A group of easy to grow, colourful annuals and perennials. Useful plants for either the rock garden or the herbaceous border. Hardy annuals are ideal for wildflower gardens and meadow planting.
Family: Linaceae (Flax family)
Botanical Name: Linum
Common Names: Flax
Foliage: Deciduous, spreading clumps of small narrow leaves.
Flowers: Attractive, large five-petalled flowers on slender stems. Usually blue in colour but red, yellow, white and pink forms are also available.
Flowering Period: June-August.
Soil: Moist but well-drained, fertile soil (sand or loam). Any pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.
Conditions: Best in full sun. Plant in an east, west or south facing aspect.
Type: Hardy Annual.
Origin: Europe, North Africa.
Hardiness: Hardy throughout the UK.
Plant perennials in autumn or spring. Annuals are easily grown from seed, sown where they are to flower.
Best grown in an open sunny position in a moderately fertile, well-drained soil.
Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period. Discard annuals after flowering and cut the dead stems of perennials down in autumn.
Susceptible to attack by aphids, slugs and snails. Generally disease free.
Sow seeds of annuals in spring (April) in a prepared seed bed where they are to flower. Gradually thin to the required spacing. Alternatively, sow in September for flowers early the following year. Annual flax is best grown in large groups for effect.
Sow seeds of perennials under glass in spring. Cuttings of perennials can also be taken in summer.
Annuals are often sold in wild flower seed mixtures. Perennials are usually sold as individual plants.
Linum grandiflorum (Wild Flax) is the parent of several good garden varieties. Available in a range of colours, including blue 'Blue Flax', white 'Album', red 'Rubrum' and pink 'Roseum'. Height to 15in (37cm). Cultivar 'Bright Eyes' is a very attractive form producing masses of pure white flowers with dark burgundy centres. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
Linum usitatissimum (common flax or Linseed) has baby-blue flowers. Height to 15in (37cm). Available from Chiltern Seeds.
Linum flavum (golden flax) is a woody perennial, with erect stems bearing clusters of yellow flowers, in June-August. Height and spread to 18in (45cm) or more.
Linum narbonense (blue flax) has blue flowers with a small white centre. Height to 18in (45cm). The strain 'Heavenly Blue' is one of the finest blue flowered plant available. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
Linum perenne is a woody perennial, with greyish-green leaves and clusters of blue flowers in June-September. Height and spread to 1ft (30cm). For sale at Gardening Express. Good cultivars include 'Blue Sapphire' and the the more compact sky blue form 'Alpinum'.