Seed Sowing for the Nervous!

Seed Sowing for the Nervous!

Canít do it! Canít do it! I donít believe seeds grow for me!

This post is for those of you who are nervous about sowing seeds.  Inside all of us are two sets of green fingers just waiting to emerge.    Early spring is approaching and now is the time to suck in your breath and give it a go!

Growing your own plants from seed is such a rewarding experience, and is not that difficult.  You just need to know how to get started, and with a little experience you will be amazed at what you can grow.   There is nothing like growing from seed to get to know your plants.  Donít treat them like commodities Ė they are your friends Ė and they will reward you with years of flowers if you treat them right!

Here are some suggestions to overcome your doubts and get sowing with success.

Start easy

Start by sowing the seeds of annual plants.  These plants germinate, flower and die in the same season, and are often the easiest to grow from seed.   Start with something like Nasturtiums, as these large seeds are planted straight into the ground or into containers and grow with very little effort.  Toadflax is another great annual Ė just sow the seeds straight into gaps in your flower beds in spring Ė and they flower all summer right into late autumn.  Annual poppies are also easy.

 Nasturtium Seedlings

Make sure you know the difference between annual and perennial plants and start with the annuals.  Hardy annuals can withstand frost and are sown in autumn or spring.  Half hardy annuals donít like frost and need to be sown in late spring, typically in May, or earlier if you can protect them indoors or in a greenhouse.

Perennials generally germinate and grow in the first season, flower from the second season and live for many years.   They often take more time to grow and need more care to reach flowering size.  Some perennials are also easy to grow from seed and a few flower in the first year if sown in early spring.  Try Coreopsis if you are ready to sow now!

Be clean

It is best to buy some basic seed trays with lids and a small bag of seed or multi-purpose compost in which to sow your seeds.  Bagged compost is sterile, and is free of weed seeds and most pests and diseases.  If you are re-using seed trays, then clean them first.  If you are a Ďdirty gardenerí (and you know if you are!) then clean up your equipment to improve your seed germination success.  Donít be tempted to sow seeds in your own garden compost as you may have trouble separating your sown seed from weed seeds, which can be thugs.

Read instructions

Read the sowing instructions and be sure you are prepared to follow them if you want success.  If you are just starting, then perhaps avoid seeds that take months to germinate or need an environmental trigger to germinate, such as cold weather or fire.  In general, very small seeds are sown on the surface of seed compost and pressed into the compost.  Larger seeds are buried into the compost between 5-10mm deep.  Sow your seeds sparingly as young seedlings grow better with space around them.  Remember to label your seed trays.

Be attentive

Seeds need warmth, water and oxygen to germinate.  Keep seed trays warm and moist but not waterlogged.  Most seeds germinate well at room temperature but check the packet to see if you need a warmer windowsill or a cooler spot.   Some smaller seeds need light to germinate, and the seed packet will let you know not to bury them too deeply in the soil.  Put a lid or clear cover on your seed tray and remove it when the seeds have germinated.  Slugs and snails are very keen consumers of small seedlings Ė keep the seed trays on a bench or protected in some way. Expect to check your seed trays every day!

Be patient

Some seedlings emerge within days of sowing and some take weeks or even months.  The sowing instructions let you know what to expect.  Not all seeds in the same packet emerge at the same time so keep your seed trays going to get the most seeds to germinate.

Be gentle

Plants donít like being handled Ė so hands off!  Seedlings emerge from the soil with either one leaf (such as grasses) or two leaves (most flowering plants).  The first pair of leaves do not always resemble the adult leaves Ė wait until the second pair of true leaves appear, and this is a good time to move the seedlings from the seed tray into small pots.  Handle the seedlings by their leaves to minimize damage, and ease them gently from the soil.  Some seedlings donít like their roots to be disturbed and these plants are best grown in modules or sown directly into the garden.  This is typical of annual poppies.

Just do it

There is nothing like a tray of healthy seedlings to make you feel like a proper gardener.  So just do it!

Lets do it! Lets do it! Do it till the seeds come up!

Created On  16 Jan 2019 18:54  -  Permalink

Set Your New Yearís Resolution for a Garden Revolution!

Set Your New Yearís Resolution for a Garden Revolution!

Do you want a lovely garden but it never quite happens?  Then read on for some tips of how to make that garden dream a reality in 2019.   Learn about how to envision your goals, get stuck-in and grow the plants that thrive in your garden.

