Growing cyclamen can be so satisfying

Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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I know from your letters that many of you love growing things from seed.

It takes just about a year to get indoor cyclamen into bloom if they are grown from seed. But this is one of the most satisfying plants to grow because watching their progress is like caring for a number of babies who will develop and flower when we all need cheering up in winter.

Quite a lot of growers sow the seeds in August because they germinate easily at that time of year. But it will then take 17 months to get them into flower, whereas if they’re sown during the early part of February they will be just starting to bloom by Christmas the same year.

Have a look at a seed catalogue to find out the varieties available. You’ll see several different kinds of flower which you may not have seen before at garden centres and supermarkets.

This is where we can be a bit adventurous by growing a variety which is perfumed or perhaps one with frilly edges to the petals.

There aren’t many seeds in the packet, so try a different method of sowing them. Instead of using a large seed tray, try a half-size tray or a shallow seed pan which is about four-and-a-half inches in diameter. Sow the seeds in the tray singly so that they are an inch apart and with about one to two inches between the rows, or in a seed pan near the edge, placing the seeds where the numerals on a clock would be. Any left over can make another ring on the inside.

This idea will be very useful because you know where the seeds are situated and you can watch the germination.

A simple plant propagator can be bought at a garden centre for under £30 these days and it can take pride of place in your greenhouse. It will transform the way you propagate plants (successfully).

A little thermometer is an excellent addition too – you will need a temperature of about 60 to 65F which isn’t going to cost the earth to achieve

Once the seeds have been sown, soak the seed tray in a solution of Cheshunt Compound. This will prevent a disease called ‘damping off’ and will reduce the incidence of moss growing on the surface of the compost. A scattering of Vermiculite is then used to cover the seeds.

Vermiculite is an excellent material to use when seeds need to be germinated in the light and cyclamen germinate best that way.

Vermiculite absorbs light and, because of the nature of the material, actually shines. The light is bounced on to the seeds but, in addition to this, it absorbs moisture so that each seed is surrounded by water vapour which enhances germination.

Once the seeds are sown, cover the container with a single sheet of newspaper so that they are not in direct sunshine and in six weeks they will start to germinate.