Seeds to Sow In November

Spring is traditionally the main sowing season for many gardeners. However there are many reasons why autumn is the best time to sow flower seeds.

If you are planning to grow a lot of flowers and you know that spring will be extremely busy for you then you can get a head start now. Besides, autumn sown plants are amazingly vigorous, often larger and taller with nice long stems for cutting. Another bonus is that they’ll flower slightly earlier. So if you are itching to get cutting your home grown flowers then sow them now! There are several groups of plants to choose from.

Sweet Peas

November is Sweet Pea month. Autumn is a great time to sow Sweet Peas Lathyrus odoratus. There are several reasons to sow sweet peas now including:

1) You’ll have your pick of the varieties of Sweet Pea seeds if you order them now.

2) They will produce an excellent root system ready for planting out.

2) Autumn sown sweet peas produce the most vigorous plants and slightly earlier flowers too.

There are lots of sweet peas to choose from. You can pick individual varieties such as the tasteful, pale and interesting High Scent, Molly Rilstone and Betty Maiden. If you prefer darker and more dramatic flowers then Blue Velvet, Cupani and Beaujolais may be more up your street. If you only have the space to grow one row of Sweet Peas then it’s probably best to choose a mixture such as Just Peachy, Blue Ocean, Cocoa Mix or In the Pink.

Hardy Annuals

If you live in a very mild area of the UK you can carry on sowing some super Hardy Annual Fillers such as Ammi majus, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ and Dill, Anethum ‘Mariska’ outdoors in November. Many flowers will do well if sown now too. Poppies, Cornflowers, Californian Poppies, Scabious, Marigolds and Clarkia are some of the best. There are some seeds such as Nigella that actually need a cold spell to break their dormancy.

You will need to get your plants going before it becomes too cold for them to grow. The aim is to get your plants to produce good foliage and roots before winter, so It’s best to do this as soon as possible. You’ll always get the strongest plants with the most flowers by sowing in autumn and you’ll save precious time in spring when there are lots of other jobs to do.  If you can’t sow them outside now because it’s too cold and wet then you can sow them in an unheated greenhouse or a coldframe.

Wild Flowers

Autumn is a great time to sow Wild Flowers too. British Wild Flowers are quite hardy and will survive the worst of our winter weather as long as any newly germinated seedlings have protection from the frost. If you live in a cold and frosty part of the UK then I recommend sowing them in plugs indoors. I usually start them off on my kitchen windowsill. Once they are growing, they can cope with much lower temperatures. Move them outside to a sheltered place such as a cold frame, porch or unheated greenhouse.

Some Wild Flowers I recommend are Oxeye Daisies Leucanthemum vulgare and of course the much loved bright red British Field Poppy Papaver rhoeas. As soon as temperatures warm up in spring your wildflowers will start producing more shoots and leaves and can be planted out ready for flowering in early summer 

The Meadow Maker, Yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor is very useful too but must be sown where you want it to grow as it needs grass to grow with. For full details see Growing Information in the Wildflowers category in the Shop.

Hardy Perennials

There are some perennial flowers that you can sow in November. They are easy to grow and produce flowers year after year.  The beauty of perennials is that they are fast growing, give you lots of flowers for cutting and your garden wildlife will love them too. Perennials produce plenty of food (seeds) and places to hide and overwinter (hollow stems and seed heads) for your garden wildlife.

I recommend the beautiful blue Globe Thistle Echinops ritro and Sea Holly Eryngium alpinum, plus Rose Campion Lychnis coronaria which comes in either tasteful white or bright magenta pink. Don’t forget you can grow Perennial Sweet Peas Lathyrus latifolius from seed too. There’s a more limited range of colours than annual Sweet Peas. They come in white, pale pink and a much deeper pink/red colour. They are also available in individual colours or as a mixed packet of seeds.

A word of caution Please don’t sow Half Hardy Annuals now. (Cosmos, Dahlias, Sunflowers and Zinnias… see Half Hardy Annuals category in the shop for a full list) They are tender plants used to the sunnier climate in places like Mexico and will not survive the cold wet weather here in the UK.

