Hardy Annuals - The top 5 varieties to give you the most stems to sell next year

The end of August and first half of September are a blur of seed sowing for those of us in the Uk, who want to be selling flowers in the first half of next year.

There are a whole list of hardy annuals that can be sown now, and with the right conditions will make it through the winter, and will be ahead of anything that gets sown in Early spring. 

But which ones win in terms of stem numbers to sell in that all important late spring window when customers are interested in our flowers, but the season is only just started.

Orlaya

 Autumn sown Orlaya seedlings

Autumn sown Orlaya seedlings

 Orlaya beds in full bloom mid June

Orlaya beds in full bloom mid June

The first year i grew Orlaya I sowed a whole packet of seeds, but only managed to grow 3 plants. These were planted in my polytunnel and cosseted. From 3 plants, i sold 57 stems to florists, and I have pictures of them in bouquets that i made in late June, so i guess at least 20-25 stems a plant were produced. Now I Sow one batch in September which get planted outside and covered in Environmesh over winter, and i interplant my polytunnel ranunculus with Orlaya plants sown in October, grown in 7cm modules over winter, and planted into the beds between the ranunculus plants in March. I’ve tried growing them as Spring sown plants, but never manage to get as tall stems as those that have overwintered, so i’ll stick to Ammi for later in the year.


Cornflowers

Cornflowers germinate fast, and get good root systems quickly. For that reason they are ideal for Autumn sowing, and need pricking out within 5 days of germination, - which usually means 8 to 10 days after sowing them

Cornflower seedlings.jpg

I get the best and strongest plants when i space them well, - just 3 plants across each of my 90 cm beds

This is how they look by February

 Covered in ugly netting to keep off the deer and rabbits who love overwintering cornflowers

Covered in ugly netting to keep off the deer and rabbits who love overwintering cornflowers

Claire picking cornflowers.jpg

By late May, they are strong, and tall plants with up to 20 flower stems per week per plant, Usually I give up picking late June, - not because they aren’t still producing hundreds of blooms each week, but because i can’t keep up with the dead heading.

Daucus Carota

Daucus Carota which is probably correctly named as a biennial rather than a hardy annual is a great umbellifer that follows on from where Orlaya finished flowering in Mid June. This Carrot family flower is another that needs winter protection from rabbits, but if you can prevent them nibbling then this is another plant that you are likely to give up picking because you can’t keep up with it, rather than because it runs out of steam.

 Hundreds of white with a hint of blush filler flowers per square metre

Hundreds of white with a hint of blush filler flowers per square metre

Ammi Major

 Strong Ammi seedlings mid October about to be planted out

Strong Ammi seedlings mid October about to be planted out

Ammi Major is another Umbellifer that really benefits from Autumn sowing. The difference in height and so stem length from Autumn to spring sown plants is terrific. With the strong bold Autumn sown plants producing a lot more stems per plant, and plants putting down lots of growth over the winter

 Strong Ammi plant in the January sunshine

Strong Ammi plant in the January sunshine

 End of May

End of May

Sweet Peas

The last one on my list which is an absolute must for piles and piles of Spring flowers are Autumn sown Sweet peas. Now Admittedly these are best grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel for early blooms, but late September or October sown sweet peas can be flowering outside in sheltered areas by June. They can be kept in pots until late February or early March, and then are hardy enough to be planted even if we get late frost. The last couple of years i’ve been selling a good proportion of my blooms as sweet pea trails, which keeps the blooming even longer

 Tray of overwintered sweet peas about to be planted out

Tray of overwintered sweet peas about to be planted out

 Lots of flowers over a long period make sweet peas a valuable crop despite the work needed in feeding tie ing in and picking them

Lots of flowers over a long period make sweet peas a valuable crop despite the work needed in feeding tie ing in and picking them