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Annuals & biennials

Ideal for beginners or a quick-fix solution

Hardy annuals

Even if you’ve never grown anything before, hardy annuals are where to start – it can be as simple as:

  1. Open packet.
  2. Scatter seeds on soil.
  3. Lightly rake.
  4. Water when thirsty.
  5. Sit back and watch the flowers.

OK, there is a bit more to it than that but there’s no magic wand, knowledge or special powers needed.

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Annuals are born, flower and die all in one season – usually sown from March-May, flowering until the first frosts, by which time they will have set seed (the next generation), then they die.

For beginners and children, a good bet is a wildflower mix – just make sure you buy one suitable for where you’re going to sow it – full sun, partial shade, etc.

These native plants are accustomed to the extremes of our climate, so won’t throw a complete wobbler if you forget to water them once or twice.

Some, like Calendula, will even self-seed and germinate in late summer and early autumn. If it’s a mild winter, you have ready-made plants that flower early.

Half-hardy annuals

You’ll need a bit more skill and equipment to grow half-hardy annuals, but the extra investment is worth it.

These are usually tender plants from the tropics that aren’t frost hardy – some are half-hardy perennials that are usually grown as annuals because they’re regarded as too much fuss to overwinter (such as dahlia Bishops Children).

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Plants you’ll find in this category are traditional bedding plants such as Antirrhinums, Cosmos, Mesembryanthemums (Livingstone daisies), red Salvia, Petunias, etc.

They require a propagator to germinate and good light levels – really follow the information on the seed packet, as instructions vary.

Biennials

Often overlooked, it’s such a pity, as our common biennials fill that gap in the garden between the last of the bulbs in late spring to the main summer-flowering plants – foxgloves, rocket, wallflowers, etc.

They are hardy and are easy, often to the point of self-seeding a little too vigorously!

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