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Sow the seeds of success; GARDENING With Diarmuid Gavin Now is the time to sit back and imagine next year's garden... with the aid of a few exciting catalogues.

Byline: Diarmuid Gavin

NOW that it's wet and wild outside, it's the perfect time for some armchair gardening. Put on the kettle and browse through the seed catalogues.

Winter is the time for garden planning, and nothing beats the promise of life contained in packets of seeds.

I love making plans, imagining planting possibilities and then buying for next year's garden. The seed companies make sure to entice us with new ideas and varieties.

I'm often in awe of the ingenuity and skill of their experts, who inevitably improve on old favourites, and come up with new varieties.

After ordering my catalogues early, here's my pick of the bunch for 2016...

Thompson and Morgan STILL on the subject of cosmos - and it's such a great plant - Thompson and Morgan have a new cosmos which is uniquely yellow. Cosmos 'Xanthos' is a compact variety producing soft yellow blooms on dwarf plants, so it's perfect for container or window box gardening.

It's also early-flowering - starting in May and, with dedicated deadheading, could keep going until October.

I also like the look of Nigella papillosa 'Midnight' - rich blue flowers on top of lacy foliage - great value at 99p for a packet of 350 seeds.

Tomato connoisseurs may be interested in their new variety 'Black Opal'. This unique cross combines the dark skin of Black Cherry with the high sugar content of the 'Sweet Aperitif '.

It's a cordon tomato that can be grown both indoors or outdoors.

Call 0844 573 1818, or visit thompson-morgan.com to order a catalogue.

Chiltern Seeds CHILTERN seeds have a massive catalogue, and I like the disclaimer: "It is a wise father that knows his own child."

This refers to the fact that openly pollinated seeds may result in some natural hybridisation.

Occasionally seeds don't come true to type, so be prepared for some nice surprises now and again. Pick of the crop is Chrysanthemum carinatum 'Cockade', an easy-togrow annual. It has eye-catching white flowers with concentric red and yellow rings.

Geum coccineum 'Queen of Orange' is also worth a punt - geums have one of the longest flowering seasons, so really earn their position in the borders.

Veggie growers may be interested in their new broccoli offering, Broccoli Raab (Cima di Rapa). Apparently it's a popular variety in Italy, but little known here. Eaten young, it resembles sprouting broccoli with a hint of spinach and a mustardy tang. Chiltern describe it as quick and easy to grow.

Visit chilternseeds.co.uk for a catalogue.

plantworld SeedS THIS Devon-based company has some very interesting items.

Echium 'Red Rocket' is the result of cross-breeding to produce a dramatic spike of strawberry-red flowers, which will reach up to two metres in height. I already have lots of Echium pininana, with their towering blue-flowered spikes that reach about four metres, but I think I'll find room for this new variety. Bees feast on this plant - great for the wildlife-friendly gardener.

Also catching my eye is a yellow Penstemon - P. confertus. And, very unusually, they have managed to obtain seeds of the chocolate cosmos, a plant usually only reproduced through cloning of a single plant as it's extinct in the wild. Due to its rarity, they apologise for the cost of the seed - PS8.40 for a packet of four - but are restricting customers to one packet, expecting strong demand.

Visit plant-world-seeds.com thIS | is only a quick dip - there are many more seed providers, such as Suttons, Unwins and Sarah Raven, adding to the enormous variety available. Seeds are inexpensive, fun and a hugely rewarding way to grow plants, so get ready to sow some magic next year.

CAPTION(S):

Chocolate cosmos - from Plant World Seeds and, inset left and above, catalogues from the seed companies

Chrysanthemum carinatum 'Cockade' - Chiltern Seeds

Cosmos 'Xanthos' - - Thompson and Morgan

Echium 'Red Rocket' - Plant world Seeds

Nigella papillosa Midnight - Thompson and Morgan

Geum 'Queen of Orange' - Chiltern Seeds

Echium piniana (blue) - Plant World Seeds
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 28, 2015
Words:657
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