Six on Saturday: 322 Plug Plants and Some Sweet Peas

For the second year running, I placed an order in November for all the bedding plants* needed to fill all the pots, troughs and baskets for the following year. Trying to plan and choose in advance was really hard, and equally so on the second occasion as some of the previous combinations hadn’t been especially successful, but it was worth the effort to avoid ad hoc purchases in spring and early summer – and even more so in the current circumstances with garden centres being forced to shut.

I have bought from Brookside Nursery in recent years and like the way you can choose which week your plants will be ready; an added bonus is that it is only about five miles from here and local purchasers can collect directly from the nursery, absolving the plants from spending time in transit. I had arranged for mine to be available from Monday of this week, but COVID-19 restrictions led me to ask for delivery instead. Fortunately, the plants were dispatched on Monday and arrived the next day, fresh as the proverbial daisies, but in an alarming number of boxes – three big boxes but each with little boxes inside!

I can’t fault the packaging though (normally when I collect the plants would just be loose in their trays) as the condition of everything was perfect, and when all the boxes were emptied of their contents the prospect of potting them up didn’t look quite as daunting – huge, but no longer daunting.

Fortunately, I had stocked up on decent compost before the garden centres closed (it took almost a full bag), and a couple of hours later everything was potted up (the larger plugs in 6 cell trays, the smaller in 12s) and space found for them in the greenhouse. In recent days I have been moving as much as I can outside to harden off, in readiness for this week, as the greenhouse is rapidly approaching saturation point as seeds get pricked out and potted on. The plug plants now occupy nearly one third of the main staging, all of the top shelf and just over one level of a freestanding unit I use for peak growth periods.

Just outside the greenhouse, I used some of the cornus prunings from earlier in the week to embellish the beanpoles for the outdoor sweet peas creating, in my humble opinion, attractive and functional supports. If they do indeed prove to be successful and fit for purpose I suspect this will become another of my annual rituals: prune the cornus, erect supports for the sweet peas. The promise of warm and sunny weather in the coming days encouraged me to make use them straight away, planting out the first batch of hardened off sweet peas. Sadly, I also know we are not due any rain, so will need to be prepared to water them regularly. For the first time in a while, these are January rather than autumn sown sweet peas, largely because a later planting of a trial variety last year seemed to give superior results; this batch consists of two varieties, Gwendoline and King George VI, a pink and red colour combination I had admired elsewhere last year.

Inside the greenhouse, now naked after shedding its bubble wrap in anticipation of the coming warmer days, the indoor early sweet peas (Winter Sunshine) continue to press ahead and, as I suggested last week, are on target to flower towards the end of April – now producing buds to prove the point:

Gardens are exciting places in April, and I am sure everyone else who is contributing to Jon the Propagator’s Six on Saturday meme today will have something exciting to share with us – do check out Jon’s blog to see what this is.

* petunia, verbena, calibrachoa, Busy Lizzie, argyanthemum, lobelia, pelargonium, etc

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29 Responses to Six on Saturday: 322 Plug Plants and Some Sweet Peas

  1. Anna says:

    Job well done Cathy! Which varieties of plug plants did you order? ‘Gwendoline’ is one of my favourite sweet peas – she is excellent for cutting 😄

  2. Wow! When I worked in Corporate America, our watchwords PPP. Prior Planning Paysoff! And so it does. Can’t wait to see the Sweet Peas.

  3. tonytomeo says:

    So, plugs get grown into bigger plugs before getting plugged into the landscape?

  4. Heyjude says:

    Wow! That’s a lot of plug plants! I wonder what you went for. I have a couple of orders in the pipeline – Cosmos seedlings and some rockery plants. I wonder when or even if they will be dispatched now. Otherwise I am in for a limited range of summer flowering plants this year.

  5. You are very organized! Your garden will be amazing, as always!

  6. Chloris says:

    Well you are well organised as usual. What a lot of plugs you have to deal with, you will have a wonderful show. I usually buy young plants from a local nursery who grow all their own, I think they are doing mail order, but I probably won’t bother this year. I remember the year you decided not to buy plants for a whole year and I thought I could never do that, but this year it may just happen, for some months anyway. The sweet peas you sent me are coming up nicely and I am looking forward to the flowers.

  7. 332 Plug Plants! Maybe that is why my garden isn’t so colorful during summer. I don’t think big enough.

