In this No Fuss video guide, Alan Titchmarsh considers the whys and wherefores of ordering flower seed from catalogues. He stresses the importance of working out how much space you need to fill, in order to avoid ordering more seed than you can use. Then, he picks out examples of flower varieties in novel colours or with labour-saving properties. Finally, he looks at a seed collection with a ready-made planting scheme, designed to attract pollinating bees and butterflies.
Watch now for tips on choosing which flower seeds to sow this spring.
Watch Alan’s guide to ordering veg seeds
Ordering flower seed: transcript
It was Oscar Wilde who said, ‘I can resist everything except temptation’. And, you know, when it comes to seed catalogues, I think I’m of the same mind. Looking at flowers for beds and borders, you go through thinking: I like that, oh, I’ll have one of those, I’ll have one of those. And then the packets come, your bank balance
goes down and your storage space, well, that runs out because you’ve got so much, you need to make a sort of more methodical approach.
Find out the spaces that you’re trying to fill and then work out what needs to go in them. I know it’s obvious, but we all fall into that trap. Look for some new things, but also don’t be too inclined to ditch your old favourites that do well every year; and when you go into the catalogue, remember that sometimes the sales pitch is quite strong. Now everybody, or most people love alyssum, that little white border edger, but it does tend to sort of go off fairly quickly in the season. Now then here’s one, Alyssum tetraploid white, and it says here: ‘double the flower power than traditional alyssum, larger and longer flowering, ideal for pots and borders’.
You’ll notice I stick Post-it notes in to remind me what’s where. What else did I spot? Unusual colours, things that are not normally that particular shade. There’s a cosmos here. Cosmos – white, pink, lovely rich. carmine. This one, ‘Xanthos’, is yellow. Do we like the look of it? Personal choice really isn’t it? And then if you’re looking for labour-saving things – sweet peas, lovely, fragrant, growing up support systems which you have to erect and then remember to wind them all in. This one here: ‘Duvet mix’. The clue is in the name – ‘short variety, ideal for beds and borders. No frames needed for support.’; Well it’s worth a go isn’t it? Saves you putting up all those wigwams.
So you’re going through, you’re looking for what you know you can use, what you’re excited to try, but also things you can rely on. You’re probably also looking for labour- saving – that comes with the duvet mixture of sweet peas. But also, if you’re new to gardening, it’s quite handy sometimes, to take a shortcut, to use advice that’s readily available, often in a box. This is a wildlife-attracting mix. Very important that we get bees
and butterflies back into the garden. It’s been a tough year for butterflies, particularly over this season. And a box like this will come complete with a plan of how your border will look and the packets that you can sew into those patterns to make your garden a rich store of nectar and pollen for wildlife, for insects, for bees and for butterflies. Very, very important.
It needs to look good, too, as well. If you want to go out there and look on a well-defined colour scheme, choose flowers from the catalogue in single colours. If you sow a mixture, it’ll be a wonderful rainbow, but it might look a bit like a sherry trifle. And if you want to go out there and cut, check that the flowers you’re growing have stems long enough to cut and they will last well in water.
It really is a game of many parts, ticking lots of different boxes, to make sure that from this one seed catalogue, or actually from about the half a dozen I’ve been looking at with the Post-it notes, you can end up next year with a garden that not only looks good and make sure it does its bit for nature as well. A lot more reading to do yet…