A taste of some new varieties I am trying in 2024.

Every Autumn I have this super strong resolve to minimise my variety of crops so that I can maximise efficiencies, and not buy such a wide range of varieties of beautiful new flower seeds or dahlias tubers, whereby I inevitably do not have enough of each variety. Then, every Winter it is almost like my senses have an inbuilt ‘catalogue hitting the post box’ alarm. It is all downhill from there really (financially at least!).

*image copyright of Chiltern Seeds (https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/)

I saved loads of seed last year, to the point that I have some available for purchase as I have so much. I will be using my saved seed as a priority for a number of reasons; it is free, it is super duper fresh, it is accustomed to my specific growing conditions at the flower field, and finally, it is the most environmentally friendly way you can create new plants (other than division of your own plants/tubers). Indeed, I intend to divide my dahlia tubers in a few months to create more stock too.

However, I am but a mere mortal, so of course I have fallen prey to some January shopping. Continue on to get a feel for what I will be sowing from mid February onwards!


In line with my busy farm, part time job and parenting responsibilities(!), I am always looking for ways to be more efficient, and expanding my perennials is a huge part of this. They are also the best way to keep up with our ever changing climate goalposts (for more on this, checkout local grower, Rachel Seigfried’s brilliant, The Cut Flower Sourcebook) and require less molly-coddling long-term – win!

So, what did I go for?! Among my list of experiments this year will be a few Scabiosa varieties (Scabiosa caucasica Perfection Blue & Perfection White, and Scabiosa atropurpurea Beaujolais Bonnets), providing stunning buttons of large, tissue-like flowers in pale blues, whites, and deep wine burgundies… Accompanied by tall spires of Veronicastrum virginicum in whites, pale pinks and blues, some perennial grasses such as Pennisetum orientale Fountain Grass, the green and pink Echinacea purpurea ‘Green Twister’ and I am going to have a go at getting that Pinterest-obsessed perennial, Gypsophila to take… I cannot wait!

*image copyright of Chiltern Seeds (https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/)

Hardy Annuals

I am not known for my patience – perhaps flower farming, relying on the un-rush-able natural speed that growth just takes, is an interesting choice for me? – so hardy annuals are a great one for me. They let me start them that little bit earlier, releasing my itchy seed-sowing fingers from mid February, and they can also be sown late Autumn (a lot of the time), allowing them time to grow and develop before the winter chills really get going, and then allowing them to flower earlier in the season once the light levels pick up along with the temperatures as we tentatively step into Spring. On this January’s shopping list, there is a combination, including - but not limited to - annual lupins (Avalune Pink and Avalune White, as well as Lupinus cruckshankii ‘Sunrise’ – I do love a lupin!), a foxtail Amaranth called ‘Oeschberg’ providing spikes of burgundy pink/red, and finally a couple of varieties of Carthamus tinctorius – a flower I embarrassingly admit I hadn’t even heard of until spying it in the windows at Co-op in Pangbourne, then seeing my favoured British flower wholesaler offering this tropical-looking orange flower too. I figured, I will have a bash at that, and it dries well too, so finger’s crossed I get good germination and manage not to kill them in the time between germination and harvesting!

*Image copyright of Chiltern seeds (https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/)


Dahlia tubers

I lost quite a lot of my dahlia tubers last winter to the frost. I was storing them in a new shed, and then we had those really cold periods where it didn’t defrost for over 10 days at a time, which just found any weak spots in my storage methods (there were probably a lot of weak spots!). I bought quite a bit last year, but thinking I had loads of pink dahlias safely stored in the shed, I ordered darks, whites and oranges – haha more fool me. I then had quite a lot of crown gall last summer (I bought in from a lot of different places, as well as put them in a new bed, so who knows where this came from), so have lost a few tubers again. Adding to that, my labelling strategies have had another failed attempt at surviving an entire season with the tuber they were identifying in a legible state, so there are numerous unidentified dahlias currently tucked up in the outbuilding - quite honestly, it is a bit of a lucky dip as to what I will get next year!

*’Kick off’ Image copyright of Farmer Gracy (https://www.farmergracy.co.uk/

So, I therefore found myself staring at dahlias in the catalogues again, and whilst I was purchasing some bare-root perennials (I’ll save that for another blog post!), I saw a dahlia called ‘Kick Off’. Something about this peachy, salmon-y, orange decorative dahlia just sang to me. I had to have it. (It also looks quite close to the 'Peach Fuzz' pantone of 2024, so maybe I have finally become fashionable?!). The site I was on was obviously sold out, making me want it even more (sigh, I am like a moth to a flame to marketing tactics!). I have found one tuber, from the lovely Rose Cottage Plants, and I am so excited for it to arrive, bloom and then I can swoon in real life. But of course, if I am buying that, then I need to buy more to make it worth paying the postage, so added to the basket were some Preference (Headley Flower Garden sold me some last year and I fell in love), Burlesca, Black Jack, Maya, Wine Eyed Jill, American Dawn and some more Linda’s Baby and Wizard of Oz (I am moving house in the next few months and had these in my garden, I cannot remember where they were planted – sigh).

*Dahlia ‘Maya’ - image courtesy of Floret Flowers (https://library.floretflowers.com/)

So goals for now are to not buy any more seeds or bare roots or tubers for the next few months (tricky as I have seen some Potomac Snaps on the Plants of Distinction website that I am keen on! Next year, I must remind myself to stop acting like the kid in the sweet shop, buying a little of everything, and focus in on less varieties, in more quantities.


Best intentions and all that…

PS - I have included links to my favourite seed and dahlia sellers here, or at least the ones I am using this year (so far!), there are loads of amazing suppliers out there!

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