The January sales might not apply to gardening, but garden bargains can begin early with ordering seeds in preparation for the planting period of early spring to give yourselves plenty of inexpensive colour in the garden this summer.
In light of this, here is a collection of six beautiful and easy to grow, half-hardy plants - ready to be sown early in the New Year – just follow the instructions on the packet!
1. Cleome (Spider Flower)
A common and well known cultivar, the Spider Flower is named thus for its exceedingly long pink and white stamens and seed pods that sprout in half dozen clutches giving the appearance of spiders legs. These clutches sprout at the crown of stems up to six feet high. When cultivating this plant one shouldn’t get too hung up on the quality of soil which is largely inconsequential, as the Cleome is very hardy to droughts and a lack of nutrients, however it will only thrive if watered regularly. Space is the key requirement and as such I would recommend spacing of three feet per plant.
These white, pink or deep burgundy-red, daisy-like blooms will flower in early to late summer, needing only poor soil and partial sunlight, and will require minimal maintenance to produce vibrant and healthy flowers over a long period. However, be wary of over fed soil as this can lead to a more foliage focused specimen, rather than a high number of blooms. Deadheading is also an effective means of ensuring consistency in the flowering plants.
3. Impatiens (Busy Lizzie)
These popular bloomers will thrive either as a potted indoor plant or as a summer bedding plant, however now is the time to begin planting, Lizzie is favoured for her bright foliage and petals, ranging between white, pink, mauve and red. They are also a highly versatile plant in that they can grow in beds, hanging baskets and tubs alike. They are well suited in either sun or shade and flower all summer long, generally no higher than 1 ft.
4. Ipomoea (Morning Glory)
One of grandmother’s favourite climbers and it’s no wonder as to why – with their bright blue, trumpet-shaped flowers, they are stunning. Soak the seeds before planting to ensure germination and once the heads begin to poke through, put in some supports gently winding the stems themselves around the base. Fairly resistant to droughts and happy in a majority of soil quality, these little beauties should be planted out, as should all half-hardy annuals, after the last chance of frost and then evenly fed and watered for best results.
Available in a range of different cultivars depending on your preferred colour scheme, the Petunia geminates in two weeks and yields a velvety, trumpet-shaped bloom varying between pink, white, pink, purple, orange,red and sometimes even bi-coloured. Make sure to plant them in full sun and keep the surrounding soil moist, watering once every 2-5 days. Regular dead-heading will allow new shoots to flourish.
6. Thunbergia (Black Eyed Susan)
The Thunbergia is an extremely attractive vine with characteristic yellow flowers with a black eye, hence the common name. It should be sewn indoors up two months before the final frost - this will provide the seedlings enough time to establish before the start of spring, thus allowing you to plant directly into the garden when spring does arrive. Whether you provide supports depends entirely on the purpose of the plants, whether you wish them to sprawl outward as ground cover or upward as a standing vine.