Plant some seeds and see what happens with James Fenton • Franklyn + Vincent
Beetroots are one of my favourite things to grow. They are pretty hassle free, the plants are beautiful and I love eating them.
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Plant some seeds and see what happens with James Fenton

20 Aug Plant some seeds and see what happens with James Fenton


Many books about gardening inspire, but it’s very few that actually spur you into action. My head is buzzing with ideas, but before all that… the book.

A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seeds
By James Fenton

James Fenton wants us to think about flower rather than form when we plan our gardens, and uses the example of veg growers and how they lead with the veg, rather than the aesthetics when planning their patches.

I can relate to this. We have a 10m x 6m concrete courtyard, and my first instinct was what can I grow in that greenhouse before it falls apart and how can I grow beetroot? I had previously only grown rocket in window boxes in Bethnal Green and had spent years dreaming of growing beets and heritage tomatoes. My leaning being towards, if you can’t eat it, what’s the point? However, this does mean that in winter the garden reaches a pause and can seem very empty.

I do have a few evergreens such as  a beautiful Jasmine, so it’s not completely grey over the winter months, but the only flower I have ever grown from seed that you can’t eat is forget-me-nots, so this book came at just the right time. Plus, I like the modesty of growing from seed… and I’m on a budget.


~ Pretty, but fair to say, they’re not really stealing the show out there. ~


As the summer nears to an end, I’m starting to hatch plans for next year and I’m feeling inspired. I have a large crate that I lined and put courgettes in this year, so next year I’m going to fill it with a few flowers from James’s book.

#2 Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

James on the Cornflower,
“The gardener should not be too proud to learn from the florist, or to plant what is so obviously beautiful people forget to recommend it – in this case, the flower which defined a certain range of blue.”

#9 Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)
#10 Forget-me-not (Myosotis)
#21 Venus’s Navelwort (Omphalodes linifolia)

I love this from James,
“Gray-leaved and with spikes of white flowers, this twelve-inch annual brings with it thoughts of broderie anglasie, white needlework on white, the underwear of the high-minded.”

#28 Chives
#33 Dill
#50 Oriental Woodruff (Asperula orientalis)
#70 Papaveraceae (Papaver sendtneri)

I read James’s Book eagerly, Googling the flowers I didn’t know (there aren’t any pictures) and adding the ones I fancied to my list. I’m pretty pleased with my selection, nothing too loud that will steel the attention or too spikey, I’m a sucker for any mention of grey/green foliage but generally a pretty soft, mildly edible romantic bunch of little blooms hopefully.

James Fenton talks not of the grand, but of the humble and how he is inspired by the natural instinct of seeds to grow, rather than big perfectly sculptured gardens for the fancy. We like James.


“This book is not about huge projects. It is about thinking your way towards an essential flower garden, by the most traditional of routes; planting some seeds and seeing how they grow.”
James Fenton, A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seeds


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  • Ann Edwards
    Posted at 17:52h, 22 August Reply

    go for it! Another book that might interest you is Joy Larkham’s ‘Creative Gardening’ in which she advocates growing veg and flowers together. Think French potager in an ideal world where we both had large gardens!

    • franklynandvincent
      Posted at 06:57h, 23 August Reply

      O Love that the look of that book… Thanks Ann! Sarah

  • Amanda
    Posted at 18:11h, 22 August Reply

    I’ve dedicated two of my raised bed to flowers this year, today I’ve picked three very large bunches and given them away to friends, I’ve got vases full in the house too. It’s given me such pleasure, all grown from a few packets of seed! :) xxx

    • franklynandvincent
      Posted at 07:02h, 23 August Reply

      What a lovely gift! I love it when we have enough veg to give away to friends, but with a small garden (and greedy) doesn’t happen very often… :-) Sarah

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