Gardening With Shirley Lanigan

Plan ahead for annual flowers

Shirley Lanigan

Reporter:

Shirley Lanigan

Email:

shirleylanigan@eircom.net

Plan ahead for annual flowers

Aspirational gardeners watch the Chelsea Flower Show or go to Bloom and decide they want something special for their own garden

It is here, early March – when many are still looking out the window, thinking about maybe getting stuck into a bit of gardening sometime soon – probably after St Patrick’s Day.

Our national holiday in March is the day when, historically, the horticultural gears ramp up for semi-detached gardeners.

Meanwhile, the Serious Ones have been toiling away at the coalface since – whenever. They actually never stopped. For these people, the work does not cease. It simply morphs into different sorts of work.

So while the more leisured gardeners consider the lily, the worker bees are busy planning on what variety of lily they will have planted and planning on how to battle with the coming scourge of lily beetle.

This is the time when anyone with a glasshouse and a penchant for summer annuals is buying seed and sowing it for the coming summer colour show.

Lots of us will wait and buy our old favourites from the garden centre next May. The garden centres, for their part, do a decent range of species and colours in well-priced trays of plugs and little plants for a summer bedding and annuals display.

Lots of us are happy with the trays of mixed colours that annuals often come in. But if your front door is raspberry pink and you want to be guaranteed raspberry pink cosmos or aubergine cornflowers to compliment the door, wouldn’t it be nice to have somewhere that you could go to order these particular shades and varieties?

There are also some gardeners who are a little more aspirational. They watch the Chelsea Flower Show every year and go to Bloom and want something special for their own garden.

They would like to plant something a bit more stand-out – but they either have no greenhouse, or have no time to start everything off from seed.

Sowing your own seed is time consuming. You have to source the desired seed – and if it is an unusual seed, it might not be available in the first or second or even third garden centre. The desired seed acquired, you sow them in trays, at the right depth, and in the correct conditions for the required germination period.

Remember that these can vary widely with different species. When they grow, they then need to be pricked out and planted on in individual pots, once and maybe twice before they are ready to go out to the garden.

The business of when to put them out in the garden is another factor. Often, it can be late May by the time the weather is completely safe for your precious tender annuals to be planted out.

Finding space for them in the greenhouse or on your sunny window sills, as they spread and sprawl and get big, can be a nightmare. So, taking care of all of those different elements, is for many, time consuming and fiddly. Yet, even if you are short on time and indoor space, you might still like to grow the fancier annuals.

The answer in Kilkenny is Bespoke Bedding, set up recently by gardening whiz Patrick Lydon in Callan.

Patrick is in the middle of sowing all sorts of lesser-spotted annuals, more unusual little annual treats with which to fill those window boxes, planters and hanging baskets.

He will sow, pot on, shelter and grow on the plants, bringing them to a point at which they can be planted out. All the home gardeners needs to do is order the plants wanted in advance.

If you act now you can order something specific, either from his long list of annuals, and possibly even some things that are not already on it.

The commercial garden centres have so many different plants to fit in, they cannot offer the really specialised varieties of annual.
So you might like Orlaya grandiflora, or Anchusa ‘Blue Angel’ or Escholtzia ‘Pink Champagne’ in your flower border or in your big containers. These are not likely to be found in the garden centre.

Other harder to source annuals include airy Queen Anne’s lace and red orach, which is a very useful red foliar plant.

Cornflowers can be ordered in a range of colours, as can cosmos.

You can even specify the sort of sun flower you might like, maybe a rusty shade or a particularly tall gold, a single or branched variety.

I like the idea of being able to stipulate the colour or larkspur or flax, nasturtium or chrysanthemum. There are so many different nicotianas to think about, some taller and some more compact, in a range of colours.

It is good to be able to order the exact sort that will suit your needs. Annual poppies are another great old fashioned favourite that can be ordered in different shades. Nigella too, comes in dark blues, pale blues, pinks and silvers.

You can order the varieties and quantities you want and need and collect them when the last frosts have passed.

Contact Patrick, tel 087-7972717 or email p.livingandgrowing@gmail.com