Sowing the seeds of summer

As I survey the bare soil of the garden on a cold February day, I find it hard to imagine how it will ever return to its summer state, full of waving flowers of every height and hue. The answer, of course, is to get sowing, and February, if it is for anything at all, is for sowing seeds. This year I have embraced Sarah Raven—figuratively— and ordered an ambitious quantity of seeds. (I like Sarah Raven’s website: it’s helpful and easy to navigate, and her seeds are more reasonably priced than some other sites.)

In brief, the seeds I have ordered this year are:

  • Ammi visnaga
  • Cleome spinosa ‘Violet Queen’
  • Euphorbia oblongata
  • Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascence’
  • Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’
  • Eschscholzia californica ‘Orange King’
  • Verbena rigida
  • Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’
  • Erigeron karvinskianus
  • Nicotiana tabacum

Further to this list, I was lucky enough to receive several packets of seeds for Christmas, including some herbs such as chervil, lovage, and chive, and some mixed salad leaves, plus, for the flower garden, several annuals including Gauria ‘The Bride’ and Nigella ‘African Bride’ (I think my aunt was on a theme here).



And we don’t stop there. Taking out my seed tin, I found several packets of leftover seeds from last year, including sweetpeas, honesty, foxgloves, night-scented stocks, and cornflowers. I also had meconopsis, cosmos, and honesty collected from the garden, and some astrantia received from Annette of ‘My Aberdeen Garden’ in exchange for some of my leftover apricot Digitalis seeds.

Now, you might be thinking that this is an awful lot of seeds for a lone gardener in possession of just two seed trays, no windowsills or greenhouse, and one small garden to fill—and you’d be right. Ms Raven, your enticing catalogue holds a dangerous power! Careful labelling of the seed trays is key, especially with so many of these seeds being brand new to me. I can recognise cosmos seedlings with no difficulty, as I have grown these for the past two years, and of course sweetpeas are in root trainers (and for my purposes there is no benefit in labelling the individual varieties), but most of the other seeds are novelties and without labels I won’t have a clue what they are when they come up. With regards to the shortage of seed trays, I have learned that plastic fruit punnets do very well, especially if they have a lid attached. All the same, I am hoping that these seeds come up very fast so that I can prick them out and get cracking with the March- and April-sown seeds.


So far I have sown the sweetpeas, calendula, euphorbia, ammi, cleome, meconopsis, cosmos, chives, and gauria. The area around our back door is crammed with seed trays and punnets. The chives are already up, as are two rather doubtful looking cosmos seedlings. The rest remain stubbornly sub-vermiculite.




5 thoughts on “Sowing the seeds of summer

  1. I’ll be very interested to hear how everything germinates especially the Euphorbia as I’ve down 2 batches and not one seed has germinated. Mine were also from SR.

  2. I share your admiration for Sarah Raven – she is of good horticultural stock : her father was a well-known botanist in his day. I have a copy of his book A Botanist’s Garden. A gorgeous catalogue of Sarah’s fell out of my Garden magazine a week ago, and I nearly bought you some seeds for your birthday. Just as well caution prevailed. However she also has plug plants – v handy if any of the seeds fail.
    The reason for labelling sweet pea seedlings is that some colours germinate much better than others. If you have sown plenty of spare plants you risk planting out a large number of the same colour (white and mauve, usually).

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