So there’s just a taste of some lovely plants you can sow in autumn. I hope it helped you to decide what you’d like to grow for 2020. Wishing you a very happy and flower filled month. Love Gillian 🙂

Flower Seeds to Sow in September

Growing flowers for cutting in your garden or allotment is becoming very popular now. Some say it’s because we are concerned about the air miles and cost to the environment that flying in flowers from places like Africa and South America brings. There’s concern about the repeated use of pesticides too which linger on the flowers we ship in. There’s no doubt that it feels good to buy locally grown flowers and even grow them ourselves in our own gardens. We know that they’ve been grown without harmful chemicals and there’s a much wider range to choose from, including deliciously scented blooms.

Concern about the environment and wildlife is real, but I think it goes much deeper than that. I believe that growing flowers is linked to our urge to be creative. Creativity is something that everyone has. It may have been squished to the very bottom of your very long ‘to do’ list but it’s there all the same. Have you always promised yourself that one day you’ll grow a beautiful garden, learn to paint or simply take time to make things? That’s evidence of your creative urge. If you’re not allowing yourself to do what you really want to do, then you might feel sad or frustrated and that’s not a great feeling. So perhaps now is the time to put that right!

On Friday on Gardeners World, Frances Tophill visited Helena Willcocks a Florist and Flower Grower at her allotment in London. It was a short clip, but they did manage to fit in a super quick tour of some of her flower beds and a spot of flower arranging too. It was beautiful and inspiring, but what shone out of the TV more than anything else was how both Frances and Helena were enjoying themselves to the full. There’s no doubt that there’s something absolutely amazing about growing and arranging your own flowers. If you missed it you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer Episode 25

Here’s Helena with a huge bunch of Ammi majus and a one of her beautiful flower arrangements. If you click the photo you can see her Instagram feed.

HelenaWillcocks @theallotmentflorist

If you’ve always wanted to have a go at growing your own flowers, then September is a great time to start. Stick to Hardy Annuals to start so you don’t need any expensive equipment. Simply prepare the ground (remove weeds then work the soil to a fine tilth) then sow the seeds where you want them to flower next year.
All the following seeds are completely hardy and very easy to grow.

Hardy Annual Fillers to Sow in September

Hardy Annual Fillers
Row 1 Ammi majus, Anethum Mariska and Orlaya grandiflora
Row 2 Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens, Nigella (distinctive seedheads) and Ammi visnaga
Row 3 Daucus carota, Bupleurum and Nigella

Hardy Annual Flowers to Sow in September


Row 1 Scabiosa atropurpurea Button flowers in tasteful shades of white, pink and soft blue plus bright red and almost black too.
Row 2 Larkspur produce tall spires of blooms in pink, white and blue shades. Calendula officinalis Marigolds are often the first to flower in my garden and are loved by bees and butterflies.
Row 3 Clarkia, Salvia and Centaurea.
Clarkia is beautiful, fast and very cold tolerant. Every bud will open in the vase. Salvia viridis comes in white, blue, pink and mixed and is exceptionally long flowering. Centuarea cyanus. Cornflowers grow in a range of colours and are particularly lovely with Ammi

Eschscholzia californica. Californian Poppies are low growing and brilliant for wildlife and posies. Sow them with Gypsophila for a stunning combination.

Eschscholzia californica with Gypsophila

Papaver somniferum: Papery Poppy flowers are plentiful and followed by fat seed pods. I love the darkly dramatic Papaver ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (below) and if you want seeds for bread baking then Papaver ‘Maanzaad is the one to grow.

Papaver somniferum Laurens Grape

If you watched the clip of Helena and Frances, as well as all the lovely Hardy Annuals you may have noticed beds full of Half Hardy Annuals such as Cosmos, Zinnias and Dahlias. These are all brilliant for late summer colour because they are perennials in their native countries (Mexico and South America) and they will just go on and on flowering here until they are blasted by frost. In some very sheltered gardens, you’ll have flowers from June until November or even December if you are lucky.

Half Hardy Annuals will not survive our wet and cold winter weather. Eventually all UK gardens will have frost, driving rain and bitingly cold winds which will polish them off. Can you tell I’m not looking forward to winter one little bit? You can sow them indoors now if you have a heated greenhouse and a sheltered garden but I’d only suggest that for slow growing Antirrhinum (Snap Dragons) as all the others are much faster to grow.