Envision your garden.   In your heart, you know what you want from your garden.  Is it the sun-filled patio, the rows of crispy veg, the bees buzzing amid the wildflowers, the chirping of birds or the flow of water?  Put your ideas on paper, invite a garden friend round and talk them through it.  It helps to share your ideas and cement your enthusiasm for the work ahead.  An experienced friend will give you some helpful feedback.

Then, get stuck in.  Now, in winter!  Unless you pay a landscaper and professional gardener to do the work, it will be done by you and anyone else who can be persuaded to help.  Although you have some goals in mind, the process of doing the work is very rewarding.  A garden is made by the time spent throughout the year.  Your garden will benefit from a little every day rather than a marathon in the spring.

Learn how to grow your plants.  If you are the type that buys that expensive plant in flower on an impulse and then Ďfindsí a place in the garden, then consider a change!  Grow your plants from seeds and cuttings.  Then you will know them well, know their pests and diseases and understand how to coax them into flower year after year.  Friends will share seeds and cuttings.  Ditch the plants that do not thrive in your garden or just need more attention that you think is worth it.  Consider growing much more in summer and autumn and the small plants that you nurture at this time become a glorious display the following summer.

Look around your local gardens and markets.  This will tell you what plants grow well in your area and connect you to local growers.  Local growers often supply plants that are adapted to your conditions and they have knowledge you can benefit from.  For example, in Cornwall, attend the Cornwall Garden Society Spring Flower Show in early April, the Hardy Plant Society Plant Fair in May in Truro and the Tregrehan Garden Rare Plant Fair in June.  There are often plant sellers at your local markets.

Donít be put off by the cost.
  Yes, a large patio of Portland stone will set off the plants beautifully but other materials, such as gravel, are just are effective.   Be inventive and try new things.  If you can learn the skill of growing your own plants, this will also help contain the costs.

And finally, there is no perfection.  There is no perfect garden and most of us get the enjoyment from the doing as much as from the admiring.  Set new goals each year to keep your garden evolving.    

Created On  3 Jan 2019 16:03  -  Permalink

Behind the scenes - Growing Scarlet River Lilies

Sitting in our greenhouse are rows of small Scarlet River Lily plants waiting to flower next year.  They grow really well here in Cornwall but are also suitable for a sunny position in a wide range of damper soils.

Scarlet River Lilies are now known Hesperantha coccinea.  Most gardeners will know them as Schizostylis.  Their natural habitat is alongside streams and damp areas in the eastern side of Southern Africa.  They are well adapted to growing in the UK, but flower much later here from autumn into mid winter, where they flower in mid summer in Southern Africa  I suspect this is because they prefer to grow in damper soils and live in summer rainfall areas, so when the rains arrive in the UK in the autumn this prompts them into flower.  Although they prefer to live in damp soils, our clumps live in hot south and west facing borders and are surviving and spreading really well.  We do have a high water table here, which may help. 

These plants are no problem to sow from seed, although they take a little time to get going, typically 1-2 months to germinate, at 10-20 degrees Celcius.  Start them early in spring to allow plenty of growing time in the summer.  Starting later is fine, particularly if you have a greenhouse to keep them in over the first winter, but they may take a little longer to flower, typically two to three seasons of growth.   Plants grown from seed generally flower in red, but you will also see some in pink and white.  If you wish to grow more of the pink and white forms, grow the desired plants to mature size and then divide them in autumn/winter after the plants have flowered.  They have fleshy roots and are easy to divide.


                                      Seeds................................................................................Seedlings........................................................................Plants in full flower!

Plants look great if encouraged to form large clumps over time, with a stunning display of colour in late summer and early winter. Ours are still flowering In Cornwall in December as I write this.  They are good cut flowers.

More here on buying and growing Scarlet River Lilies from seed.

Created On  7 Dec 2018 17:55  -  Permalink

Just arrived - a limited supply of Natal Lily seeds!

We have a limited supply of Clivia miniata or Natal Lily seeds available this autumn.  These are unconventional large fleshy seeds only available in small quantities in late autumn here in the UK.

The seeds set in green fleshy pods that slowly ripen to red.  Once ripe, the pods are broken open and up to 4 seeds removed from each pod.  The seeds are cleaned and the slimy film removed and then sown straight away in a tray of seed compost, burying each seed only half way into the seed compost.  The seed tray needs to be kept moist and warm, typically 16-25 degrees Celcius and the seeds germinate within 2-4 weeks.  Each seed sends out a root shoot first, followed by a fleshy stem.

