Plant Profiles: Starter Plants
I always give in to temptation at the Garden Press Event. There are always new plants on offer to trial and it would be impolite to refuse.
This year I'm looking forward to trialling the new petunia 'Night Sky' I liked the look of last year, plus some of the pictured begonia 'Glowing Embers'. I've been pleased with other cultivars of these trailing begonias before, so I'm looking forward to a great display later this year.
It means I'll have a delivery of starter plants quite soon, which I'll need to keep alive until I can plant them out after the last frosts in late May. It's a little tricky as I don't have a greenhouse, so there's quite a bit of windowsill juggling going on in the early stages.
When the plants get bigger, I'll transfer them to my cold frame to start hardening them off, with fleece on standby for any colder nights.
|Click to enlarge if needed|
I'm sure plenty of gardeners learn the lesson the hard way these plants can't be planted out straight away at this time of year.
I've seen some criticism recently about gardeners using these plants, with dismissive comments about real gardeners only start with growing from seed. That's great, but there are plenty of reasons why that's not always possible.
I've found them a great alternative when my seeds have failed, or
They're also a great option for themed colour plantings - many flower seed packets come in mixed colours - another pet peeve of mine.
As well as more flower options than you'll ever need, there are a few fruit and vegetables varieties available too. I've found tomatoes, peppers and chillis in addition to the pictured strawberries.
Great points from the comments
Harriet Rycroft left a fantastic comment which she's kindly allowed me to add to this post. She's a container gardening expert, so knows what she's talking about. Check out her blog A Parrot's Nest for thoughtful bloggage and excellent photography.
Little starter plants and plug plants are really useful for many reasons (of course you should shop around to make sure prices are reasonable but sometimes I think certain methods of growing are dismissed out of sheer snobbery).
Some people do not have the equipment or the confidence to grow from seed. Until they acquire either of these then why shouldn't
Even confident gardeners and professional gardeners learn that some of the big nurseries producing these little plants do so more efficiently than they ever can: if the price is reasonable then buying plug plants of popular plants such as Petunia and Begonia allows gardeners to concentrate on using their own under cover space and valuable time to grow a few more specialised items.
Finally - some varieties simply are not available from seed. Many "Patio plants" are hybrids or varieties which either may not come true from seed or are simply very slow and so better from cuttings. The little starter plants can be the cheapest way to get these.
A top tip bonus
I had a great chat with the lovely people from King's Seeds at the Garden Press Event. Their top tip for sweet pea seedlings like those pictured is to plant out the whole pot in one go.
Thinking about it, that makes sense as sweet peas like a long root run. Any attempt to separate out the plants in a pot is likely to damage those delicate roots. I confess that's been my approach in the past - this year will be different.Whitehall Garden Centre.
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