Our greenhouse is filling up fast with tiny transplants and it’s the best feeling after a long winter – I absolutely love this time of year. The little ones are warmed by wood heat and protected from any more Pineapple Express storms heading our way. We start a few annuals quite early on the farm – some in the second week of February. The extra work pays off rewarding us with blooms somewhere around mid May/early June.
I thought I could share with you a few of our favourite early season annuals that are great for the cutting garden.
In no particular order here goes:
Last year we trialled a handful of snaps and this year have narrowed our selection down to the Chantilly’s and Rocket White. The Chantilly’s are butterfly type unlike the classic dragon mouth so if you are in the market for something unique, I highly recommend them. They are a fantastic series! The colours are insane and they shoot out tons of stems. With a pinch of the center shoot you can expect 6 or 7 stems good for cutting. Snapdragons are tough plants and a light frost won’t get in their way so you can set them out early if you must.
CERINTHE MAJOR or what some folk call “shrimp plant” is one of my absolute faves. Purple bracts cascade atop leathery grey foliage on a plant packed full of stems. The bees are crazy for the purple bells which are a beautiful cream on the inside. We start ours in 2 inch soil blocks no sooner than 4 weeks before we plant these speedy growers out. The variety pictured below is Kiwi Blue.
CALENDULAS are beauties and they are a cinch to grow. We like the Pacific Mix from West Coast Seeds. They are robust, prolific, bold and medicinal to boot. That being said, if you want to grow Calendula for its resin I would recommend trying either Alpha or Resina (both are available organically from Johnny’s Select Seeds). Direct seed when the soil can be worked and pinch out the first flower. Also, if you cut it to the ground in spring you’ll get a second flush of blooms come late summer/fall.
Iberis “White Pinnacle” or Giant White Hyacinth (available from Stokes Seeds) has really grown on me. I love white flowers and this one has a really cute look about it. It can be direct seeded when the soil can be worked and the trick to getting nice long stems is plant them tight at 4 or 5 inches.
Finally, I have a real soft spot for growing POPPIES! They are so cheerful and sweet and weird at the same time. When they are first opening up they resemble fuzzy snake-like creatures and they unfurl into the coolest delicate flowers. I would recommend trying Meadow Pastels which is easier to start from seed then most other varieties. For the largest flowers and longest stems try germinating them inside (16 C to 20 C) and set them out as early as you can because they like it cool.
Have fun in the garden!