Sow Antirrhinum under cover to get it off to a great start

It’s usually best to wait until the gentle warm days of spring to sow Half Hardy Annuals. They are very quick to germinate and grow so in just a few weeks you’ll soon have lots of beautiful blooms. And YES, you can grow Dahlias from seed which is brilliant if you want a lot of flowers for cutting to sell in mixed bunches.

Half Hardy Annuals to Sow Next Year inc Dahlias, Rudbeckia and Cosmos

If you want to make sure you get specific Half Hardy Annuals for next summer, you can buy the seeds now and store them in a cool dry place over autumn and winter. Sow them indoors in March and April if you have a greenhouse, if not just wait until May when the soil has warmed up then sow them directly where you want them to flower. Couldn’t be easier!

Of course, you don’t have to grow your own flowers. You can buy them locally and there’s nothing quite like fresh scented flowers in the house. You’ll find British growers at your local market and there are florists all over the UK like Helena growing flowers for sale and for special events.

Which are your favourite flowers?

Are you growing your own flowers for cutting?

Wishing you a very happy and flowery September. Love Gillian

Happiness is a Garden

I love a good gardening book. Over the years I’ve read quite a lot, especially when I earned my living as a Garden Designer. When I needed to know all sorts of technical details learning from others who generously shared their knowledge in a book was brilliant for me. Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies and each year there are lots of new books to choose from. Many of them are very practical giving instructions about HOW TO tackle a particular task. I find it fascinating to read how others approach their garden. I’m also very interested in WHY gardens mean so much to some people.

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Wildlife in the Garden

Have you ever noticed how an everyday activity sometimes turns into a magical event? We live in a small village in the North West of England. We’re just on the edge of the village with our garden stretching out into the surrounding countryside. Apart from traffic passing through on the main street it’s a peaceful place. Just the way we like it. Everyday I make a point of walking to our local post box to send orders on their way to my lovely customers.

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How to Grow Ipomoea lobata

Ipomoea lobata ‘Exotic Love’.

I have to admit that for years the exotic appearance of this amazing plant deterred me from trying it. How can something so dramatic and tropical looking survive in our climate? Well it’s true that Ipomoea is native to hot South American countries such as Mexico and Brazil. It’s a perennial plant there flowering year after year, eventually growing to 5 metres / 16 feet tall. But in fact they do grow very well here too – but not quite so tall! We need to treat it as a Half Hardy Annual, sow it late then allow it to grow and flower in just one year. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit to confirm that Ipomoea is a reliable performer in UK gardens.

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Symphytotrichum ‘Little Carlow’

It’s been mild here again this month. Over the years I’ve got used to first frosts beginning during the first week of October. Temperatures have cooled a little it’s true but for some reason the cold snap hasn’t arrived. Indoors I’ve changed our lightweight summer bedding for toasty winter quilts but outdoors I’ve left my collection of tender scented geraniums on the deck where they are thriving. I will move them into the greenhouse at the first sign of frost but there’s no sign of it so far.

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Arlington Row in Bibury

Bibury is one of the most well known of all Cotswold villages. With rows of honey coloured stone cottages, a beautiful church, a nice hotel and good pubs it’s a lovely place to soak up the relaxed atmosphere and to enjoy a stroll and a meal if you’re in the area. There’s even a trout farm to visit and a wide shallow river full of fish and ducks runs through the village. It’s English through and through and quite gorgeous. In fact Bibury is often described as the most beautiful village in England.

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Twenty Minutes in the Garden

How to get things done in the garden…
Even if you don’t feel like it!

I’ve just had my coffee in the garden. It’s amazing out there today, lovely and warm with birds feeding and calling to each other and the incessant buzz of insects on the hunt for nectar and pollen. Sunlight shining through the leaves of the oak tree has turned them lime green. It feels like a summer day and spending just a few minutes outside in the sunshine makes me happy. There are signs of autumn too. In the hedgerow brambles are laden with plump blackberries and huge fat red hips are lined up along the whippy stems of wild roses.

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