Sarah Raven: Review of the Pastel Annual Mix - September Update

Back in April we started on the path to creating our own annual pictorial meadow, through May, June, July we saw it struggle against the elements and in August we saw it come into its own. Now in September we are reveling in its swan song as the late cosmos, more tardy due to the weather, rocket up and flower.

Cosmos starting to flower among the cornflowers

The Pastel Annual Mix featured here has had its ups and downs, swamped by snow at Easter and constant downpours through summer. Though the bed is now getting beyond its best, the cosmos are bulking up and covering over the die back on the Bishop's Flower, which has been a stalwart all summer bringing in bees and other pollinators from miles around. This has been a border that has been regularly visited through summer by butterflies and bees. Though we did spray off the bed back in April, inevitably some grass made its way back, along with the dreaded sheep's sorrel that plagues us at Pig Row. We were able to remove the latter but left the grass as we did not want to disturb the roots of the mix. We have plans to cultivate the bed at the start of October or better still we will leave the flowers to run to seed for the birds and then clear next spring.


Cosmos flowering with more buds breaking

Throughout the trial, this annual mix has been incredibly easy to manage. We have done nothing to intervene, even when we had high winds the mix stood up against it. This was down to how the plants grew, as they grew the foliage, stems and flowers supported each other, knitting together into a delightful tapestry. Even those flowers on the fringes that flopped over just made the whole border look softer, romantic, sumptuous and beautiful. This is a bed of annuals that you can't just walk pass, you have to stop to see what surprises it has thrown up from the burgeoning blue cornflowers that raged through August, to the Bishop's Flower that was the first to flower and the last to set seed, to a wonderful white frilly poppy that appeared only yesterday in the mix. This is a statement mix in your garden and it has been commented on regularly by friends and neighbours who want to sow the same mix in their gardens next year. This is a Pastel Annual Mix that constantly changes, as one of our friends said, 'I just want to pull up a chair and watch it'. It is the kind of mix that is a delight to look at and its tactile nature cries out for it to run through the border from front to back. Next year we will sow a larger mix that does this, running from the path in a snaking, undulating river that runs from the front of the border to the back, drawing us in with hands and eyes.


White poppy beside the last of the Bishop's Flower
To think that in five months we have had thousands of flowers, some which we cut and placed in flower arrangements, others we have left to grow. All for £6, that's £1.20 a month, less that 4p a day (prices right at the time of publication).


Cut flowers from the pastel annual mix

Now, if you think annuals may be hard work, here's the proof in images that a little time sowing equals a lot of joy over the summer.


April

May

May

June

June/July

July/August

September

Seeds sown and reviewed here were received free of charge.