Go ex­otic with spring and early sum­mer bulbs More plants for free

The Herald Magazine - - etc GARDENING - DAVE AL­LAN

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

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