Hunter Ancestry Prestonpans Lochgelly

Biennial Plants and Sunflowers From Seed

Bills Beard Sunflower
For many years I've enjoyed a spot of gardening.
In fact there have been several occasions over the years when I've been employed as a gardener.
That's included in Scotland and when living in the Northern Territory of Australia.
I also studied plant biology as a component of my BSc degree in 1985 at the University of St. Andrews.

I'm by no means an expert but do try to grow a variety of different plants each year.
Unfortunately what can be achieved in my Dunfermline garden is limited by its small size and difficult location.
An enormous sycamore tree, which I've pictured elsewhere in my blog, hardly helps my efforts.

The following photographs were taken over the spring and summer of 2019, although preparations began the previous year with the sowing of biennial seeds.

I generally sow biennials indoors on window sills during June and July.
I have a greenhouse but it's more convenient to tend a small amount of germinating seeds in the house.
Seedlings are potted up and transferred to the greenhouse after a few weeks of growth.

The small Lupins plants in the photograph were placed outdoors for a short time, but were eventually returned to the greenhouse where they remained until the following spring.

Lupin seedlings

Lupins grown from seed
The Lupin blooms were disappointing.
It's wise to buy seeds from a trusted supplier in the hope that whatever springs up bears at least some resemblance to what's pictured on a seed packet!

As a very small boy I can recall my grandfather growing Russell hybrids in his garden in Fife.
Those Lupins were allowed to self-seed year after year and the resulting plants became progressively less colourful.
He eventually dug the lot up.
The capture of foraging bees in a jam-jar was a serious competitive sport when a child, so I was less than happy.

A snag with Lupins is that they fall victim to many garden pests, from slugs to field mice. The latter managed to tunnel into my greenhouse and snack on the tender growing tips.

Lupins are not troubled by the cold Scottish climate, but those in the photograph did become exceptionally straggly after flowering. That was due in part to the shady location.

The Foxgloves were more successful.
The seeds were sprinkled over compost in a tray and left uncovered.
I noticed that if the compost became too dry the tiny roots were unable to penetrate the surface.
Some germinating seeds were consequently lost.

Foxglove seedlings

Foxglove grown from seed
The Foxgloves were tolerant of the shade beneath the sycamore.
They are after all plants of the woodland's edge.

They were visited by several species of bumblebee.
That was handy as few other plants which attract insects were flowering in my garden during June of that year.

Viper's Buglass and Teasels grown from seed
The blue Viper's Bugloss plants pictured overhanging the edge of the raised bed were outstanding.
They too were grown from seed and over-wintered in the greenhouse.
It is a native British biennial and a tremendous attraction for bees of all kinds.

I believe that Viper's Bugloss plants generally grow more upright than those in the photograph. At least that's what an online search suggests.
Possibly the trailing growth is a consequence of poor light?
Nonetheless those plants were vigorous and long-lasting.

In the above photo the tall plants to the right are Teasels.
Another biennial which grows easily from seed.

Teasel seedlings

Tuberous Begonias and Teasels
The Teasel is another favourite of insects.
Two years on and they are still self-seeding throughout my garden.

They are fascinating plants.
Dead insects collect in the water which fills cups formed by leaves around the base of the Teasel stem.
It has long been wondered whether those insects provide nutrients and if the plant might be regarded as carnivorous.

Sunflowers in a row in pots
It's hard to go wrong with annual Sunflowers.
Those pictured were a dwarf variety. The seeds were sown in my greenhouse in May.
In Scotland, with cool summers and low sunshine, it can be approaching Autumn before they bloom.
That allows little time for the seeds to develop before the first frost.

The plants in that Sunflower 'hedge' were grown in pots.
I think the log border edging, which I secured to a long wooden framework, makes a neat surround.

Potted sunflowers

wooden garden dibber ornament
Above, more Sunflowers and some tuberous Begonias.
There were three Sunflowers plants to each 28 cm diameter pot, which I'd say is the absolute maximum.
Watering was necessary at least daily to avoid the plants wilting.
That's a 40 gallon (88 cm tall) refurbished whisky barrel, which gives an idea of scale.

I cobbled together that elegant garden ornament using rounded tree stakes, stainless steel coach screws and flower pots.

By the way, I routinely paint all wooden garden structures with Creocote (brand name).
That's the substitute for creosote which these days, for safety reasons, is only available for purchase by trades-people.
I used to swear by the stuff.
Whether Creocote is equally effective as a preservative only time will tell.

One final plant is worth a mention.
It is the old-fashioned, biennial Honesty (Lunaria).

Honesty Lunaria

Those plants have been self-sowing in my back garden for as long as I can remember.
Situated below the sycamore tree and adjacent to a garage wall, they are as tough as old boots.
Neither the shady location nor the severest of Scottish winters has hampered their growth.

Do you enjoy a spot of gardening?
Your reaction or thoughts on the content of this blog post are welcome.


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