Many people associate sowing seeds with the spring. However, there are certain plants that fare better when sown later in the summer and into early autumn, giving you stronger plants the following year, that will flower ahead of those started in spring. These tend to be hardy perennials and annuals which overwinter happily outside, although they may need a little protection from extreme weather.
As August and September are still light and the soil temperature is warm, seeds will germinate easily. By the end of September and beginning of October, as temperatures ease, seedlings can concentrate on growing and establishing root systems without having to battle against the strong sun levels. It is best to direct-sow seeds at this time of year; however, you can also get them started in pots, just don’t forget to keep them watered. Below we have listed some examples of seeds to sow now in preparation for ealier flowers next year.
Ammi majus – bullwort
You would be forgiven for mistaking this annual for Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), as it shares the same lacy umbels of delicate white flowers. Just like Cow Parsley, it gives a wild style to a border and the flowers can be used in arrangements.
Papaver somniferum – Opium Poppy
Most poppies do not take kindly to being disturbed, and so are best when sown in situ. Alternatively, sow them in biodegradable pots so you do not disturb their root systems when you plant them out. Poppies are great plants for low-maintenance gardens as they tend to self-seed freely around the garden, usually in little nooks and crannies. They attract pollinators and the seedpods which develop as the flower dies away, are also very ornamental.
Nigella damascena -Love -in-the-Mist
This seemingly delicate annual is actually more robust than it looks and is available in various shades of blue, pink, white and purple. It can be direct sown, or grown in a pot and transferred to the ground. Both the flowers and seed pods are highly ornamental, so are worth harvesting for floral arrangements. However, if you would rather not re-sow, leave the seedpods to open and scatter their seeds, giving this plant a chance to self-sow and naturalise.
Delphinium – Larkspur
Delphiniums are very popular plants; their upright spikes of soft flowers add vertical colour towards the back of the border, and pollinators love them. They are hardy, so can be started in the late summer for more established plants the following spring. However, it is worth noting that young delphinium leaves are irresistible to slugs, so consider protecting young delphiniums with cloches or copper rings, or grow in pots in a protected area and then plant out in the spring.
Cerinthe major – Honeywort
This is quite an unusual annual, with its silvery-green foliage and contrasting nodding, purple flowers. Attractive to pollinators, so great for a sunny border or near fruit and vegetable gardens. It also self-seeds quite easily.
Salvia viridis syn. S. horminum – Annual Sage
The sumptuous purple flower bracts of this annual really make it stand out in a border, which will give you colour from the early summer all the way into the autumn.
Scabiosa atropurpurea – Sweet scabious
With dark sultry flowers, this annual, or short-lived perennial will add some depth to your border. They have a sweet scent and will flower all summer long and into the autumn. They are an excellent choice for attracting pollinators into your garden.
Eschscholzia californica – California Poppy
This vibrant orange poppy will light up a border in the summer, especially in masse. They are particularly useful for areas with poor soil and cope well in coastal areas too. Although they are an annual, they self-seed and naturalise happily if the conditions are right.