What are Biennials?
Biennials are hardy plants which grow roots and foliage this year then flower next year. Sown in summer they have around eight months to produce super strong healthy plants which are capable of producing lots of lovely strong flower stems from late spring onwards.
Why grow Biennials? Biennials are brilliant for early flowers next year. They usually start blooming in May and finish in July although there are exceptions. A patch of Hesperis (Sweet Rocket) in our garden has been flowering since April and is still producing lovely pale purple blooms in August. If you like to grow flowers for your home or you have a special event in late spring or maybe you are planning to sell cut flowers next year… you’ll find biennials very reliable and super productive. They are inexpensive to grow from seed, healthy and vigorous and more to the point don’t need much attention from the gardener.
What’s not to love?
Biennials are ideal for filling the colour gap in late spring. You know that green period when the most of your spring bulbs have finished blooming and just before your perennials get underway? That’s when biennials come into their own! Each year I spot some gaps in our garden and I kick myself for not growing more. Some years I’d kick myself in the head if I could! So I’ve made up my mind that in 2017 it’s going to be different. We’re growing lots of Biennials!
Summer is the ideal time to sow Biennial Seeds. We have a spare patch of ground (slightly shaded but it will do the job) so I’ve prepared a seedbed for them. I spread the preparation over three days… just twenty minutes each day… to get it just right. The main advantage to taking your time with ground preparation is that the soil will start to dry out a little so it becomes lighter and easier to work On day one I dug the ground and removed weeds and most roots leaving the earth in huge clods. On day two I used a fork to break the clods into smaller lumps. On day three I raked the earth to a fine tilth. If you prefer you can get the job done in one go but I like to tackle things in twenty minute chunks… mainly to stop me losing the will to live! Anyway, the aim is to produce a fine crumbly texture which tiny seedlings can push their way through. You can see how the bed changes over three days. Seeds sown into the ground at stage 1 and stage 2 would have no chance of pushing the earth aside with their tiny shoots.
Today I’m sowing my biennials directly into the soil. Here in our Lancashire garden they will have enough time to develop into nice healthy young plants before the weather changes in October. As usual I have also sown some seeds indoors in modules. It’s not always necessary but I like to hedge my bets just in case the seeds outdoors are eaten or washed away. Tiny seeds such as Foxgloves benefit from a little tender loving care indoors and I like to know that I’m guaranteed lots of lovely plants for late spring. I find it’s best to use a small module tray and sow just a few seeds into each cell then if one cell damps off the other seedlings won’t be affected.
I love Foxgloves but they aren’t the only Biennials I’m growing for spring. This month I’m sowing:
- Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William) which has lovely long strong stems and clusters of colourful blooms,
- Eryngium giganteum (a short lived perennial I treat as a biennial)
- Aquilegia vulgaris (a short lived perennial I treat as a biennial)
- Lunaria annua (Honesty) which comes in white and shades of purple,
- Papaver nudicaule (Iceland Poppies) and of course
- Hesperis matronalis (Sweet Rocket)
Just in case you were wondering… YES! They are available in my online shop. As you know I only sell seed for those plants I grow and recommend so you can be sure that these particular varieties are super-duper.
Are you growing Biennials this year? I’d love to know which varieties you grow in your garden and which do well for you.
Today I’m joining in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. I’m showing blooms from late spring rather than a bunch picked today… even so I do hope you like the flowers!
Hope you are having a lovely sunny Monday. Happy Gardening! Gillian 🙂