I think there’s a whole lot of “necessary” and not a lot of “evil” (see the previous post) when it comes to seed annuals. It’s true that they cost the moon as pushed plants in 4″ pots at garden centers but if you plant them as nature intended – as seeds, they cost beans. Play your cards right and next year you’ll have them again absolutely free.
Those of us who allow self seeders into our gardens probably all have a love/hate relationship with them. Gail spent most of June and early July trying to eradicate Verbena bonariensis from the gardens but we still have plenty of it. Another year or two of diligent seedling weeding and we might be Verbena free. Then we’ll probably miss it. I have so much Nicotiana sylvestris and N. mutabilis in my own garden that I can’t see anything else. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing this year but next year I might regret letting it grow wild. We thought Julie had weeded out all of the Snow On The Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) but we have a lovely crop in just the right corner of the Cutting Garden bed. And we always have peony flowering poppies early in the summer though we pull those seedlings out by the handful too. The lovely thing about self sowers is that sometimes nature plants them by happy accident in exactly the perfect spot and we can edit the rest without feeling the least bit guilty.
Seed annuals are an easy-peasy way to stretch summer color to frost. Things like Zinnias and Cosmos go from seed to bloom in about 6 weeks (direct sow in mid July for full bloom now) and the cooling temperatures of September keep the blooms from blowing out quickly. This patch of Cosmos sulphureus (right) was sown the week of July 21st and should burst into bloom any day now. (A little late at 7 weeks).
We saved the Cosmos seed from a batch of Polidor Mix we bought from Stokes last year. A lot of seed catalog companies are – this is shocking to me – either owned by Monsanto or buy their seeds from producers owned by Monsanto. They are replacing open pollinated heirlooms with hybrids (vegetable varieties especially) at an alarming rate. In order to have the same plant next year, gardeners have to purchase the seeds all over again. Here at Blithewold, we save the seeds that come true, allow the self sowers to work their design magic and we do still spend some beans – not the moon – on new varieties and our favorite hybrids every year.