Ruth Fortune runs a floristry business in Glandore, using all homegrown flowers. Ruth’s stall is at Skibbereen Farmers Market every Saturday or you can order directly from her in Glandore by calling (086) 3606830.
In this issue Ruth gives us a simple introduction to sowing flower seeds
I’m hoping by the time you read this that snow scenes and red and yellow weather warnings are a distant memory. It seems this year that we are having multiple false starts when it comes to Spring and by now I am chomping at the bit to spend some proper long days outside in the flower beds. At least the hours of daylight aren’t affected by our increasingly dramatic weather patterns so on a good day, when you can still be out in the garden at 6pm, it feels like winter is behind us.
What’s flowering now?
If you are aiming to bring a bunch of garden flowers into your house every week, it’s not too hard from April to September. But March and October can be tricky. At the moment I am thankful that I planted some hyacinths in the polytunnel, as they were in flower for Mother’s Day, which was extra early this year. The outdoor hyacinths were only two weeks later but it’s always worth hedging your bets if you’re aiming for a steady supply. Of course daffodils and other narcissi are the main flower for this time of year…don’t just think of the standard bright yellow trumpet type, as many paler-coloured frilly varieties are also available, in beautiful peachy and lemony shades.
Foliage is just as important as the flowers in your vase and luckily there are a few hardy varieties that seem to have shrugged off the cold winds and snow. I have been using Viburnum Tinus, which has a lovely dark green leaf and white or pink tinged flowers – and Senecio (or Brachyglottis), which has a silvery-edged leaf and survives well here beside the sea.
However the nature of gardening is that the work to be done now will yield results several months down the line. A bit like in the fashion world I need to be thinking three to six months ahead and I’ll come back to spring bulbs in autumn when it’s time to think about planting for spring 2019!
Now is the time for seed sowing. I have had the first batches in a heated propogator for a few weeks now but without the benefit of artificial heat then April is plenty early enough to start sowing. I highly recommend the sowing of annuals as you get such a yield of flowers for the price of a packet of seeds. Annuals are the ones that complete their life cycle in one season so you get results quickly! (And then you do it all again next year!)
Some of the easiest flowers to germinate are Cornflowers (which come not only in the beautiful blue, but also in shades of pink, mauve and really dark almost-black purple), Calendula and Corncockle. They all flower around the same time and look good together in a vase. I love Lady’s Mantle with them…it’s a very easy to grow perennial, which has great acid green ‘flowers’ that set off other flowers of any colour.
Sow seeds into damp compost, in modules (the seed trays divided into 12 or 24 compartments) and put them on a sunny windowsill. Make sure to cover the seed tray with its lid so the compost doesn’t dry out. Watering has to be done very gently as some of the smaller seeds can be washed away – so it’s easier to limit watering altogether by keeping a lid on – or cover with a clear plastic bag. If you’re anything like me you will rush to check your seed trays every morning and evening for signs of life. It feels like a little miracle every time.
Once the seedlings are big enough that their roots are beginning to fill the module, I advise potting on into small pots rather than putting such small plants straight out into the big bad world. Then a few weeks later, when the roots are filling these pots and you have good sized plants, it’s time to plant them outside. It’s a good idea to harden them off first…this just means getting them used to outdoor temperatures by putting the pots outside during the day for a week or so and then bringing them in again at night. In the garden, space the plants quite close together (20-30 cm apart) as this will encourage them to grow up rather than out. They may need staking with bamboos but if they’re close together they hold each other up too.
That was a very simplified introduction to seed sowing… I could go on more about how to water, types of compost to use and how not to end up with all the seeds stuck to your muddy hands (yes clean dry hands to start with are a good idea!) But the flowers I’ve suggested are some of the easiest so give them a go! You will find some more information in the blog section on my website www.ruthfortuneflowers.com.