Posted: 03/03/2014 at 20:37
a few years ago I started some sweet rocket from seed indoors in March, planted out after the frost, and it flowered that year. The two severe winters seemed to have killed them off but last summer I must have disturbed some self-sown seed as several have grown over the winter and some are currently in flower, though only tiny ones!
For whatever I sow I now tend to sow some seed and keep some for later in case of germination problems or to give a succession.
I'm definitely a fan of sowing in small cells and potting up or planting out, I find outdoor sowing quite hit and miss for many plants. If I do sow outdoors I cover the seeds with compost rather than soil - I sometimes find that, especially if the seeds need watering , ordinary soil forms into a hard crust that seeds can't break through. Covering with compost also helps you see where you've sown.
Night scented stock has a lovely scent but the flowers aren't very impressive - you might want to try mixing the seed with some Virginia stock or Candytuft. Reseda (mignonette) is a nice evening-scented plant but not as easy/reliable.
Some easy wildlife-friendly annual seeds that will flower the same year are: nigella/love in a mist, sweet scabious, single cornflower wild or cultivar (available mixed colours but avoid double flowered, agrostema/corncockle, candytuft, dwarf sunflower (little leo?), limnanthes/fried eggs, calendula/pot marigold. All should be ok sown outside in late March or April. If you sow some in April and some in June you should get a succession. Sorry for the mixture of Latin/common names!
Some late flowering perennials may flower the first year - I think the echinacea I grew from seed a few years ago did - so don't despair.
If you've already spent a lot on seeds, and the folk on the forum are tempting you further, Wilkinsons own are good value!