Plants For Free…

Growing annuals from seed can be a time-consuming process, fraught with worry. Will the seeds germinate? Will the seedlings be eaten by slugs. Will the stems succumb to rot (known as damping-off). Will you forget to water them, so they wilt and die? But then, there are some annuals that take care off all this themselves…

This is borage, flowering in our garden last week; putting on a fantastic show very early on in the season. I grew borage from seed last year. The plants flowered, and distributed their seed, and now, as if by magic, there are new borage plants in various stages of development, from just-hatched, to fully-formed, all through the long border…

Three metres deep in places, and running the length of the garden, this is a big bed to fill, and while the shrubs are still small, and the perennials are yet to clump up, annuals have an important role in filling in the gaps. When they do it themselves, so much the better. Above you can see some of the borage seedlings, in among newly-planted white phlox (‘Peacock White’) and Echinops (E. ritro ‘Veitchs Blue’ – incidentally, also grown from seed). Another plant that I grew from seed last year and which is prolifically self-seeding is Ammi major, a lovely, frothy white umbellifer that adds depth, cohesion and mystery to a planting scheme. This is how it looked in the bed last August, engulfing a young Cornus koussa

The garden has farmland bordering it to three sides; it’s quite exposed to wind, and we get some cold nights, so I wasn’t sure these auto-didactic annuals were going to make it. But they’re coming through nicely. Of course, they don’t necessarily come up exactly where you want them, so they will need to be moved around. Other desirable self-seeders coming up in the garden are foxgloves (Digitalis) and forget-me-nots (Myosotis). This year I’ve sown some sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis) and honesty (Lunaria) to add to the mix of regenerating annuals (and biennials, in the case of the foxgloves and honesty).

Elsewhere in the garden, the tulips are in full flow. This is ‘Princes Irene’…

And here’s another of my favourites, ‘Queen of Night’…

Due to on-going, delayed building work (will it ever be finished?) the pots of tulips have had to be located in front of the workshop, by the veg patch, nestled behind last year’s rainbow chard (still cropping well, but about to bolt)…

There’s a varied and interesting collection of daffodils around the garden (from before my time) including some that are absolutely tiny. I’ve added my favourite, which is ‘Thalia’…

Last year’s tulips were planted into the beds, where they should hopefully come up year after year. In addition, there’s a clump of a variety I hadn’t tried before, a red ‘lily’ tulip called ‘Pieter de Leur’, looking good with ‘Spring Green’…

The heavy rain over the bank holiday came just in time to rejuvenate the garden, which was looking parched. You can already see the plants on the starting blocks, ready to grow. With so many new shrubs and trees, it’s an exciting time. There are two established trees; a large birch in the back, and a crab apple in the front, by the side of the drive. The crab apple was very congested, and obviously hadn’t been properly pruned for some time. I cut out quite a lot of wood, and this year it’s rewarded me with an impressive show of blossom. I believe this may be Malus ‘Torino’…

Spring blossom is such a spectacular show. It may not last long, but it ushers in the main growing season and, hopefully, some warmer weather pretty soon…

text & images © Graham Wright 2021