With March just around the corner, it’s about now that every gardener starts getting cabin fever. There is only so much peering at snowdrops, sniffing scented daphnes and admiring frosted leaves you can do before the desire to start sowing seeds with abandon sets in.
Be careful what you sow, though: it’s still too early for many seeds, which need spring to be in full flow before they sprout. That’s where half-hardy annuals come in. These are the more exotic, tender cousins of hardy annuals: both flower, set seed and die in the course of one year, but the half-hardy types need to be started indoors and planted out only once the risk of frost has passed. That means cosseting them on a sunny windowsill and faffing about with pricking out and transplanting; but you get loads of plants for very little outlay, and a tantalising range of colours and forms.