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Archive for the ‘Biennials’ Category

I love Allium time of year. Daffodils and tulips, having riotously heralded spring, are nearly over, and now these purple explosions are starting to take centre stage. This is Allium ‘Purple Rain’ which is a glorious cross between A. cristophii and A. ‘Purple Sensation’. It’s a bit wilder than Purple Sensation, but it still has relatively well behaved leaves that won’t clobber everything around them. It’s supposed to flower in June, but along with everything else this year, it’s starting to open much earlier. Have a look at Avon Bulbs for more exciting bulbs to experiment with come autumn. Alliums feature in this week’s Podcast. We’re talking flowers here. Bulbs, annuals, biennials and perennials. When designing or rejuvenating a garden, our goals is always to create successional planting so that there are ever changing scents, blooms and foliage throughout the seasons. Smaller urban gardens demand extra creativity to keep on supplying year-round interest, and bulbs are great for adding highlights into beds and pots throughout the year.

Here’s a marvellous, statuesque bulb that I grew for the first time this year. Fritillaria Persica with gorgeous tall spires of muted, silvery-purple dangling flowers and handsome glaucous foliage (which acts a s a perfect foil to the blooms).  I grew a few together in a large pot (the bulbs are huge!), and they contrasted beautifully with daffodils growing in other pots nearby. A real stunner to act as a focal point in any part of the garden.

Annuals are another great way to add delightful splashes of colour to a border or to fill in gaps before perennial plants grow into the space. They grow, flower, set seed and die, all in one year. Above is one of my faves, the Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica). You can start off seeds in April, under cover, to flower that year or in August/September for flowering the following summer. Along with many annuals, this is a great self-seeder, so although the plant only lasts for one season, it will pop up in profusion year after year unless you weed it out!

Sweet peas have to be the scent of summer. A few of these beautiful blooms will fill any room with a glorious perfume. Definitely aroma therapy all in one flower. Again, these are hardy annuals, so can be started off under cover in autumn or under cover in early spring.

And I couldn’t talk about annual flowers without mentioning nasturtiums. Both the vibrant blooms (in reds, yellows and oranges) and leaves are edible with a great peppery bite, and again, once planted, they’ll pop up for years to come. Have a look at Chiltern Seeds for loads of different varieties to try, including “Blue Pepe’ bred especially for its tasty leaves alone!

Honesty (lunaria annua) is a wonderful plant for lighting up a woodland corner, or for adding Spring interest to a tree pit (as above). It’s a lovely biennial (supplies leafy growth in year 1, then flowers, sets seed and dies in year 2) which comes in white or a variety of pinks and then produces wonderful seed pods. Above is the early stage of seed pod production. The pods continue to ripen, forming a papery outer layer. Once this is gently prized off, a thin, magical, translucent, mother-of-pearl layer remains, with the seeds attached. Collect the seeds and sprinkle to flower in following years, and you are left with gorgeous, airy seed heads, much admired by flower arrangers. Once more, Chiltern Seeds have some great varieties to sow for the future. Plant now and they will flower next year!

Other biennials include foxgloves (Digitalis), although above are both biennial and perennial foxgloves combined. Biennial foxgloves are the taller blooms above, and will form a spectacular displays in their second year of growth, then produce an amazing amount of seed, before dying off.

And above is the dusky pink perennial Digitals mertonensis with gorgeous wide blooms. This is a short-lived perennial that return for a few years before fading away.

And the same could be said of hollyhocks. But they are so darn good at self seeding (and cross pollinating!), that once you’ve grown a plant or two, you’ll never have to sow a seed again.

And then more perennials, that come back year after year. Blimey, the world is your oyster. Wether you like planting tasteful whites and blues together  or a creating riot of colour, you can spend a whole lifetime honing your choices of what to plant where, and developing luscious plant combinations. Above are some Agapanthus with Geranium Rozanne.

How about the lovely wild mix of floaty fennel and flappy Inula, seen here at the most marvellous gardens at Bryan’s Ground near Hay-on-Wye.

Or the all-singing all-dancing borders at Great Dixter in E.Sussex. Sadly we can’t visit at the moment, but many gardens have superb nurseries that are still operating mail order service, so you can continue to experiment at home. Some of my favourites for great quality uk bred plants are  Great DixterBeth Chatto , Ballyrobert Gardens, Hardys Cottage Garden Plants and Claire Austin Plants

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