Nur­ture these bi­en­ni­als and then sit back for a su­per show of colour when they flower next year

Irish Daily Mirror - - IN THE GARDEN -

Spring is the time for sow­ing seeds, es­pe­cially an­nu­als – those plants which ger­mi­nate, flower and die all in the same year. How­ever there is an­other cat­e­gory of plant – bi­en­ni­als – which can be sown in early to mid-sum­mer.

These plants take two years to com­plete their life cy­cle – sow now and they will ger­mi­nate and form a rosette of leaves this year, fol­lowed by a spike of flow­ers next spring. The plant will then set seed and die in the au­tumn.

Many of our most-loved flow­ers fall into this cat­e­gory, such as fox­gloves, for­get-me-nots, Queen Anne’s Lace, Sweet Williams and wallflowers.

So if you’d like to see these in your gar­den next year, har­vest or buy some seed now and get prop­a­gat­ing.

You won’t get the quick grat­i­fi­ca­tion that an­nu­als pro­vide, but with a lit­tle pa­tience and ded­i­ca­tion you will be re­warded with colour­ful and of­ten fra­grant flow­ers that both you, the bees and but­ter­flies will en­joy. Here are my pick of the crop:

Oenothera bi­en­nis, or evening prim­rose

is a tall bi­en­nial that grows up to 1.5 me­tres with yel­low flow­ers.

These only open at night to re­lease their fra­grance – this is done to at­tract night-time pol­li­na­tors such as moths. It’s a good choice for poor soil so long as it’s well drained and in the sun­shine, and once you have it, it will self-seed hap­pily, mak­ing it a great choice if you like an in­for­mal look in your gar­den.

It’s hugely pop­u­lar as a herbal rem­edy – the oil in the seeds con­tain fatty acids that are used to help with hor­monal and other health is­sues.

Dig­i­talis be­cause who doesn’t like a fox­glove! El­e­gant spires cov­ered in bell-shaped blos­soms and if you look closely, you will of­ten see the hairy be­hind of a bum­ble bee buried within nuz­zling away for nec­tar.

The flow­ers form capsules – open these and you will see the plant’s tiny brown seeds in­side. You can scat­ter these straight into the soil but you’ll need to be ea­gle-eyed when weed­ing to avoid re­mov­ing the sub­se­quent seedlings.

You can also prop­a­gate in seed mod­ules or pots. Scat­ter on the sur­face of pre-wet­ted seed com­post and don’t cover as they need the light to ger­mi­nate.

Lu­naria an­nua, or Hon­esty

is grown as much for its at­trac­tive pur­ple flow­ers in spring as for its beau­ti­ful disc-shaped translu­cent sil­ver pods – a florist’s favourite in their dried form.

There’s also a lovely white va­ri­ety ‘alb­i­flora’. Sow well spaced in seed trays where they will take about a fort­night to ger­mi­nate.

You want to get them planted into their final flow­er­ing po­si­tions out­side in Septem­ber/oc­to­ber so they have time to es­tab­lish roots.

Dianthus bar­ba­tus, or Sweet Wil­liam

are like all mem­bers of the Dianthus fam­ily – it’s all about that de­li­cious sweet clove scent.

The Duchess of Cam­bridge in­cluded a white ver­sion in her wed­ding bou­quet, which was a de­light­ful ro­man­tic ges­ture to her new hus­band.

Oth­er­wise they come in bright pinks and reds and there’s a lovely dark va­ri­ety called ‘Sooty’ with very dark ruby blos­soms and choco­late­coloured fo­liage. Sow seeds in early sum­mer and plant out to final po­si­tions ei­ther in au­tumn or next spring into fer­tile soil, adding some slow-re­lease fer­tiliser to the plant­ing hole.

Sun­shine is best for flower pro­duc­tion and they make ex­cel­lent cut flow­ers.

Echium pin­i­nana, or Gi­ant Viper’s Bu­gloss

is one of my favourite plants. It’s great for adding drama and ex­cite­ment be­cause it grows sev­eral me­tres tall.

I have them grow­ing at the front of the house where they hap­pily self-seed.

I’ve no­ticed they some­times take an ad­di­tional year to com­plete their life cy­cle – the mid­dle year they gather their strength to send up these enor­mous spikes cov­ered in vi­o­let blue flow­ers.

I can think of no other plant that at­tracts the same amount of bees – the hum of the bees buzzing is the sound of sum­mer for me!

Har­vest or buy some seed now and get prop­a­gat­ing


echium pin­i­nana gi­ant viper’s bu­gloss

Dianthus bar­ba­tus sweet wil­liam

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