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Creating a Garden with Annuals and Biennials

One of the best aspects of gardening is its focus on the future, meaning we’re always looking forward to beautiful blooms, even in winter. In fact Autumn is the best time to plan for the following summer by planting annuals or biennials. If you’d like fill your garden with flowers for very little money and effort read on …..

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What are Annuals and Biennials?

Annuals are plants that only live for one season, meaning that they germinate, flower and die all in one year.

Biennials germinate and grow in year one and flower and die in year two.

Plants that die after a year or two may sound like very bad value for money but fear not, unless they’re sterile, annuals and biennials disperse seeds around the garden before they die, resulting in lots of free plants.

The Benefits of Annuals and Biennials

Annuals & biennials save you money

Perennials are generally more expensive than annuals so planting annuals is a much cheaper way to fill out a garden, particularly a new one. And if you’re savvy and save seeds from year to year it’s even cheaper!

Annuals & biennials give instant impact

Often the flowers from annuals are more flamboyant than those on perennial plants so you can create a very impressive flower bed relatively easily.

Annuals & biennials offer flexibility

Just by changing the annuals & biennials you sow you can complete change the look of your garden every year. This year you can go for a blue theme, next green and white, the choice is endless!

Annuals & biennials are easy to grow

If you go with hardy annuals and biennials (plants that aren’t killed off by frost) you can plant them directly into the garden and do away with the both of seed trays, compost and hardening off.

The only downside is the risk of slugs, which might nobble them before they get going.

Here’s a list of hardy annuals to consider

Annuals & biennials are social

By their very nature annuals and biennials love to set seed, which will give you an endless supply of lovely presents for neighbours, friends and family.

Annuals & biennials can be bee-friendly

Not all annuals are high in nectar and pollen but a lot are. On page 7 of this useful guide to bee-friendly plants you’ll find a list of bee-friendly annuals.

How to Sow Annual and Biennial Seeds

If you’re not plague by slugs and snails you can plant the seeds directly into the soil either in a nursery bed or directly into the flower bed. This is particularly good for poppies, who don’t like being moved.

Where to get Annual and Biennial Seeds

The most sustainable way to get seeds is from a parent plant so ask your neighbours, family or friends for donations at the end of summer but if you’re starting from scratch this year here are three Irish seed sellers to check out.

  1. Seedaholic – The seeds come in folder greaseproof paper in clear plastic bags, which I reuse for my own seeds
  2. Fruit Hill Farm – These seeds are organic and open-pollinated, i.e they are not sterile and require replacing every year. The vast majority of their seeds come from a community owned seed company in Lincolnshire in England. They also sell organic plant bulbs
  3. Seed Savers  – This is a non-profit organisation working to conserve Ireland’s very special and threatened plant genetic resources, particularly heritage varieties from all over the world that are suitable for Ireland’s unique growing conditions.
  4. The Organic Centre in Leitrim is a non-profit organisation based in Leitrim with the aim of providing training and education, information and demonstration of organic gardening, growing and sustainable living.

Where to buy Annual and Biennial Plants

If you’d prefer to buy plants then you can buy organic plants if you can. Buying organic allows you to avoid buying plants coated in bee-killing pesticides. It’s hard to get organic plants. Caherhurley Nursery is the only organic nursery I know of in Ireland and they sells very reasonably-priced plants around the country at ISNA plant fairs.

Although Future Forests in Cork don’t sell organic plants they operate as sustainably as they can otherwise. Their premises is made from local wood and harvests rainwater to irrigate their gardens and nursery. They hand weed all their nursery beds, doing away with the need for systemic weed killers and since October 2017 they only sell peat free compost and use a peat free potting mix for their own potting. They also use recycled cardboard and local straw and aim to be as efficient as possible with all the materials we use. Their supplier does use peat in their mix, but they’re trying to reduce the proportion of it.

Not organic but socially positive is the garden centre run by charity Enable Ireland in Sandymount, Dublin 4 and the garden centre run by social enterprise WALK in Walkinstown, Dublin 12.

I also find the ISNA plant fairs a good place to buy from independent nurseries, which tend to use less herbicides and pesticides, if any.

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