Guilt-free pick-and-mix

If you want a bit of child-like glee in your life, grow a few annual flowers from seed.  They germinate and bulk up quickly, and will give you a wild profusion of flowers within a matter of weeks: a March sowing will be flowering from June, and will carry on until the first frosts.  These annuals all attract beneficial insects, which will in turn increase the wildlife in your garden.

I mix up my annuals, so I never grow the same combination twice.  This makes you appreciate the right-now of your garden: you will never see it looking like this again.  This year I’m going for a ‘Mint Julep’ colour scheme with splashes of strawberry and blackcurrant.  I seem to be having a cocktaily sort of year.  It all adds to the joy of gardening if you come up with a silly name for your colour scheme.  You only need to say it in your head, never out loud.

Cosmos are the easiest of all annuals.  I love ‘Dazzler’ (magenta pink), ‘Purity’ (white), ‘Double-click Cranberries’ (raspberry-pink with a silvery reverse) and ‘Xanthos’ (buttermilk).

Zinnias (youth-and-age) are good fun, with lollipops of lime-green, pink, tangerine and plum.  The flower form is a little bit bonkers with tiny yellow flowerlets resting on the larger flower.  There are a few coiled pistils and petals thrown in, along with contrasting psychedelic colours.  I’ve chosen ‘Cupid Mixture’ (the amazing purple-gold-magenta-tangerine one below) and ‘Queen Red Lime’ (lime-green flecked with browny-purple – I told you they were bonkers).

Then I’m growing Moluccella laevis (bells-of-Ireland) for the first time, for tall spikes of green.  Also Nicotiana (tobacco plant) for purple trumpets, which will be dripping with evening scent to attract the moths.  And finally, Cephalaria gigantea (scabious), which is actually a short-lived perennial, but I’m going to grow it as an annual, because I’m feeling reckless.

All my seeds came from the marvellous Chiltern Seeds.  They have the widest selection of unusual varieties, and I love them.  Because I can’t sow them just yet (I should wait until March, but it is so difficult to hold off) I get out the packets every now and again and just stroke them a bit.  Anticipation is an essential part of gardening.

Pictured below (Picture credits: Chiltern Seeds, in order, are:

Zinnia elegans ‘Cupid Mixture’ and Moluccella laevis (bells-of-Ireland); Zinnia elegans ‘Queen Red Lime’, Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Xanthos’, Nicotiana ‘Sensation’ and Cephalaria gigantea.


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