Plants to Sow Now For Colour Next Year

Sowing hardy annuals in drills in a border outside - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Sowing hardy annuals in drills in a border outside – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

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

Ammi majus 'Queen of Africa' and Verbena bonariensis - © GAP Photos/Christa Brand

Ammi majus ‘Queen of Africa’ and Verbena bonariensis – © GAP Photos/Christa Brand

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

Papaver somniferum in June - Opium poppy - © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

Papaver somniferum in June – Opium poppy – © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

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

Nigella damascena - © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

Nigella damascena – © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

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

Delphinium 'Guardian Lavender' - © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

Delphinium ‘Guardian Lavender’ – © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

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

Cerinthe major - © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

Cerinthe major – © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

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

Salvia viridis syn. S. horminum - Annual Blue clary - © GAP Photos/Richard Bloom

Salvia viridis syn. S. horminum – Annual Blue clary – © GAP Photos/Richard Bloom

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

Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black Knight' - Scabious - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’ – Scabious – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

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

Eschscholzia californica - Californian Poppies - June - Surrey - © GAP Photos/Tim Gainey

Eschscholzia californica – Californian Poppies – June – Surrey – © GAP Photos/Tim Gainey

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.

Don’t be Afraid to Cut Back Alchemilla mollis – Lady’s Mantle

Flowering Alchemilla mollis spilling onto Yorkstone garden path - © GAP Photos/Paul Debois

Flowering Alchemilla mollis spilling onto Yorkstone garden path – © GAP Photos/Paul Debois

Alchemilla mollis, or Lady’s mantle as it is commonly known, is a very useful perennial due to its unfussy nature and attractive pale green leaves which look so pretty against other plants. It is a particularly proficient ground-cover plant, and along with its frothy yellow flowers, it looks lovely spilling over a pathway or softening the front of a border.

However, it can be quite invasive – often shading out other plants around it and growing at an alarming speed in the summer. It also self-seeds very freely, so expect to see seedlings pop up around the garden as the growing season progresses – which can then be dug up and moved to other parts of the garden as free plants.

The best way to deal with its speedy growth is just to cut it back midsummer, or when it looks unruly. Lady’s Mantle actually responds well to this, pushing up fresh new leaves very quickly during the growing season, and often a second flush of flowers.

Cutting back Alchemilla mollis - © GAP Photos

Cutting back Alchemilla mollis – © GAP Photos

You can be quite brutal with this perennial when you cut it back, cutting stems right to the base. Take as much back as required to leave space for other plants, as well as damaged and tired looking leaves.

As well as cutting back when required through the summer, you may want to do a final tidy up in the autumn, or cut back in the early spring as fresh growth starts to appear.

Cutting back Alchemilla mollis - lady's mantle -  after it has finished flowering - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Cutting back Alchemilla mollis – lady’s mantle – after it has finished flowering – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Happy snipping!

Using Lavender in the Home

Freshly picked and bunched garden Lavender arranged on a vintage garden sieve - © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

Freshly picked and bunched garden Lavender arranged on a vintage garden sieve – © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

By this point in the summer, Lavender blooms are in full swing, filling the garden with perfume and attracting all the local pollinators. Why not capture that essence of summer and harvest some of the flowers now? There are so many ways they can used in the home, be it culinary, decorative or medicinal. You can dry them or use them fresh, depending on the individual project. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Lavender sachets

Lavender sachets - GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Lavender sachets – GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

One of the most traditional ways to use dried lavender is to stuff pouches or envelopes with the scented dried flowers, which are then used to perfume parts of the home, traditionally drawers. This makes a really thoughtful gift and is a very natural way to fragrance an area. The smell of Lavender is also thought to be relaxing, so tucking these scented pouches, envelopes and sachets under pillows is another common habit.

Decorating Gifts

Gift box with a small bouquet of dried Lavandula ( lavender ) - © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Gift box with a small bouquet of dried Lavandula ( lavender ) – © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

A little botanical snippet of flower, seedpod or foliage adds a really interesting touch to gift-wrapped presents. The best thing about using Lavender is that you can use it all year round as Lavender dries beautifully, giving you a constant supply.

Wreaths

Heart of dried Lavandula (lavender) on balcony railing - © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Heart of dried Lavandula (lavender) on balcony railing – © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Wreaths aren’t just for Christmas. Wire or gently wrap lavender stems around a wreath frame of your choice for a scented decoration you can hang on the wall. It is best to do this while the flowers are fresh so the stems are still flexible. This arrangement should last for ages as the flowers will naturally dry while in position.

Decorative touches to dining tables

Lavender wreath round glass cutlery holder - © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Lavender wreath round glass cutlery holder – © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

This is another really fun way to decorative a dining table for a special occasion in the summer, especially in mid-summer, when you are more likely to eat outside. Lavender is really versatile, you can use the whole stem or cut off the flowerheads and individually wire them into decorations. We love the simple ways lavender can be used to decorate place settings and other tableware to make everything a little prettier.

Wrapped around candles

Glass decorated with Lavandula ( Lavender ), blue ball candle, white tablet - © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Glass decorated with Lavandula ( Lavender ), blue ball candle, white tablet – © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Either fresh or dry, lavender can be used to add a little something extra to your candles. Wrapped in mini posies to adorn a t-light holder, or used in a very contemporary way to fill tall glass vases. And think of the perfume that will be released as the candles gently warm the lavender.

Turn it into Art

Pressed flowers on paper - © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Pressed flowers on paper – © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Create a textual and abstract piece of art with dried rosemary and petals from other summer flowers. This could be a really fun project to do with kids too.

Flavouring sugar

Glass jars containing Lavender Sugar made from Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' flowers - ©  GAP Photos

Glass jars containing Lavender Sugar made from Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ flowers – © GAP Photos

Lavender is actually a herb and can be used in cooking. Gently perfume some sugar by mixing the individual dried flowers into it before storing in an airtight container. Don’t forget to label it in case you forget what you have used. This is a lovely idea for a gift too.

Homemade cosmetics

Still life with Lavandula - Lavender, oils, soap, dried flowers - © GAP Photos/Sarah Cuttle

Still life with Lavandula – Lavender, oils, soap, dried flowers – © GAP Photos/Sarah Cuttle

If you are clever enough to make soap or other cosmetics, Lavender is a classic ingredient due to its perfume and other herbal properties. Start harvesting and drying it now so that you have ample supply through the year.