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Annuals and biennials

Ideal for gardening beginners or a quick-fix solution

Picture the scene – it’s your first flat with a balcony or house with a small garden and you haven’t got a clue what to do with it, let alone have loads of money to spend. What do you do?

Well, growing easy annuals from seed is a cost-effective way to fill your garden with colour and scent and create a pollinator-friendly environment.

It’s the ideal way to get your kids involved in gardening for the first time. Firstly, what are annuals and biennials?

Hardy annuals – learn more here

Even if you’ve never grown anything before, hardy annuals are where to start – it can be as simple as:

  1. Open packet.
  2. Scatter seeds on the soil.
  3. Lightly rake.
  4. Water when thirsty.
  5. Sit back and watch the flowers.

OK, there is a bit more to it than that but there’s no magic wand, knowledge or special powers needed.

Annuals are born, flower and die all in one season – usually sown from March-May, flowering until the first frosts, by which time they will have set seed (the next generation), then they die.

For beginners and children, a good bet is a wildflower mix – just make sure you buy one suitable for where you’re going to sow it – full sun, partial shade, etc.

These native plants are accustomed to the extremes of our climate, so won’t throw a complete wobbler if you forget to water them once or twice.

Some, like Calendula, will even self-seed and germinate in late summer and early autumn. If it’s a mild winter, you have ready-made plants that flower early.

Half-hardy annuals – learn more here

You’ll need a bit more skill and equipment to grow half-hardy annuals, but the extra investment is worth it.

These are usually tender plants from the tropics that aren’t frost hardy – some are half-hardy perennials that are usually grown as annuals because they’re regarded as too much fuss to overwinter (such as dahlia Bishops Children).

Plants you’ll find in this category are traditional bedding plants such as Antirrhinums, Cosmos, Mesembryanthemums (Livingstone daisies), red Salvia, Petunias, etc.

They require a propagator to germinate and good light levels – really follow the information on the seed packet, as instructions vary.

Biennials – learn more here

Often overlooked, it’s such a pity, as our common biennials fill that gap in the garden between the last of the bulbs in late spring to the main summer-flowering plants – foxgloves, rocket, wallflowers, etc.

They are hardy and are easy, often to the point of self-seeding a little too vigorously!