I wish I could get excited about seed sowing, like you do. When all the proper gardeners start leaping around like little spring lambs, I turn sulky and reluctant. Maybe I’ve been secretly enjoying this long, cold winter because it has put off the time when I have to go out to the greenhouse and start the inevitable. Who’s to say? It’s not the act of sowing itself, which is fine, I suppose, if that is the sort of thing you like, but more the responsibility that comes with it. Sowing seven trays full of seeds is like having the class hamster cage thrust into my arms for the weekend, or rather seven cages containing – say – 11 class hamsters, each with slightly different needs and peculiarities. I get slightly panicked. It’s the responsibility.
But of course I like the results that come out of sowing. I like big brassy sunflowers, and I like wildflower-like, piercing blue cornflowers to mix in with cut roses. I like zinnias for Luis Barragán-inspired bunches, and sweet peas for sweet wafts. Just as I rather like my children even though I didn’t particularly enjoy the moment of bringing them into the world, so I make myself sow the seeds. They’ll turn out nice in the end.
In fact I could likely have sailed along quite happily in my sowing avoidance were it not for a package of all of my favourite things that turned up this week from Higgledy Garden , whose charming owner Ben specialises in cut flower seeds. Sunflowers ‘Vanilla Ice’ and ‘Ring of Fire’, cornflowers ‘Blue Ball’ and ‘Black Ball’, nasturtiums and calendulas, cosmos and malopes, all the things designed to lure me out of my fear of excessive numbers of dependents and into the greenhouse. I haven’t sown them all – easy now, one step at a time – but I sowed those things that will cope best with any latent cold snaps: cornflowers, calendulas and nasturtiums, leaving the more tender cosmos and zinnias for phase two. I also dug out some packets of sweet peas sent to me in the autumn by Easton Walled Gardens (it is their specialism and they offer over 30 varieties, if you’re still looking to sow, or alternatively and more lazily just visit them during their Sweet Pea Week June 30th-July 7th and see their 70 varieties on show). And so I finally got mine going, five to a big deep pot, only a few months after their ideal sowing time.
Cut flowers were among the most successful crops at my allotment last year, partly I guess because they don’t really need to mature or ripen in the way other crops do, and so they weren’t so dreadfully affected by the constant wet and the miserable lack of sunlight: they just flower and they are ready. Sure they would have flowered more if 2012 hadn’t been just one long extended autumn, but they brightened the place up pretty well, and put a wan, grateful smile on our faces as we poked about in the mud hunting for a single courgette, or sorted through the slug-ridden potatoes for a meal’s worth of edible ones. We always went home from the allotment with a bunch of sweet peas at least (and often only a bunch of sweet peas) and for that alone they have put themselves onto the ‘must sow’ list for a good few years to come. The results were more than worth the trouble, and this year I will again be glad I forced myself to take on – temporarily at least – a whole greenhouse full of troubling new dependents.