How can we get flow­ers on time?

Garden News (UK) - - What To Do -

QHow do we get our red, white and blue flow­ers in bloom on July 1 next year for the First World War Cen­te­nary com­mem­o­ra­tions at our pri­mary school? John We­b­ley, Ch­ester­field, Der­byshire

AWith gar­den cen­tres full of plants year-round, it’s easy to think pro­duc­ing flow­er­ing plants for a par­tic­u­lar date is straight­for­ward. Which it is – if you have the fa­cil­i­ties. As a min­i­mum, th­ese in­clude prop­a­ga­tors, green­houses and cold frames. Sow­ing in early March with some bot­tom heat will see many an­nu­als in flower for early July in the gar­den. If you can’t call on th­ese fa­cil­i­ties the job is more dif­fi­cult.

Your sug­gested flow­ers of for­get-me-not, corn­flower and pop­pies all have an ob­vi­ous as­so­ci­a­tion, but might make the job a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult.

For­get-me-nots are bi­en­ni­als, avail­able in both white and blue. You could try sow­ing them di­rect now, but they might suf­fer in a cold win­ter. Al­ter­na­tively, sow now in an un­heated green­house for trans­plant­ing next spring. How­ever, in good weather they can go over quickly and are of­ten past their best by mid-sum­mer. Lovein-a-mist ( Nigella dam­a­s­cena) may be an eas­ier al­ter­na­tive. Avail­able in both blue and white it can sim­ply be sown di­rect in March. Corn­flow­ers ( Cen­tau­rea cyanus) are also avail­able in white and blue. While you could sow them un­der cover now, they can be sown di­rectly next March. Pop­pies ( Pa­paver rhoeas) can also be sown di­rect in the spring.

If you need a few things in re­serve, lo­belia ( Lo­belia er­i­nus) can be sown un­der cover in Fe­bru­ary at 20C (68F) and alyssum ( Alyssum mar­iti­mum) a month later un­der cover. There is also a com­pact white gyp­sophila ‘Covent Gar­den’ that could be sown di­rect in March.

Sow­ing di­rectly into the soil in March is very weather de­pen­dent. I’d pre­pare the beds now and then cover them with poly­thene sheet in early Fe­bru­ary. This al­lows the soil to warm up ear­lier. If raised slightly to form a low ‘tent’, the pocket of air be­neath may also re­duce hard frosts.

Prior to sow­ing or plant­ing, ap­ply a dress­ing of Grow­more or chicken pel­lets and rake over the soil. If March is very cold you can de­lay sow­ing for a cou­ple of weeks and if you then re-cover with clear poly­thene, this will act as a mini poly­tun­nel to bring ger­mi­na­tion on. Keep weed-free and wa­tered and thin over­crowded seedlings if you need to.

Corn­flow­ers are an easy an­nual to grow from seed

Many an­nu­als can be sown di­rectly in the ground in spring

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