The paths on my nursery become incredibly congested at this time of year and some days there seem to be more plants on the paths than there are on the beds. But this phenomenon is one I enjoy and look forward to as blocked paths means it’s planting season.
Throughout April, May and June, Troy, our Head Gardener will tour the nursery selecting plants destined for the garden and these plants are pulled out onto the path to await collection by one of the team, who will have the plum job of adding them to the garden.
Mid-May is particularly welcome as it serves as the signal for the end of cold nights and frosts and a safe time to plant out the multitude of annuals which have been growing in the glasshouse and poly tunnels over the last couple of months.
Here is a selection of some of the annuals gracing the garden this year.
Arctotis are a major feature of the Cottage Garden where you will find them planted en masse in front of the cottage. Beautiful, eye catching and sun loving, they bear masses of large daisy blooms over a very long period from May until the first frosts. As well as being a superb border plant, Arctotis make excellent cut flowers.
Bacopa are delightful trailing annuals which bear a profusion of small white flowers over an extremely long season from early May until October. These hardworking little plants can be found cascading gracefully in a pot in the White Garden.
A firm favourite here at Sissinghurst, Gazanias are beautiful annuals with large daisy like blooms which open with the sun and close up again in evening. We plant four different Gazania varieties (G. uniflora, G. ‘Freddie’, G. cookei and G. ‘Cream Beauty’) in troughs in the Top Courtyard and in various beds throughout the garden. This season I have also grown a new variety for trial in the garden; a stunning sunny yellow form called G. ‘Colorado Gold’ which I hope will make a good addition to our collection.
One of my absolute favourites, this exquisite South African native bears a mass of bright blue flowers with white centres on flowing wiry stems. Planted in the Rose Garden, it forms a tumbling mass of blooms perfect for softening the edge of pathways. Truly delightful.
Helipterum roseum ‘Pierrot’
Another striking annual with glaucous foliage and drooping stems which bear large acorn like buds opening to pure white flowers with dark eyes. Beautiful in bud and in bloom this unusual plant adds texture to a border and makes a great dried flower.
Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’
A superb variety which has graced the garden with its presence for many years. Grown in the Herb Garden due to its edible flowers, this striking ground cover annual is outstanding due to its vibrant flowers and graceful habit.
Nemophila ‘Penny Black’
Introduced to the garden last year, we grew Nemophila in a container to great success. The stunning black and white flowers were borne in profusion all season and this truly unusual plant proved to be a great talking point for visitors. If you have a greenhouse overwintering is possible, but Nemophila come well from seed or cuttings so they are good candidate to try propagating.
Stylomecon heterophylla ‘Copper Queen’
This unusual, rarely seen annual is currently an outstanding addition to the large pot in the centre of the Cottage Garden. It’s a dainty but striking plant that bears exquisite copper orange, single poppy like blooms on slender, drooping stems in May and June. Another firm favourite of mine; I was so pleased the warmer weather encouraged some of the flower buds to open in time to get a picture for this blog. The garden team have combined it with the sunny yellow flowers of Bidens ferrulifolia for wonderful effect.
A superb, well known annual, Tagetes are valued for their long flowering season and delightful marigold like blooms. This choice variety (T. ‘Cinnabar’) is a selection from Great Dixter Garden. Soon to be added to the Cottage Garden, this form is taller growing than most others with a continuous profusion of rusty orange-red blooms on upright stems. A great performer.
A stalwart of the garden and bearing the name of Sissinghurst, this Verbena greets visitors in the urns at the front entrance and often graces the Top Courtyard pots through summer. The lax, flowing habit forms the perfect base for the electric pink blooms which appear in abundance from late spring right through to the first signs of winter. This is without doubt the plant we propagate the most in the nursery, with a batch of 60 cuttings going into the prop frame every two weeks. The cuttings take roughly two weeks to root so it’s a continuous merry-go-round throughout spring and summer.
We have many perennial Viola varieties spread throughout the Rose Garden, Courtyards and White Garden but this annual species is well worth noting for its sheer profusion of blooms. Grown from seed each year V. tricolor graces both pots and borders in the garden with its three coloured yellow, white and purple flowers.
Annuals, although quite often maligned, have a distinct and valuable place at Sissinghurst. They are reliable, exquisite performers which perfectly complement the perennials and shrubs which form the essence of the garden.
Photos by Bridget Wheeler – assistant propagator