Meet Cel Robertson, our flower grower
I love growing plants from seed! I run a cut flower farm in North Norfolk where I cultivate lots of annual and perennial flowers for cutting, all grown from seed each year. There’s a particular satisfaction that comes from raising plants from seed – isn’t it amazing to see something beautiful in bloom that you’ve managed to grow from the tiniest of seeds? Despite years of growing experience, I still feel a little thrill at the start of a new growing season. It’s great to discover new varieties to grow too, and there are certainly a couple from the Free Seeds 2024 campaign that I’ve never grown before!
I’m going to be growing six varieties of flower seed which you will receive between January and June. I’ll be recording my activities and progress each month, and I’ll be sharing sowing tips and planting ideas so we can make the most of the seeds together! The seeds I’ll be growing along with you this year are zinnia, echium, xerochrysum, sunflower, cosmos and foxglove.
- Click here for details of which seeds you can look forward to receiving when.
- Get growing advice now, for all 12 packs of free seeds.
Where to grow
Now, I don’t actually have a garden at home at the moment as my husband and I have recently moved house and the garden is a building site! Instead I’m going to use one of the beds on my flower field to grow the plants and I’ll also be planting up some containers at home for a display of summer colour. That’s their end destination, after I’ve raised the plants from seed which we’ll sow and grow on together.
I’ll be showing you the different methods I use to sow seeds and you don’t necessarily need any special equipment to get going. I’ll show you how to germinate seed using a windowsill or a small propagator at home, which is useful if you don’t have a greenhouse or much outdoor space. I’ll also do some sowing direct into containers and into trays in my polytunnel, which is how I usually sow seeds for my flower business. I don’t have access to electricity at my field, so I just use the conditions in the sheltered environment of the polytunnel – much like an unheated greenhouse – to sow all of the seeds for the plants that I grow.
My top tips
- At the moment I’m starting to gather the items I’ll need in preparation for sowing. I reuse seeds trays and pots that I’ve collected over the years; these just need washing in warm soapy water before I use them again this spring.
- If you’re a thrifty grower, you can save and reuse items like egg boxes to sow your seeds into – they tend to soften after a week or two so try to find a supporting plastic tray to sit them in.
Growing your free zinnia seeds
Zinnias are half-hardy annuals, which means they won’t tolerate frost or cold temperatures, so I definitely won’t be sowing these until it gets a little bit warmer! Seedlings really need a minimum of ten hours of daylight to grow well and not become too leggy.
Sowing zinnias about four weeks before your average last frost date is ideal – my last frost date on the coast in North Norfolk is usually around the end of April, so I’ll probably sow these at the beginning of April for the best results, although you may be able to start in March.
I will sow the zinnia seeds in individual cell trays and pop them into the heated propagator to germinate. Once the seedlings have emerged I’ll grow them on in my polytunnel and plant them outside in late spring after the risk of losing them to the frost has passed.
- Click here for details of which seeds you can look forward to receiving when
- Get tips on how to tidy and clean your greenhouse
- Prepare your greenhouse for spring sowing and growing
- Check out our guide to the best heated propagators
- Be inspired to build your own polytunnel
- Read up on sowing seeds early
- Follow David Hurrion’s four steps to seed sowing success