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ADDICTED TO NICOTIANA; One of Carol's favourite annuals, this beautiful flowering tobacco plantwill brighten borders and make pots swell come spring.

Byline: CAROL KLEIN

One of Carol's favourite One of Carol's favourite Right now, I should be thinking about Christmas but I'm more interested in the New Year.

It will bring opportunities for all us gardeners - new projects, plants to try, perhaps new schemes to put into action.

How many of us over the holidays will sneak a look at the seed catalogues that drop through the letterbox at this time of year? Once you start ticking, it's difficult to stop.

Although annuals form only a small part of the plants we grow in Scotland, they are among the most noticeable and each year there are some outstanding varieties that prove themselves by their all-round performance.

Looking back at 2015, there have been several that were so good they will be welcomed with open arms next year.

When choosing annuals, it's worth bearing in mind where they're going to go in the garden. Because so many have bright, ostentatious flowers, we tend to use them in pots and many are confined to areas around the house. Sometimes mixed together, sometimes apart.

One of the most modern ways of using annuals is to use one variety per pot but repeat the planting in a series of matching pots. Choose something with flower power for maximum impact.

We tried it this year with Nicotiana affinis, flowering tobacco. We used the straight species with white flowers touched with green atop tall stems rather than one of the new hybrids with brilliant flowers, short stems and no scent.

The joy of nicotiana is their haunting evening perfume. We gathered our pots close to the house so we could enjoy the scent on summer evenings.

There are other noteworthy nicotiana too, just as easy to cultivate though few people grow them. One of the most impressive elements on the stands Avon Bulbs constructed this year at flower shows, from Chelsea to Hampton Court, was a plant called Nicotiana mutabilis, the mutable bit meaning the flower colour changes from white to pink.

At any one time, each branching plant is covered in hundreds of slender graceful bells in varying shades of pink.

All nicotiana have tiny seeds so you get masses for your money, yet each seed can make an impressive plant.

If there is a trick, it's sowing seed thinly. Don't be tempted to sow them all just because there are so many.

Seedlings will damp off - a fungal disease that can cause every plant in a seed tray or pot to collapse and die - if you sow too thickly. Pricking out promptly helps too. Don't let your seedlings grow into each other.

Separate them into individual plants as soon as their true leaves appear. Most seedlings produce two cotyledon or seed leaves first then true leaves immediately afterwards. Put each seedling into a small pot or a separate compartment of a module tray to let it grow on.

Nicotiana are tender, usually called half-hardy annuals, so can't go out until all danger of frost is past.

We usually sow them in late February but there are lots of hardy annuals you can sow now. Many gardeners sow them direct - sometimes in March or April - though they can be sown outside in September. If you want to get them off to a flying start, they can be sown now in the same way you'd sow half-hardy annuals.

Varieties are constantly introduced but there is a list of older varieties which are grown not only because they are familiar and reliable but also as they are beautiful and useful.

By the time spring arrives, we should have plenty of new plants to swell our pots and containers and to weave in among perennials and grasses through beds and borders.

CAPTION(S):

LOVE-IN-A-MIST Nigella damascena

LIGHT UP With lovely Nicotiana (mutabilis hybrid) with Verbena
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 13, 2015
Words:636
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