Anya Lautenbach, otherwise known as Instagram gardening sensation ‘Anya the Garden Fairy’ shares her favourite flowers to grow from seed to transform your outside space in time for Summer
ONE OF THE GLORIOUS HERBACEOUS BORDERS IN THE GARDEN ANYA LAUTENBACH GREW FROM SEEDS AND CUTTINGS. IMAGE: ANYA LAUTENBACH
When we moved into our house eight years ago, our garden wasn’t much to look at. There were no borders, the grass was patchy and there was a massive septic tank in the middle of the lawn. I was also a new mother, and was really struggling mentally. So, I decided to create a garden. I didn’t know what I was doing, but one day I just started digging and through trial and error I now have a garden which gives me and my family so much pleasure.
People often think that I must have spent a fortune on plants, but nothing could be further from the truth. We never had a gardener and created it by growing the plants from seeds and cuttings, and you can easily do the same. Growing something from seed and seeing it thrive is one of the most exciting things a gardener can do – there’s nothing better than a summer afternoon in a garden you created yourself.
Before you start planning your garden, it is important to understand the difference between annual, biennial and perennial plants and their life cycles, and the aspect of your garden. Creating a garden isn’t about randomly buying plants that look good in their flowering season; it’s about choosing the right plants for the right conditions. This simple rule will save you precious time and money.
Some plants will complete their life cycle, from germination to the production of seeds, within one growing season, and then die – these are called annuals. There are advantages to their short life, like the fact that you can add many different varieties of plants every year. You can experiment with colours and textures and choose some fabulous varieties.
Many plants need two years to complete their biological lifecycle and this group is called biennial. In the first year, the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots, then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months, to finally flower the following year.
Perennial plants live for more than two years. They grow and bloom over the spring and summer, die back every autumn and winter, and then return in the spring from their rootstock. Perennial plants are expensive, but they can also be easily grown from seeds. Here are some of my absolute favourites which can be sown now…
COSMOS BIPINNATUS ‘CUPCAKES & SAUCERS’ IN ANYA’S GARDEN. IMAGE: ANYA LAUTENBACH
The colourful daisy-like flowers are the most popular varieties of this wonderful annual, but you would be amazed how many different shapes are available. One of them, voted RHS garden visitors’ favourite, is Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Cupcakes & Saucers’. I fell in love with this exciting variety from the first flower. Cosmos is very easy to grow and it doesn’t require any special soil. It prefers full sun, but it will also tolerate half shade. You can even grow it on your patio in pots and containers. Sow your seeds under cover from March to April, or directly into the soil from May to June and they’ll flower until the first frosts.
ANYA’S FAVOURITE SWEETPEA VARIETY LATHYRUS ODORATUS ‘MATUCANA’. IMAGES: ANYA LAUTENBACH
There are annuals that I just can’t imagine summer without and Sweet Peas are one of them. In contrast to Cosmos, the Sweet Pea is a hungry plant and it needs rich soil. Lathyrus odoratus ‘Matucana’ is the strongest scented variety and is my absolute favourite. You can sow them under cover from February to April – I plant mine in toilet roll holders, which are an environmentally friendly way to help them establish deep roots. I soak my seeds for about an hour before planting and sow two seeds to a roll, planting them 1cm deep and covered with compost. Water them well and place them on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse. They can also be sown directly outdoors from March to May.
BIENNIAL FOXGLOVES GENTLY SELF-SEED IN ANYA’S GARDEN. IMAGES: ANYA LAUTENBACH
One of the most iconic biennial plants is Digitalis, commonly called foxgloves. It’s very important to remember that this plant isn’t going to flower in the first year. The foxglove foliage isn’t particularly attractive and it can be mistaken for a weed. Plant them under cover from February to March or direct outdoors from April to May. Once they have finished flowering, you can collect the seeds and sprinkle them around your garden, and the plants will also gently self-seed – it really is that easy!
PERENNIAL VERBASCUM ‘WEDDING CANDLES’. IMAGES: ANYA LAUTENBACH
One of my favourite perennials, Verbascum is such a fabulous addition to the back of your borders. This fantastic looking plant grows in full sun, but it’ll also tolerate half shaded areas. Sow them under cover from February to March or direct outdoors from September to October. ‘Wedding Candles’ is my favourite variety; I grew these plants from seed about three years ago and they come back every year. I now have about 40 of them in my garden, all from a £1.99 packet off seeds!
Discover more gardening inspiration by following Anya on Instagram @anya_thegarden_fairy
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