The weather is glorious – 'Flaming June!'
"Your poppies are looking good this morning" said Cliff, when he returned from letting out the hens early this morning. And when I looked out of the window I could see the Autumn-sown flower border vibrant with colour . . .
I am experimenting with ideas and techniques for filling the garden with colourful flowers AND have free-ranging hens. "Is she mad?" I hear someone say – don't answer that – I will show you how I created a feast of flowers.
Last September the Supervisor and the Under-gardeners helped me to mark out a new border and to dig up the lawn.
I then sowed Hardy Annual flower seeds, mine were from Higgledy Garden plus some poppy seeds collected from my Mum's garden. I covered the seed beds with wire mesh 'tunnel cloches' to prevent Mr Cheep and his hens from scratching them all up . . . this is the most vulnerable time for the seedlings and hens love to follow and copy anything I do in the garden – where I dig, they dig!
The seeds soon germinated and became healthy looking but tiny plants. This is how they remained all winter, the wire mesh would have also protected them from snow . . . but we had no snow last winter.
As the temperature began to rise and days lengthened, the little plants grew quickly and pushed against the wire mesh, so I carefully removed it and made twiggy woven structures around the patches of young plants. I included little wire mesh fences to prevent the hens from walking through the growing plants, by now they seemed bored by my project so didn't interfere. At this stage it looks a bit of a mess – but not for long . . .
After the Spring Equinox growth really takes off! the twiggy/wire-mesh structures disappeared under a mash of swaying plants and I waited expectantly for the buds to open.
I love the mix of shapes and colours, like Liberty Tana Lawn that's come to life.
100 Flowers #084 Opium Poppy - Papaver somniferum
Once grown abundantly in Fen villages for medication against symptons of the ague, the latin name means 'sleep-bringing poppy' and it is the source of many narcotics; but it is legal to grow it in the UK as long as you don't start making drugs from it. This is the poppy so familiar in Art Nouveau designs, the frilly foliage is grey-blue and the buds are elegantly hooked over until a day or two before the flower opens, when they stand up straight.
100 Flowers #085 Corncockle - Agrostemma githago
Corncockle was once a common wildflower in wheatfields and the seeds got mixed into the harvested grain . . . which was a bit of a problem as all parts of Corncockle are poisonous! So eradicating this toxic weed from crops was necessary, consequently the Corncockle is now very rare in the wild.
100 Flowers #086 Cornflower 'Black Ball' - Centaurea cyanus
This is a cultivar - taller and with larger flowers than it's wild blue cousin. I grew this last year as a Spring sown annual, but the Autumn-sown plants are so much bigger and more robust. For those of you who like to sprinkle petals on your food – this one is safe, Cornflower petals make very pretty sprinkles. I think that the deep dark burgundy flowers are fantastic cut flowers that seem to blend well any other colour and it looks particularly wondrous mingled with Ammi.
100 Flowers #087 Common Bishop's Weed - Ammi majus
Ammi is the 'posh Cow Parsley' that is so fashionable with garden designers and florists wanting a 'natural country-look'. It is ethereal and wafty, insects love it and it is the perfect mixer for your flowery cocktail. This is another flower I wouldn't recommend eating - I know some people nibble Cow Parsley but there are so many similar plants that are highly toxic (Hemlock for instance) or a bit dodgy like Ammi, so be safe and no nibbling.
The wonderful thing about Hardy Annuals is that most of them make good cut-flowers, the more you pick the more they flower – win win win! You can pick buckets of flowers! Have fun filling vases with flowers, give some to your friends – flowers make people smile.
Top tip: grab your diary and make a note to sow some seeds in September. It's easy – throw seeds onto dirt and wait. Pop over to Ben's lovely seed shop at Higgledy Garden, he has all the seeds and information you need. (There are lots of other seed suppliers but they aren't as entertaining to follow on Twitter.)