Annual flowers are easy to grow, even for the complete novice…they are as cheap as chips…(literally) and will add beautiful colour to your garden or vase. They also tend to be much more productive than perennials…with perennials you may get two flushes of flowers but with many annuals they will keep on producing flowers all summer. Their only goal in life is to set seed…to do this they must flower first and have some hot pollinating action from those saucy chaps the bees.
Another great advantage for sowing annuals in your cut flower patch is that you can have different types of flower every year…to my mind this is one of the great joys of cut flower gardening, it is in constant flux…change is GOOD!
A simple definition of an annual flower is a plant who’s life cycle all fits into one year…it will germinate…flower…set seed….and then keel over….and who can blame it for that.
Often you will find annual seedlings available in garden centres…I tend to avoid these….for a start they have been grown in hot houses and massively pampered….put them straight out into your garden and they will become stunted…this will make you miserable…you may start having black thoughts and writing poetry about crows. But also they are expensive to buy that way…and packet of seeds will cost you less than £2 and usually just £1 when you buy in a collection of the kind you will find in the best flower seed shop known to modern man.
For simplicities sake I split up my annual seeds into two camps….hardy and half hardy….hardy seeds can take a frost…half hardy ones can’t. For most of the UK the last expected frost date is May 15th….later up in bonnie Scotland….earlier here in sunny Cornwall. So if you are growing half hardy annuals (sometimes called tender annuals) then either sow them in containers in the greenhouse or windowsill or sow outside AFTER the frosts have gone. I generally sow my half hardy annuals in module seed trays on around the 1st April and plant out after frosts. I know many commercial flowers who sow ALL their annuals in modules and don’t sow anything at all directly in the ground. (I do a bit of both….I like pottering about looking busy)
Five Top Tips For Getting Started With Annuals:
*DON’T SOW TOO EARLY!!! By far and away the biggest reason for failing to get your seeds germinating is because you sowed them too early. Don’t be fooled by a few sunny days in early March when the lambs are boinging about and the birds are getting all chirpy and frisky. The ground takes a long time to warm up….most seed packets you buy will say you can sow in March….really…don’t bother…the chances are your seeds will rot in cold wet soil…and anyway I can PROMISE you that later sown seeds will soon catch up with any early sown ones that manage to germinate. Look for weeds growing…if our native weeds aren’t germinating then your flash annuals (most native to the Med) won’t have a chance. Lastly…what is the rush….you want flowers all season, I sowed a bed up at the beginning of June and they all flowered nicely at the end of August.
*Sow in straight rows. If you are sowing outside (Read my Preparing Flower Beds masterpiece) By sowing in straight rows it is easy to see what is a weed and what is not….make three rows about a foot apart…..simples.
*Keep the seed beds moist when they are wriggling around trying to germinate….this is actually really easy as in April we generally get lovely showers of warm spring rain. Don’t saturate your beds either….that is naughty and is to be avoided.
*Keep weeds at bay…they are your nemesis…they will steal light, food and water from your flowers. Having said that…weeds are ace in other parts of the garden as our native plants are of course wildlife friendly….being that they…well…ARE wildlife.
*Keep cutting your flowers…if you leave them to ‘go over’ they will send a chemical message to the mother ship that it is time to set seed…this will prevent them from flowering further and it will be ‘game over’.
The secret sixth top tip is to buy good quality seed stock from someone who dedicates his whole being to making you happy in this regard and who is on hand at all times to answer your questions and genuinely wants your cut flower patch adventure to be a fulfilling one. (That’s me that is)
If you have time please pootle over to the Higgledy Seed Shop…just a tenner can see you right with with a simple cut flower patch and there is free shipping when you spend a tenner too…….oh I make it too easy for you….