We have the Seven Wonders of the World but I think an eighth should be created; Seeds. I find it absolutely amazing that often minute seeds can grow, in the space of just a few months, into the most beautiful of flowers.
Here in France we’ve endured what feels like a forever winter and I don’t know about you but I’m ready for colour and March is the perfect time to sow numerous annual and perennial flowers undercover. These seeds should be sown now in pots or trays and kept in a warm spot and in full sunshine.
I find that compost here in France is somewhat expensive and quite coarse. Many seeds are but specks of dust and will find germination difficult if they have to battle through lumps of compost, so ensure you give them a helping hand by planting them in fine seed compost (terreau de semis).
Below is my list of favourite annual and perennial flowers which can be sown undercover in March and which will put forth a beautiful splash of colour come summertime.
Helianthus annuus (Sunflower). French name: Soleil or Tournesol Géant. It’s impossible not to smile when you see a sunflower, big and bold, they epitomise summertime. I like ‘Valentine’ a lovely yellow sunflower with a deep chocolate centre and ‘Moulin Rouge’ a glorious red sunflower. Both of these sunflowers reach 1.8m tall.
Nigella damascena. French name Nigelle de Damas. These annuals produce wispy, spider-like flowers which are loved by pollinators. For a blue flower try Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll.’ For something a bit different I love Nigella damascena ‘Albion Green Pod’ which has a pure white flower with a lovely citrus centre.
Verbena bonariensis, French name: Verveine de Buenos Aires. This is a tender perennial which is often treated as an annual due to the possibility of it being damaged by frost. Renown for attracting butterflies, Verbena bonariensis grows to 1.5m tall and is best planted in large swathes throughout the border. Elegant, statuesque and simply beautiful.
Nicotiana. French name: Tabac d’ornement. This is one of my favourite annuals, which year after year attracts the Hummingbird moth to our garden. I love the elegant, long, white trumpet flowers of Nicotiana sylvestris ‘Only The Lonely’ or for something different try the zingy lime green flowers of Nicotiana ‘Lime Green.’ The evening scent from Nicotiana is nothing short of heavenly.
Lavatera trimestris. French name: Lavatère. Large funnel-shaped flowers will give you a stunning display all summer long. For a true girly pink, I love Lavatera ‘Silver Cup.’
Lathyrus odoratus (Sweet pea). French name: Pois de Senteur. From the purest white to the deepest purple, sweet peas come in an array of colours. A climbing annual, they add gorgeous colour to any garden and have a wonderful scent to boot. I love the crimson black colour of Lathyrus odoratus ‘Black Knight’ which would contrast beautifully with the creamy colours of Lathyrus odoratus ‘Mrs Collier.’
Eschscholzia californica. French name: Pavot de Californie. An annual flower which will freely self-sow. The blazing orange colour of Eschscholzia californica ‘Orange King’ looks stunning planted in swathes, especially when planted through purple flowering plants.
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens.’ French name: Grand Cérinthe. I adore this flower which I only discovered last year. It has silvery leaves and beautiful purple hanging bells. It is loved by butterflies, bees and other pollinators and although it is an annual it easily self seeds so you’ll never have to buy seeds again.
Achillea millefolium. French name: Achillée. A hardy perennial which is loved by bees and other pollinators. With tiny flowers appearing on long stems, Achillea will flower constantly from June into autumn. There are many colours available and I like Achillea millefolium ‘Cassis’ which has cherry red flowers
Rudbeckia. This is a half-hardy annual which will flower in its first year from an early sowing. Growing to about 60cm tall with daisy-like flowers, Rudbeckia are available in the brightest of yellows, lovely burnt oranges and deep reds. I love the deep red colour of Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ and Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cappucino’ which has lovely mahogany petals tipped with gold.
All of the above flower seeds are available from either Sarah Raven or Plantes et Jardins, please click on the links to the side or bottom of this blog post to take a look.
I’m craving colour and would love to hear what seeds you are planting this March to give your garden colour this summertime.