A selection of some of my favourites

Cosmos has a toughness that belies its appearance.
Cosmos has a toughness that belies its appearance.

One of my favourite half hardy annual plants to grow from seed is rudbeckia, the cone flower, beloved of bees and butterflies. It blooms from July up to the frost and is useful for border display or cut flower work.

Marmalade has been around for decades. With golden orange petals and a dark central cone, it grows no taller than 45cm, and at 750 seeds for £1.99 represents good value. Rustic Dwarf Mix is 60cm, with flowers in bronze, red and gold, and 45 seeds for £1.99 is still cheap.

The same longevity of flowering and adaptability to vases makes cosmea, aka cosmos, another favourite. It has a toughness that belies its delicate appearance.

Sensation Tall Mix is ideal for a back-of-border placement at almost 1m, and there are 150 seeds in the £1.99 packet. Sonata Dwarf Mix, 60 cm, has pink, rose and white blooms. Rubies in Sunshine is a newcomer I’ve not grown yet.

Suttons has mixed the seeds of two varieties, 50 per cent of each. These are the pale yellow Xanthos and red/pink Rubinato. The cost, 25 seeds for £3.49, suggests it’s special and worth trying.