Go exotic with spring and early summer bulbs More plants for free
OVER the last fortnight, I’ve looked at getting free plants from perennials but, with annuals and biennials, you have to save seed. As insurance, plants produce a huge surplus so at least some seeds will germinate and make adult plants.
But why not lend a helping hand by saving and growing some of your favourites?
Of course, double-flowered plants don’t contain pollen so can’t set seed, F1s won’t breed true and many varieties are cheaply and easily available. But it’s a cinch with quite a few.
Hybrid seed is the result of pollen exchanged with neighbours, so you can never guess what shade or colour(s) the resulting gene mix will throw up. With the likes of aquilegias, this colourful lottery could be great and often mirrors what you’ll get from a seed packet. If a particular colour offends, dispatch it to the compost heap.
This hybridisation can be problematic with some species, such as brassicas. They freely exchange pollen with any other brassica variety. Even though saving this seed couldn’t be easier, I don’t think I’d fancy a kale-cauliflower cross. And this random outcome also applies to tomatoes.
But this doesn’t happen with self-fertile species, such as sweet and edible peas. I know I can rely on the highly scented Painted Lady: her old-fashioned pink and white flowers sit beautifully in a patio with that colour scheme.
And Cupani, another old variety, is said to be closely related to a wild species found in Sicily and southern Italy. It’s named after Brother Frances Cupani, who sent the first seeds to England in the late 17th century.
Turning to the edible kind, I need to religiously save the parsley pea seed I received from Garden Organic’s Seed Library some years ago.
Instead of the usual tendrils, these plants produce tender little leaves that add – forgive the pun