Understanding annuals, biennials and perennials.

Scabious seedlings

Hello my dear flower loving friends,

I think a lot of you are starting a cut flower patch this year as your something new to do as i’ve been inundated with emails about what you should grow.

I think many of us these days have had it drummed into us that in order to start a cut flower patch we need to grow seeds! Then comes the ‘well whats the difference between H/A, HH/A or Biennials?’ Firstly I want to start by telling you that you don’t have to start a cut flower patch through buying lots of packets of seeds and a little investment at the start could have you reaping the rewards years down the line and all without breaking your back, I’ll discuss this more later on but for now I want to explain to you exactly what an annual, etc is.

Annual plants are plants with a life cycle that lasts only one year. They grow from seed, then flower, produce seed heads, and die in one growing season. They then need to be replanted each spring. Examples of such are cosmos, ammi and some scabious. There are thousands of annual plants and they are broken into hardy annuals (H/A) meaning they are quite tough and can take a degree of cold, for example: larkspur can be sown in late September outside where they are to flower and fingers crossed if winter is mild they will survive and give you an early crop the following year. They can still be started off early spring in a greenhouse and that will give you a later crop the same year. Half hardy annuals (HH/A) are very tender and will not tolerate any cold spells, I sow these early spring in the greenhouse then they need to be hardened off late May before being planted out.

Sowing annuals is very labour intensive so if you are short on time or space to grow them just pick a couple to start with. Think of which styles of flower you love and which colours, then make sure the plant will thrive where you intend to put it. Think of available sun light!

Biennial plants take two years to complete their lifecycle. The first year, the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots, then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months before having a real growth spurt and flowering. Foxgloves are a prime example, so are hollyhocks, both big favourites of mine and so easy to grow! I tend to let nature do its thing and scatter the seed heads everywhere I want them and voila, easy gardening.

Perennials are plants that come back every year, they put on new growth, flower, die back and then are usually cut back in the winter. Some of my cut flower staples are from my perennial beds! Geums, salvias and perennial scabious are a few of my favourites. Delphinium are also wonderful as they will flower again if you keep cutting them. Actually there are quite a lot of perennial flowers that thrive in a cutting patch and love being constantly cut! Nepeta is another fabulous one.

I really recommend investing in good perennial plants for your cut flower patch for so many reasons. Over the years they can be lifted and divided up giving you lots of new free plants. Most of them love being cut through the year and will happily keep on producing blooms although not all perennials do this so pick wisely. They also need less watering than annuals as their roots have already gone way down into the earth. And lastly you don’t need to start all over again the following year!

Then you have the likes of dahlia tubers, bulbs and corms, with a little care these can go on producing for a long time.

I hope that has helped you and you can now proceed with your gardening plans with confidence. I love getting your emails so please keep them coming either through my Instagram or the contact form.

Emma.

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