Episode 137 - Show Notes & Advice

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episode 137 | show notes & advice

episode description

For today’s episode, Sarah talks about the 12 best seeds to sow this autumn for beautiful and abundant flowers next year. Discover Sarah’s top picks from the seed sowing trials at Perch Hill and the best varieties for introducing serious colour and style to all types of gardens.  

In this episode, discover

  • Top tips for successful autumn sowing 
  • Sarah’s 12 best plants ornamentals 

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Episode 137 advice sheet

September sowing (2:04)

Now is a great time to sow as the ground is still warm after the recent Indian summer. Thanks to the evening and night dew, the soil is still moist, which makes it optimum for sowing and growing. Conditions needed for rapid germination include:

  • Warmth
  • Moisture 
  • Light

If you have a greenhouse or polytunnel, autumn sowing is particularly effective. In the case of ornamentals Sarah sows direct into a seed tray, and then instead of pricking out, she plants straight into the garden. The only exception to this rule is antirrhinum which are pricked out, potted on, and put under a cold frame. This is because they aren’t totally hardy. 


12 best ornamentals to sow now 


Ammi majus (5:45)

A tried and tested favourite, bishop’s flower (ammi majus) is an incredible filler for a vase as foliage, on its own, or at the back of a border where it can grow up to 8 ft tall. 

Sarah sows into half a seed tray for around 30 plants. Add a little compost to the bed they’re going into and transplant straight out. Sow now, and the will germinate within ten days.

Ammi visnaga (7:23)

More like the wild carrot in its appearance but hardier than most other lace umbellifers. Whatever the weather and even up north, it grows well in lots of gardens. 

Forming lots of seed heads, pick this variety through until Autumn along with the dahlias in your garden. Great value for up to six months of flowering, sow and grow in the same way as you would the Ammi majus. 

Daucus carota (9:56)

A beautiful crimson umbellifer that gardeners will love. Sarah’s recent chat with a previous podcast guest, Rachel Siegfried (Episode 113 https://www.sarahraven.com/podcast/show-notes-ep113), revealed that sowing seeds of this plant in August and September will result in earlier flowers. Ultimately, this will prevent disease hitting and the leaves turning red and dying. Direct sow straight into the garden to skip the danger zone. 

Orlaya grandiflora (11:19)

Sarah spends a lot of time with her family in the hills of Crete, and in the springtime, orlaya grandiflora lines the edges of the roads and trails. Like ammi but shorter and denser with frothy whiteness, these are found everywhere in rough grassland. This plant will benefit from being sown now in a warmer climate and growing over the wintertime. 

Hardy annuals 

Centaurea cyanus 'Black Ball' (12:38)

While Sarah loves the traditional blue cornflower, she adores ‘Black Ball’ for its dark rich colour. Transformed by sowing in the autumn, Perch Hill benefits from hedges of cornflowers that you wouldn’t get from sowing in spring

Salvia viridis 'Blue Monday' (13:27)

Totally splendiferous and excellent for pollinators. This is a hardy annual, and by sowing in the autumn, it will produce bigger flowers. Direct sow or sow into a seed tray.

Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black Cat' (13:27)

Velvet pompoms of dark velvet crimson flowers. Although this can be sown in the spring, you will grow a bigger flowering plant if you plant in autumn. Direct sow or into a seed tray.

Nigella hispanica (14:35)

Dark, new denim blue with a crimson, black crown. This variety is much more glamourous than the Nigella damascena. These can be direct sown in autumn. 

Short-lived perennials 

Snapdragon (15:40)

This is a short-lived perennial, hardy in Sussex, but less so in the north. If you’re based in the south, you should be able to transplant these straight out, and they should survive, particularly in well-drained soil and in a sheltered spot. 

However, if you’re further north, prick these out into a 9 cm or small pot and pot them on in March for planting out in April. These steps should ensure flowers throughout May. 


Euphorbia oblongata (17:41)

Prolifically cut and come again, this plant comes with a strong health warning. So, make sure you wear gloves when handling, and be wary of its sap! A truly fabulous foliage plant, the flat plateau structure makes it really easy to arrange in a vase. 

True perennials  

Chasmanthium latifolium (19:04)

One of Sarah’s best garden plants, this grass is super elegant and upright in stature. It also creates beautiful hanging coin-like flowers that become long lasting seedheads. Sowing in September means it will germinate in the spring. 

Erigeron karvinskianus (20:30)

Great for containers and border edging, erigeron karvinskianus is also known as the Mexican daisy. Covered in daisies from April until November this plant is incredibly long lasting. Drought tolerant and low-maintenance, great for softening steps and really beautiful with it. 

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