SOW SOME ANNUALS
Hardy annuals grown from seed is one of the best ways to bring in summer colour to the new garden where newly planted landscape plants have still to grow so there is plenty of empty space. Established gardens often have an area dedicated to annuals as there are so many attractive plants that can be grown quickly and cheaply from seed.
Annuals do not need rich soil and may flower better if the ground is quite poor, though to get good germination and establishment it is worthwhile ensuring the soil surface is well prepared and broken down to produce a good tilth. Do not use any fertiliser otherwise you may get lush growth at the expense of flowers. They will flower best in full sun on well drained soil even if it is a bit dry so long as they have enough moisture to get them established.
Sowing and planting
Seed sowing can be started at the end of March to mid April direct onto the ground where they are to grow. If you only have a small patch of ground then just broadcast the seeds lightly and rake them in. However if your border is a fair size and you are growing a range of annuals it may be better to mark out drifts with sand then sow each type in rows in its own patch. When these grow to a few inches they can be thinned and transplanted to where ever they are needed. This method also makes weeding a lot easier. It gives a more natural appearance when planting up drifts if the different plant types overlap. Some types such as Livingston daisies and Osteospermums can be sown in plug trays and grown on for a few weeks before planting out. They will need to be kept well watered until they get growing.
My favourite selection
They can all be grown from seed, as well as plug plants from garden centres if you want to try out something new, or to gap up if seed has given a poor germination.
Top of my list has always been the Shirley poppies as they are very easy to grow, very colourful and often find themselves the subject of a painting. Californian poppies and Poppy Ladybird are also firm favourites. The best fully double pink poppy is varieties of the opium poppy Papaver somniferum which arrived as a stray weed in my garden but put on such a fantastic show that I saved seed for future years. The Iceland poppy is treated like a biennial sown at the end of summer then overwintered to flower the following year from early summer onwards.
Godetia, Livingston daisies, osteospermums and candytuft are very showy at the front of borders and clarkia, cosmos, cornflower, larkspur and amaranthus better at the back.
If you have young kids around grow some statice or helichrysum (everlasting flowers) at the front as they love to feel the rustling flower petals.
Calendula and nasturtiums are easy and give a great show, but keep them dead headed as if left unattended they can become very invasive in the following years as the seed remains viable for years and germinates readily.
Wee jobs to do this week
Once shoots begin to grow on outdoor hardy fuchsias they can be lightly pruned to remove any shoots that have died back, or others that are a bit straggly.
Check growth on the variegated Elaeagnus and remove any shoots that have reverted back to pure green as these will take over the bush if not removed.
Early varieties of potatoes can be planted as long as the soil has had a chance to warm up.
Pinch out the tops of young sweet pea plants once they have made two to three leaves, as it helps branching, but for cordon training select the strongest shoot once they all grow.