    • Cathy says:

      Apart from white bedding plants for the snowdrop border, all the rest are for pots and a couple of baskets. It’s surprising how the numbers mount up when you comprehensivle plan to fill them , rather than just buying plants a few at a time.

  8. I’m missing visiting our local nursery at this time of year. Thankfully, they’re starting to do home deliveries in the local area, so I may have to make an order 🙂

    • Cathy says:

      Probably best to do it sooner rather than later in case you miss out. Mind you, I hope a U turn is made on garden centre opening…

  9. cavershamjj says:

    wow, I have plug envy! they look like very good little plants, i’m sure they’ll be fabulous. I always forget to sort out bedding plants so end up doing a panic raid on the local big-shed, ending up with bargain shelf, past it plants. I must find a suitable local place like yours.

    • Cathy says:

      They are essentially a mail order company, Jon, that just happens to be local to us – although I only found out about them by accident, really

  10. carolee says:

    Weren’t you the clever girl? I did order some perennial plugs early on, but didn’t even think about ordering annuals for my pots and rail planters. Now that I can’t go shop for them, I’ll just have to use some of the marigolds, dwarf zinnias, and other annuals I’ve already started that normally fill the flower gardens. It won’t be the combinations I’d planned, but hopefully they will do.

    • Cathy says:

      It was time consuming to plan so far in advance, Carolee, but it meant more co-ordinated pots than just buying things in randomly in speing, which this year I wouldn’t have been able to do – AND I got a discount for ordering early (the main reason for doing it in the first place!)

  11. Cathy put a ten for your anticipation to buy the 332 seedlings, that if it had not been for the Covid-19, you would have gone in person to choose them. But they sent them to you very quickly and you see very good, healthy and strong plug plants. Now you have a lot of work to plant them in cell trays. But it will be worth it when they become adults and fill their entire garden with joy and color. At the moment they are going to fill your greenhouse a lot! Winter Sunshine sweet peas are divine and about to bloom – they will fill the Greenhouse with perfume. The other peas are already planted outside, in that wonderful structure. I wish it doesn’t freeze until the coming Autumn. Have a happy gardening. Take good care of yourself and the golfer and stay safe. Loving greetings from Margarita.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Margarita. There is still the chance of frost but it would probably only be light. Anything outside should be hardy enough to cope and although I have switched off the greenhouse heaters the glass should be protection enough for anything inside.

  12. Helen Johnstone says:

    Lots of exciting plants, your greenhouse looks wonderful. I’ve just started sowing again only to discover a distinct lack of seed trays available on line so having to be a little inventive. I love the idea of indoor sweet peas, if only I had the room

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Helen – it’s definitely peak time in the greenhouse and I am moving trays outside as soon as I think they are strong enough to cope – really need to do a planting plan for the cutting beds so I can be ready to plant out in a week or two. I had to order more seed trays as i was sowing faster than I was pricking out but the balance of trays and cells has settled down again – I buy mine from Oakland Gardens on eBay. I know you haven’t space for a bigger g/h but for most of us the size we have is never big enough! The early sweet peas are a joy to have and the first bud opened on Saturday

      • Helen Johnstone says:

        I can’t find seed trays to order anywhere and my extra veg seed order is super delayed. Seems like the rest of the country has discovered gardening. I need to clear more border ready for courgettes and sweet peas.

        • Cathy says:

          That’s a shame – perhaps your son will have some bits of timber knocking about and can soon provide you with some good traditional wooden trays… Your garden will be very different now you are replacing the one border with veg – will it stop there, do you think?

  13. Cathy says:

    How how I wish I had planned ahead like you. Won’t be able to buy in any bedding plants this year! Yours are wonderful – Am also going to run out of compost. Looking forward to see the Winter Sunshine sweet peas and – yes – your cornus do look pretty!

  14. They’re lovely looking plants. I’ll have to look into doing that next year. I usually buy a few geraniums and busy lizzies from the local market, but they are closed now obviously, so I’m trying growing the later from seed for the first time.

    • Cathy says:

      I haven’t tried growing Busy Lizzies from seed but did try petunias once without success. I am probably more confident with my seed sowing now but don’t think I would have space to grow everything from seed. I don’t suppose anybody anticipated a crisis like this last year, but pre-ordering has certainly paid off for me – although we will be the only people to benefit from the blooms as we won’t now be opening the garden in June

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