited space then a widely used system is to sow your biennials in pots in June and then plant them out in September into a bed that has recently been cleared of exhausted annuals. Simples!

Which Biennials Are Best For The Cutting Patch?

Foxys and Hesperis.
Foxys and Hesperis.

*Honesty (Common name) or Lunaria (so named because it’s pale seed pod discs resemble the moon). Honesty flowers make great cut flowers…they last well over a week in the vase and they offer a good dollop of colour when everything is still looking a little drab. They will happily self seed for you too…or collect the seed pods yourself and sow in pots. This way you can plant them out in late summer exactly where you want them…which is one in the eye for chaos theory.

sweet william auricula-eyed
sweet william Auricula-eyed

*Sweet William. Sweet Williams just rock! That’s all there is to it. They smell amazing…look amazing and are all round good eggs. Like all biennials they are a piece of cake to grow from seed. ‘Auricula Eyed’ are a firm and classic favourite. ‘Alba’ and ‘Nigricans’ are regularly used in contemporary floristry….tres a la mode.

Foxgloves are good for your mental health.
Foxgloves are good for your mental health. #Fact!

*Foxgloves. Once again a white foxglove ‘Alba‘ is a pretty essential bit of kit for the home florist…don’t be without it. I also grow ‘Excelsior’ which is very old school…beautiful tall spires with flowers from creamy pink to purple with speckled throats…new to my stock is ‘Apricot’ and it’s proving very popular with the Higgledy regular customers.

Click for ‘Foxglove growing guide’.

Hesperis...action shot from above...
Hesperis…action shot from above…

*Hesperis. So named after the nymphs who wiggled around the tree of life…Goddesses of the evening…and our dear old Hesperis flower releases her scent in the evening. I love this flower…one of my favourites of all the flowers I have ever grown. Simple…pretty…easy to grow…reliable…sturdy…super sexy.

Sweet William ‘Fire King’

*Wallflower. No biennial bed would be complete without Wallflowers…next season I am stocking ‘Fire king’…this hot rusty orange beastie  will great the senses like an old friend.

Starting biennials from seed is a very straight forward affair…I sow (as always) into 3 inch square pots…your seed trays do not need to be kept in the greenhouse…it will be too hot….I just leave mine somewhere outside and out of the way. Foxglove seeds need to be sown on the surface as they need light to germinate….and that’s about it….oh…plant them out before the September equinox…usually about the 22nd September. Alternatively sow directly into the ground in exactly the same way you would hardy annuals…but in June…not April.

My biennials collection  contains ALL the above and has a 20% discount and free shipping……good old me. 😉

Kindest regards

Benjamin Higgledy.

Related scribbles:

*Half Hardy Annual Flowers

*What Flowers To Grow In The Cutting Garden

*Preparing Cut Flower Beds