I’ve always loved the seasons, I love the rhythm of the passing of time and watching the garden and the world around me change through the year. I think we as gardeners are particularly good at embracing this. Although sometimes I think we are guilty of thinking too far ahead in the garden and not always enjoying it in that moment. Forever planning ahead but not savouring the beauty of the garden right now. As I get older time seems to pass so fast that I actively try not to wish time away and just enjoy each day at a time.
So I do try and embrace the seasons, even winter, but this year the weather is really pushing it!! Rain, rain and more rain. Enough now! Where are the cold crips days when you can get completely wrapped up like the Michelin Man and go for a invigorating walk. I don’t particularly like the dark nights but I do like pulling the curtains across as the night draws in and just getting cosy. The problem is we tend to just get more cold, wet, grey days in winter now but sometimes I just enjoy the fact that its too wet and cold to garden. I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m not out there doing something useful, I can just relax. My job at Bluebell quietens off for a bit and so I have more days at home which is lovely. Life can get a bit frantic in the spring, work ramps up at Bluebell and Higgledy, I’m busy in my own garden sowing seeds, potting on, planting, moving plants and weeding, so I’ve come to the realisation that I need this time to slow down, get my breath back, enjoy things other than gardening, do some other crafts, read books, go for walks and perversely I love running in the winter. I much prefer a cool crisp morning run than running in the summer when I get way to hot, I even love running in the rain. But I also have time to think about the garden for the year ahead. My garden is still very new and I’m still tweaking lots of the perennial beds moving things around and I can have a bit of time to think about what needs moving and what can be split and plan ahead. I love doing this.I also like planning my cutting garden for the following year.
So I am thinking ahead to seed sowing in the New Year and its as well to be prepared, get your orders in early. Enjoy browing through the catalogues or online. If you are anything like me you will keep adding seeds to your basket and then when you come to review your order you will shriek with horror at the cost and then go through and edit it again but then just decide that well if this is my addiction there are worse things and order them anyway! But a bit of planning is good too, have you really got room for 10 varieties of Cosmos! Think about what space you have and what has done well for you previously but its also good to try new things too.
One of the first things that I sow in the New Year is Cobaea scandens or the cup and saucer vine. This is a beautiful quite large cup shaped flower that starts a pale lilac and then gets a dark purple or you can have the white form which has a green tinge to it.
Now there is no getting away from it they can be tricky! They need a good long growing season (they need to have grown at least 2 metres before they will flower according to Sarah Raven) and as such need plenty of room! They are vulnerable to frosts, they are very vigorous and so need a good sturdy support and they need a good sunny spot to really flower well. They are the divas of the flower world but they are well worth a try and if they like a spot then you will be rewarded by beautiful exotic blooms throughout autumn when many other annuals are slowing down.
It pays to sow them early, I sowed mine in mid-february last year into modules or straight into 9cm pots if you have the room, they are nice big flat disc like seeds so I sow them on their sides.
My greenhouse is unheated so I have to put them on my windowsill to give them a bit of warmth for germination. I potted them on into 9cm pots at the beginning of March. Then there is a bit of juggling around as I move them into the greenhouse in the day and inside again at night till the weather gets a bit warmer in April.
They don’t want to be planted out till after the last frosts as they can get caught by a late frost so you may even need to pot them on again, I potted mine on again into 11cm pots and at this stage, if not before, they will need some support in the pot, like a mini wigwam of canes. They were finally planted in the garden on the 7th May. I planted it on the walls of my old chicken run, which is covered in chicken wire. I interspersed the plants with some sweet peas which grew quickly and flowered through the summer in the meantime the Cobaea was sending out its vigorous shoots. I pinched it out a bit and moved some of the stems to spread them out a bit but they didn’t need any tying in. I planted 5 plants and that was plenty and it soon got going. The sweet peas were flagging a bit by the end of July so these were pulled out and this gave free reign to the Cobaea and they continued spreading. They are incredibly vigorous and need lots of space.
The incredible buds started forming in mid August and the first flowers burst forth in the first week of September, they then flowered until the end of November until we had a really hard frost and then they were stopped in their tracks.
I had a natural pest control for the Cobaea, I frequently saw a little wren flitting around the vines obviously nibbling away at any little insects that were around the plant. That was a joy to see.
If you live in the south of England or grow it in a really warm spot you may get seed pods forming but I’ve never managed it.
They are not super long lasting in a vase probably only 4-5 days, pick just as the flower starts to open, but they add a bit of drama to a bouquet.
They also have very sappy stems and can sometimes flop once picked so best to sear the stems in boiling water for 10 seconds. Its also nice to use some of the vines as part of the bouquet to add a whispy effect.
They were still flowering beautifully at the end of November (this was taken on the 24th Nov) but then we hard frost the week later and they are now a mush but they were beautiful while they lasted!
Are you going to give Cobaea a try this year?