Sow biennials

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Sow biennial honesty, foxgloves and forget-me-nots now to enjoy beautiful flowers next spring

After the first flush of spring bulbs has finished, there can be a lull before herbaceous perennials and annuals get going. This is when biennials come into their own, flowering from mid-to- late-spring and into midsummer.

This group of plants is so often neglected, perhaps because we’re a little impatient: they germinate and produce foliage one year, then flower the next. Because spring is such a busy time in the garden, it’s easy to forget to sow them. However, the fact they need sowing in late spring and summer is a great bonus because our windowsills and greenhouses will start to free up over the coming weeks, making space for another batch of seeds.

Garden centres tend to have a limited range of biennials – such as shorter cultivars of wallflower and sweet Williams – but you can widen your choice by sowing your own.

• Biennials to sow in May: honesty, foxgloves, forget-me-nots.

• Biennials to sow in June: sweet Williams, sweet rocket (hesperis), wallflowers, Canterbury bells (Campanula medium)

Biennials will be ready for planting out in September

Biennials will be ready for planting out in September

HOW TO SOW

 1. Fill trays with multipurpose compost and press down gently to create a firm surface on which to sow. Distribute seeds on the surface of the compost. Check the packet to see if seeds need light to germinate (leave them uncovered) or whether they require a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite on top.

2 Label and water by standing the trays in a couple of centimetres of water so the compost absorbs the water from below. Or, use a watering can with a fine rose attachment so the seeds aren’t displaced.

3 Place somewhere bright and warm but watch the compost doesn’t dry out and the seedlings don’t wilt or are scorched. Keep well-watered, then prick out when they have two sets of leaves. Grow on in individual pots and move to a cooler spot such as a cold frame or sheltered corner of a patio. The plants will be ready to plant out in early September.