Hardy annuals can give lovely colour

Californian poppies
Californian poppies
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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The seeds of hardy annuals can be sown directly into the soil now as it’s becoming warmer.

This, together with a little moisture, will help the seeds germinate successfully.

If you’re a bit concerned about the cost of summer bedding plants, hardy annual seeds are not expensive – and you can forget all about adding manure or compost and deep digging too.

That’s a bit of a relief, but you do need to remove weeds and fork over the area to a depth of 4-6 inches and scatter over fish, blood and bone fertiliser at a rate of 4oz per square yard.

The surface needs to be raked over and any lumps broken up using the back of the rake. Then you’re ready to sow the seeds.

If there are children in your life, the next steps will delight them.

Using a long stick, mark large patterns on the ground in irregular patterns, a bit like huge pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

The idea is that one type of flower will drift into the next and the appearance of the flowers will be a sheer delight as a cottage garden effect is created.

Hardy annuals include love -in-a-mist, godetia, candytuft, nasturtiums, cornflowers, larkspur, California poppy and lots more too. I’m hoping these names will remind you of plants you saw years ago.

Straight lines are now marked out with that stick in opposite directions so that each area has several squares.

Sow the seeds in little pinches of two or three where the lines cross, pushing the seeds into the raked soil.

If the area is large, lay a plank down on the soil so that excessive compaction is avoided. Once all the areas are sown, the soil is watered using a watering can with a rose. The children love this part!

In about 10 days, hundreds of weed seedlings will germinate and some early hand weeding is a good idea using the plank and a foam cushion as a kneeler.

During the third week after sowing the seeds, the cultivated seedlings will start to grow and it is possible to see the patterns where the seeds were sown.

Any misses can be made up by transplanting the seedlings and watering afterwards.

Most of the seeds mentioned will need no support, but the cornflowers and larkspur are best supported by using sprays of hazel which can be found along overgrown footways in the countryside.

If you like this idea, buy the packets of seeds and on a rainy day sit indoors and read them to ascertain the heights and, more importantly, the colours of the flowers so that you can blend and contrast your design.

One of the best displays of hardy annuals ever was created at Wisley, the RHS garden near Guildford. It was truly magnificent.