Flow­ers mark the start of spring

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - GARDENING - JANE WRIG­GLESWORTH

Spring has ar­rived in my backyard. I have cleaned up my col­lec­tion of black seed trays and be­gun sow­ing hun­dreds of an­nu­als for my pick­ing gar­den.

It is the same each year. When the weather warms up, my pick­ing gar­den be­comes over­run with all man­ner of an­nu­als - flow­ers with long stems and lon­glast­ing blooms, and some with a sweet or spicy scent.

Be­cause an­nu­als flower so easily and pro­lif­i­cally, they are the main­stay of my pick­ing gar­den. The whole pur­pose of an an­nual is to pro­duce seeds so that the plant lives more than its al­lot­ted year.

So long as you keep pick­ing (or dead­head­ing) them, most an­nu­als will keep on churn­ing out flow­ers be­cause they are still on a mis­sion to pro­duce seeds. It’s a neat sys­tem, re­ally. The more flow­ers you pick, the more flow­ers they pro­duce.

Some of the eas­i­est an­nu­als to grow are cos­mos, cal­en­dula, sun­flow­ers, snap­drag­ons and zin­nias, but there are a num­ber of odd­ball an­nu­als that are both in­trigu­ing and easy care.

In my pick­ing gar­den I grow spi­der flower (Cleome spinosa), star­ball scabiosa (Scabiosa stellata), green love-lies-bleed­ing (Ama­ran­thus cau­da­tus "Viridus") and the climb­ing hy­acinth bean vine (Dolichos lablab) - all strangely beau­ti­ful and a snip to grow. But I also grow old favourites like corn­flow­ers (Cen­tau­rea cyanus), bells of Ire­land (Moluc­cella lae­vis), lovein-a-mist (Nigella dam­a­s­cena) and China asters (Cal­lis­te­phus chi­nen­sis). All last well in the vase, and all are easy to grow.

I grow a se­lec­tion of bulbs and tuber­ous peren­ni­als, too. Some of the long­est-last­ing cut flow­ers come from this group, in­clud­ing calla lilies, lil­i­ums and chincher­inchee (Or­nithogalum thyr­soides). The lat­ter can last up to four weeks in a vase, and calla lilies and lil­ium 2-3 weeks.

There is prob­a­bly a colour here to suit all tastes.

Many peren­ni­als also make fine cut flow­ers.

They may not flower right through­out the grow­ing sea­son as many an­nu­als do, but plant size and num­ber of blooms in­creases each year.


Cos­mos are among some of the eas­i­est an­nu­als to grow.

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