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Sowing seeds and very cool flowers.

My babies are growing and my babies are growing.

Harry has shot up (which means forking out for new school pants) and is now taking the bus to school. You would think I’d be thrilled with the reduction in school run time – I know did. But as the bus drove off with him happily tucked inside the tears flowed. My baby boy is growing up and needs me for one less thing :-(  Little Senan has been stretching also and is growing into a wonderful little helper (well, sometimes anyway).  Will the lighter winter workload I'm able to spend a lot more time with them both, taking them on a Sunday walk every weekend.  Went to Heywood Gardens in Laois recently, was so lovely - can't wait to return and see it in full bloom.

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Harry, on a recent trip to Heywood Gardens.

I have begun my 2017 seed sowing and for the first time used seeds I collected myself from my own flowers. So am thrilled to say these babies are growing! There is always immense satisfaction when seeds strike, but it is definitely more intense when the seeds are your own. Here’s to saving money and perhaps down the line creating a brand-new variety that will earn me millions!! (yeah..)

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Senan (who refused to go to pre school on this day) helping me organising my seeds for the start of sowing.

Saving my own seed can be tremendously time consuming. Gathering them is the easy bit – but cleaning them can be long, painfully slow work (sunflowers a cinch, cornflowers mind-numbing). I’d love to watch them being mechanically cleaned in a seed factory as I can’t imagine how a machine can separate seeds the size of a speck of dust from its disintegrated outer shell…. But when it comes to buying seed for the upcoming year (spending money in January is rather painful) and watching your own baby seeds sprout and peep their little heads into the world for the first time, the hours spent cleaning them is all worth it :-)

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Germinated seed - happy days! These are grown using overhead lights and bottom heat.  When they are big enough to go ito plug trays they will be moved to heated bench in the greenhouse - I'm hoping there'll be enough light in there to keep them growing and ready for planting out under frost cover in March.

I’ve started my sowing extravaganza off this year with all ‘cool’ flowers. I purchased a copy of Cool Flowers (I highly recommend getting yourself a copy) by Lisa Mason Ziegler last autumn and devoured it several times - it was a real eye-opener. The techniques are so simple yet I had never contemplated them before – sowing seeds that will germinate in cool temperatures and when planted at the correct time will put down roots and go on to give me flowers much earlier in the season than ever before – magic!

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Cool flowers can be planted 6-8 weeks before the first or last frost is due. Ideally before the first is best (in Autumn) but as I wasn’t organised enough to do it then (surprise, surprise!), I’m doing it now. I’m going to be overly optimistic about the number of flowers I’ll produce but know that whatever knowledge I pick up along the way will be brought forward to increase production next time round. But it is still nice though to imagine having armfuls of annual flowers in June…….

Last Autumn I packed the mini tunnels with Ranunculus, Anemones and in Spring Icelandic poppies, all of which have settled in really well. The year before when I sowed Anemones I pre-soaked the tubers and put them into individual plugs before taking them to the farm when they had rooted. Unfortunately, a large number of them ended up rotting in their plug trays and never made it to the farm so this time around I did not do any pre-soaking. On the farm I planted hundreds straight into the ground and watered them once and here at the house where I do my propagating I put them straight into plug trays – again with no pre-soaking and just one watering of the soil. I’m delighted with the results. I have hundreds of seedlings emerging both from the ground and the plug trays – looks like I’ll have loads of lovely anemone flowers this year – yay! The trick is to avoid the temptation to pre-soak and after the initial watering to avoid further watering until you can see shoots emerging.

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Hundreds of Anemone De Caen seedlings - the ones on the right 'The Bride' are slowest andd last to arrive.

With the Ranunculus I had to lots to work with – the new corms I bought in and the ones I had dug and saved from the previous season. The ones I bought in I soaked for a couple of hours and put into plug trays. After months, there’s only a few of handfuls of seedlings – very disappointing as the corms appeared healthy. With the ones I saved I divided them, soaked them for a couple of hours and put them into plug trays. A couple of months later I had tonnes of Ranunculus plugs bursting out of their trays! So, if you’re wondering whether or not to save your corms – go for it!

With so much hope and expectation for the coming season - Let the flowery year begin again!!!

Orla x