How about a bed of tobacco plants?


Nicotiana - Credit: Press Association Images

One of the hidden bonuses of spending time in the garden or outdoors is that you become subconsciously attuned to the subtle change in seasons.  

Us gardeners walk to the beat of our own drummer and don’t always do what we’re told or when.

In general we rely on what we've seen and felt. We are seduced into associating the first house martin angling over the shed to the planting of potatoes. 

An internet influencer would be no good for us, we need forensic evidence and we’re prepared to wait for it.

Good Friday is the traditional day to plant potatoes, but this year the ground was frozen.

I still haven't seen enough to convince me even to plant potatoes yet and I'm not worried either. This year has been extraordinary in that the chill we associate with winter months continues to cut through our several layers of fleece.

The time I might have used nurturing the little tubers above ground has instead been put to good use sowing annuals.

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Admittedly, this exciting task usually completed on the lawn in full sun was completed on the dining room table between meals.

While it might seem a waste of time to grow flowers just for one year when you can buy ones that last for several years, it really isn't that simple.

Annuals can make your garden look different every year and are more often than not vividly colourful and offer a myriad of additional benefits.

A good example of this is the tobacco plant or Nicotiana. There are different varieties of this annual all with different characteristics, and they can be sown right now to be planted out later.

Nicotiana ‘Sylvestris’ was my first foray into what I felt was the exciting world of growing tobacco.

Of course, it's just a distant relative of the tobacco we associate with bike sheds and hospital doors, but thrilling all the same.

People grow this for its scent alone.

If you sow the almost microscopic seeds now into small seed trays, you will be well rewarded in late August.

Beautiful slender, multiple white trumpets give off perfume so sweet it attracts the local moths in the evening like an analogy.

It grows to at least 5ft in height and if you plant it somewhere you spend time in the evening, you'll be able to enjoy the scent and the impressive flowers with the moths.

Interestingly, it only gives off scent at night in order to attract moths for pollination.

While it is classed as an annual, I have had it come back for several years in different locations and in different soil.

If they aren't impressive enough, and they definitely are, they also have much smaller cousins with different coloured trumpets that only grow around a foot in height. 

Nicotiana ‘Sensation’ is stunningly beautiful and produces a range of strong, deep pink and white flowers. 

I'm stupidly amazed it grows different colours on the same plant.

It has a twin in Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ which is not like any colour of green on the chart.

You could go mad and have a bed just for tobacco plants! I’d love that, why not? We do it for roses.

The tobacco bed, I like the sound of that.

I realise I've started droning on about annuals and not even got past one genus. That's the beauty of annuals, they are multi faceted and interchangeable yearly, or not in some cases.

If you grow one you don't like, choose again next year. Some annuals I make permanent like Cosmos or the gruesomely nicknamed Amaranthus (Love Lies Bleeding) because you’re addicted to their characters or beauty.

Most annuals are easy to grow in straightforward potting compost and will give you something to show your friends and give you something to talk about with relatives.

Hopefully, the new normal includes annuals.