Natal Lilies are frost tender, coming from sub-tropical areas of Southern Africa, so they are grown as houseplants in the UK.  They are forest plants and prefer to grow away from direct sunlight and can tolerate dryer soils.

These are typically pricey seeds and plants, as the seeds do not store well and the plants grow slowly, taking up to 4 years to reach flowering size.  I like growing from seed as there will be some variation in the flower colour, from yellow to red, but most plants will flower in orange.

  Ripened Clivia seed pods

 Clivia seeds, removed from the pods, cleaned and ready to sow

  Clivia seedling, about 1 year old

 Adult Clivia in flower!

Interesting in buying, sowing and growing these plants from seed?  See more information.

Created On  19 Nov 2018 18:40  -  Permalink

Behind the scenes - Growing Pineapple Lilies

I do like bulbous plants, and it helps that so many originate from Southern Africa and I have a chance to work with them.  Growing these plants from seed to flower is generally a two to three year project, so a lot of patience is required.  Behind the scenes we are growing our own Pineapple Lilies.  These are not true Pineapples but unrelated plants that bizarrely have flowers that resemble pineapples, hence their name.

Plenty of gardens contain Eucomis comosa, especially a dark-leaved variety Sparkling Burgundy.  A lovely plant, but does not flower true from seed, so has to be grown from bulbs or leaf cuttings..

My favourite is Eucomis bicolor, a perfect height for the edge of a dry or gravel garden, with lovely bi-coloured flowers.  The flowers stay on the plant all summer and well into autumn (still flowering in November) and they are little effort once established in the garden.  Plants grow best in warmer or sheltered UK gardens, but survive in most gardens if mulched over winter or the bulbs can be lifted in autumn and replanted in spring.  The plants grow wild in the Drakensberg Mountains of Southern Africa, which can be cold and damp, and this explains why they adapt well to life in the UK.

Below is a photo of one of our seedlings, now one year old in late autumn.  They will die down over winter and emerge in the spring and I am hopeful a few may flower in their second season.  More likely it will be another year after that before most bulbs are large enough to flower.

Next year, I will try leaf cuttings, which are done in the summer.  It is something we are getting better at, having used them successfully for Peperomia house plants earlier this year, so feel this is worth a try.  Plants can also be propagated by growing on small bulbs or offsets that form alongside the adult bulbs.  These can be separated when the plant is dormant in the winter/early spring, and grown on in pots.  These are easy to do, but also take about three years to reach flowering size.


 One year-old seedling

 Adult plants in flower

See more on buying, sowing and growing Pineapple Lilies.

Created On  14 Nov 2018 16:06  -  Permalink

Sow Acanthus mollis in autumn

Sow Acanthus mollis in autumn

No Mediterranean or coastal garden is complete without Acanthus plants.  Favoured by the Greeks for their beautiful leaves and unusual flowers, they are still popular today, and for good reason.  Being very hardy, they can be grown right across the UK in most gardens. They are great coastal plants, tolerating high winds, salt spray and hot summers.  

Autumn is a good time to sow Acanthus seeds if you have a greenhouse or windowsill to get them started.  Acanthus seeds are unusual as they dry out quickly after ripening in late summer and are difficult to store for more than 6-12 months.  We keep ours in a sealed container in a fridge and donít keep them for more than one season, preferring to sow them fresh off the plants in the autumn.

These large seeds germinate well in the lower temperatures of autumn and grow fast once germinated, which only takes 2-3 weeks.  Spring is also a good time if seeds are still plump and not dried out.  As seen below, we sowed the first batch of seeds in a pot and the plants are growing so well they are crowding each other already. 

The small plants need no special treatment other than giving them some protection until the weather warms up in spring when they can be re-potted or planted out after hardening off.  Flowering may start next summer, but more likely the summer after.

Update 3 weeks later on the seedlings just emerging above.  See below for a lovely healthy seedling in the process of being re-potted.  These seedlings are growing beautifully in an unheated greenhouse, with no problems from any pests or diseases.  I love the way the light reflects on the shiny leaves.  Reminds me of Chatham Island Forget-Me-Nots, one of New Zealand's most lovely mega-herbs - more to come on this next year!  Autumn really is a great time to sow and grow Acanthus plants in Cornwall. 
 Acanthus seedling 3 weeks later in the process of being re-potted

See more on sowing and growing Acanthus.

These now available to buy as plants in 8cm pots.

Created On  12 Nov 2018 15:27  -  Permalink