In gardening, April means one thing and that’s seed sowing. There really isn’t anything more satisfying than starting off those tiny specks of life, nurturing them and then watching them flower. There’s such a wide range of plants to grow from seed, so if you sow rather than relying on the plants you can buy from the garden centre, you’ll open the door to all sorts of possibilities.
Garden centre buyers stick to big-selling plants they know will do well, but sometimes this can be at the expense of old-fashioned or less well-known varieties.
Fortunately, seed catalogues are still a refuge for all those nostalgic flowers you rarely see in garden centres if they’re not on the ‘bestseller’ list. Plants such as mignonette (Latin name Reseda odorata), which my late gran used to grow and always talked about. She described its sweet, honeyed fragrance so well, when I spotted it in a catalogue I had to grow it.
I’ll admit the flowers weren’t exactly what I’d envisaged when they first appeared. They’re curious-looking things – green stalks hold clusters of tufty greenish-white flowers with brown sticky-out anthers – but my gran was right about their gorgeous scent.
I love zinnias but have always thought of them as old-fashioned, too. They’re currently having a bit of a resurgence, thanks to the trend for growing your own cut flowers, so grow them now if you want to be ahead of the game! Try ‘Luminosa’ for big heads of dusky pink.
Snapdragons (antirrhinum) have never gone away, but if you’re tired of modern colour mixes, look to older varieties in single colours to match your garden. Varieties such as yellow ‘Canarybird’, pure white ‘Snowflake’ and ‘Brighton Rock’, which has pastel blooms patterned with blotches and stripes, have been around for 50 years, if not more.
Old-fashioned gold-laced primulas, blowsy clarkia and godetia, towering cottage garden lupins and hollyhocks, sweet night-scented stocks and harmless self-seeders such as love-in-a-mist (pictured above) can all be in flower this summer if you sow now, so treat yourself to a few packets of seed and a little nostalgia while
you’re at it.
MUST-BUY PLANT... Cauliflower
It’s time to sow summer and autumn cauliflowers ready for planting out in a month or so. Grow in firm, fertile ground and protect the developing curds from strong sun.
If you can grow cauliflower, you can grow its posh relative, romanesco, a type of cauliflower with a sweet, almost nutty flavour more similar to broccoli. Have a go!
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