Direct sowing in clay soil - what flowers?

Rosie31Rosie31 Posts: 483

Hello all

I want to try filling in the gaps in my "cottage garden" look bed with direct sown annuals.  These have always failed for me in the past, not sure why.  Possibly because I have very heavy clay;  possibly because the other (perennial) plants in the bed are competing too much with them.  Or maybe I'm just neglectful...

This year I want to try again, waiting til later for sowing (I'm told May is sensible).  What would people recommend as bomb-proof, colourful flowers?  The general colour scheme is blues and pinks - but I'm happy to mix it up with yellows / oranges.  The bed contains geraniums, japanese anemones, pinks, penstemon, nepeta, asters, verbena bonariensis, alchemilla mollis and various other things - a bit of a hotchpotch but quite pretty.

All suggestions welcome!



  • I have clay soil. Limnanthes douglasii, the poached egg plant,self-seeds very well without getting out of control. Borage also.

  • I wanted similar last year, when i started gardening, i had loads of free seeds from mags, so i found all the ones that were direct sow in October, and sowed them in our heavy clay soil, the weather being what it was they all sprouted in November, then were treated to a Yorkshire winter, some survived and are looking like healthy plants now. All the ones that made it are poppies of varying types. Looking forward to seeing what colours Ive ended up with, needless to say will be sowing more poppies this year

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 875

    Cornflower and Corn Cockle seem to do well on clay sown in mid April, I have found.  Also poached egg flower as mentioned above.

  • daisy doodaisy doo Posts: 90

    Calendula, poppies,candytuft, nigella and larkspur usually germinate.  I have heavy clay soil and leave sowing till mid April. They romp away giving a good display by july/August. Oh and ammi majus also. Don't forget sweet peas.

    Hha to try are cosmos and cleome. Great for cottage garden effect. Sow these April/may on a window sill and you,'ll have some lovely plants x

  • B3B3 Posts: 11,451

    Californian poppies, night scented stock, nasturtiums, cornflowers calendula

    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 28,192

    Nigella and Larkspur usually grow readily from direct sowings - even if the soil's not great. 

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Lou12Lou12 Posts: 1,149

    I do nigella every year as they are my favourite flower and they grow in the heaviest of clay, they even grew in the shade last year.

  • Peter36Peter36 Posts: 20

    Gardening mags.& tv programmes start talking about sowing hardy annuals in march.

    There's no way I can do this in my NW garden,clay soil,cold,wet,sodden soil.Also,my two marauding cats dig up the beds.

    I have to start mine off in modules-direct sowing for me is a big no no.

  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 5,387

    I have very heavy, sticky, wet, cold clay in some parts of my garden. Seeds which have germinated readily in these areas (either sown or self sown) include cosmos, dill, opium poppy, nigella, nepeta, geranium palmatum, feverfew and californian poppy.

    If you want a cottage garden feel I would definitely go for cosmos, feverfew  and nigella. You will get a much higher germination rate with the cosmos if you can make a small seed bed somewhere. I usually sow mine (in a seed bed) about mid April. Pinch the cosmos back several times to get bushier plants which flower a little later but last through till the frosts. Plant in final location when about 6" high.

    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 28,192

    That's often the problem with sowing guides Peter - they really refer to ideal conditions. Your own conditions dictate the best time, but unfortunately, many people lose lots of seeds or plants because instructions aren't clear.  It's only when they've had to buy more seeds that they discover that! image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

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