Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Plant Profiles: Starter Plants

Begonia 'Glowing Embers' 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.


Cultivation Notes

Growing instructions for starter plants
Click to enlarge if needed
I'm pleased I found the pictured cultivation guide (and leaflet) on display as it's a pet peeve of mine that many places stock starter plants from February onwards with little or no guidance available.

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.

lobelia mini plus starter plants
As well as the initial potting up of these tiny plants into the larger celled trays pictured above, I re-pot them again into 9cm pots when they're ready for transfer to my cold frame.

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
Strawberry starter plants
I've got behind with my seed sowing. I've also seen some people struggle with handling tiny seeds, or at the pricking out stage, yet they're fine with these larger - albeit still small - plants.

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.

 Starter plug plants poster
I can thoroughly recommend Begonia 'Glowing Embers' I've used it many times, it's a beauty. And I bought it as plug plants.

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
colour themed starter plant selection
they buy young plants and learn about handling those and bringing them on?

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.

plant display stand
Thirdly, the range differs from seed ranges - especially in the case of new varieties quite often the only way to get them is as young plants. This is a great way to try a few new things to see if they may be worth growing from seed yourself another time - instead of clogging up your greenhouse with something that turns out to be a dud.

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


Potted sweet peas

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 logo
Plant Profiles is sponsored by Whitehall Garden Centre.

Note: sponsorship covers my blogging costs, the words are my own. There are no affiliate links or cookies associated with this post.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Michelle, I can thoroughly recommend Begonia 'Glowing Embers' I've used it many times, it's a beauty. And I bought it as plug plants. 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 they buy young plants and learn about handling those and bringing them on?
    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.
    Thirdly, the range differs from seed ranges- especially in the case of new varieties quite often the only way to get them is as young plants. This is a great way to try a few new things to see if they may be worth growing from seed yourself another time - instead of clogging up your greenhouse with something that turns out to be a dud.
    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.
    Horses for courses!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for such a detailed comment Harriet - so good to have the advice from a container expert like you :) I'd forgotten not every plant is available as seed - Surfinias for instance - many I display would be the poorer (including mine) without those and other choice plug plants. I'm going to add your comments as a new section in the post - they deserve a wider prominence.

      Delete
  2. I don't understand why there should be any snobbery about using starter or plug plants. A lot of seeds require heat to germinate and we're sowing them at a time when the level of heat needed requires artificial heat. And some seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate. I only have so many window sills and these will be covered with the seeds I will be sowing. Plugs need not be expensive if, as Harriet suggests, you shop around. Buy them a bit younger and you'll get a fair few for your money (as they get bigger you end up paying silly money for six packs). The plugs arrive about the time when the weather's getting warmer and can be grown on easily in a greenhouse if you have one or in those cheap plastic covered "growhouses" - look for ones on wheels that you can wheel out in the daytime and into the garage or shed or anywhere to keep them snug at night.

    The skill is not in germination but in producing, at the end of whatever process you follow, sturdy plants that will deliver months of colour or loads of food for the larder. And, of course, enjoying doing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great points, John thank you. I like the idea of a wheelie greenhouse :-)

      Delete

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