APRIL 2014 – Annuals/Peter Jackson

Now is the time to think about choosing annuals for summer displays but is it safe to plant half-hardy annuals just yet? As I write these words I remember hailstones in June a few years ago so let’s be wise and assume that by mid-June we can go ahead. So you still have time to visit your favourite garden centre or nursery and select some plug plants but keep them in a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame for a few weeks. That was one of the pearls of wisdom received at the Club’s last meeting from our very experienced speaker, Peter Jackson from Scotsdales.

Although we can purchase plug plants galore from garden centres Peter encouraged us to think about sowing seeds of half-hardy plants. You will be pleasantly surprised at the wide range of seeds available in seed catalogues and it is not too late to order them. It is much cheaper to buy packets of seed and they will last for a few years. Only sow as many seeds as you want flowers with just a few more for luck, then store the remainder in a paper packet/envelope, sellotape the top, place in an airtight container such as a tupperware box and keep until next year. Do involve children so that they can begin to enjoy the pleasure of watching seeds grow into plants.

Read the packet carefully to ensure that you sow your seeds at the right time – either in pots or directly in the ground and don’t forget to water them. Plants in compost in pots will benefit from regular feeding after 5 or 6 weeks.

The choice of annuals is boundless – here are some of Peter’s favourites. Larkspur, asters and antirrhinum for your vases, night scented stock and sweet peas for perfume, coleus for foliage. Don’t forget the old faithfuls of the past – candytuft, calendula, poppies, dahlia, viola, godetia. Fill the gaps between your climbing shrubs with morning glory or canary creeper. For maximum affect, grow your annuals in swathes in borders or try three or four plants in a large 15” pot – nigella looks lovely when grown in this way. Try using small plastic pots inserted in your larger pot so that you can replace them with new plants as the season progresses.

Peter’s talk was accompanied by beautiful photographs which inspired us all.

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