So far, sow good
They’re relatively easy to grow and, as the ground warms up, you can plant them directly into the soil or into pots so you won’t need a greenhouse or space indoors to germinate them.
You can plan your blooms as a riot of colour, to be lined up in rows for cut flowers, or use them as fillers between other plants.
They are inexpensive ( or free if you collect seed as it ripens in autumn) and it’s satisfying to watch them develop over their short life cycle.
The same tips apply to soil preparation and sowing as for the veg – in summary, you will need a weed- free, finely- raked crumbly soil.
All will flower better in an open sunny position.
Sow as per the instructions on the packet and water in gently.
Here are some suggestions to whet your appetite – I’ve included a mix of old favourites and some lesserknown varieties for the more adventurous.
Ratibida ‘ Red Midget’ is a very cheerful flower that deserves wider appreciation.
Also known as Mexican hats or the Prairie cone flower, this jaunty bloom has yellow and maroon petals and a distinctive cone centre. It flowers from June to September, does well in a dry soil and makes a good cut flower.
You could just grow a bed of poppies and be happy. Wonderful cultivars include ‘ Black Beauty’ which has dark, almost black peony- like blooms, and Victoria Cross which has fringed red petals and a white cross in the centre.
Their seed pods look beautiful as well – a particularly distinctive variety is ‘ Hens and Chicks’ where the central pod is surrounded by baby pods.
Nigella damascena, Love- in- a- Mist, is an old cottage garden favourite that never fails to delight. It’s the combination of the ferny foliage and pretty blue flowers – ‘ Miss Jekyll’ being one of the best known strains. This will happily self- seed, so get the cycle going this year.
Bells of Ireland, Moluccella laevis, is a firm favourite with flower arrangers for its bell- shaped green flowers, which can be successfully cut and dried. Its fresh green bells are a good companion to more brightly coloured annuals and will look very cool beside white flowers.
Clarkia, or godetia, is an easy- togrow annual with silky petals in pinks, lavenders and pale purples. This Californian native will bring colour and joy to your garden and produce pretty floral posies that will look great in a vase.
Nicandra, the Shoo fly plant, has bell- shaped lavender flowers, followed by black seed pods which look a bit like Chinese lanterns. One seed will form a bushy plant so it’s a handy space filler.
Centaurea or cornflowers evoke meadows and hazy summer days. However, this beautiful native is in decline in the countryside so to be sure of seeing it this summer, sow it in your garden.
The wonderful piercing blue flowers are excellent for cutting, too.
Finally, I always recommend nasturtiums for absolute beginners – the big seeds are comfortable to handle and germinate quickly.
Their distinctive foliage is easy to recognise as it emerges, and the reward is tonnes of flowers in orange, yellow and red. The flowers also make unusual, zesty and colourful additions to a tasty salad.