Sow happy

Zinnias - Cactus and BenaryI 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.

Verbena bonariensis and Zinnia ‘Persian Carpet’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.Euphorbia marginata - Snow on the mountain  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.

Cosmos in the North GardenTalinum (Jewels of Opar) and Nicotiana sylvestris

Cosmos sulfureum just about to bloomSeed 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.  Tithonia ‘Fiesta Del Sol’ (Mexican sunflower) and CelosiaThey 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.

Do you grow any annuals from seed?  How do you feel about the prolific self sowers?  Do you have favorites?  Do you save seeds?

Monster Mirabilis jalapa (Four O’Clocks) in the greenhouse

2 thoughts on “Sow happy

  1. Always a delicate balance on the self seeders. It seems you have to clean their clock sometimes. I grow some Marigolds, Cosmos, Celosia and a few others from seed each year. It beats mulching and looks good. The Marigolds you have to buy each year as it seems some of the hybrids are sterile. Alyssum is nice to direct sow and will usually come back for a few years in the same area. I often collect seed from perennials and biennials and sow them in blank areas or the edges of the garden. If you can find your seed wholesale you get a lot more compared to the packets.

    DF, I never thought about seeding down Alyssum but Gail sows that in her own garden – a mid july sowing makes a beautiful carpet nowish – perfect! And you’re right about wholesale – we get most of our seeds from retail catalogs though and with the exception of zinnias maybe, don’t usually need huge quantities. -kris

  2. I have a couple of prolific self-sowers: bronze fennel, ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranth, and atriplex hortensis var. rubra. I sometimes curse the bronze fennel for being tough to see (and thus pull out) when it’s young, but overall these three don’t bother me too much. The fennel smells nice while you’re pulling it, and the young leaves of the amaranth and mountain spinach are edible, so I snack while I pull them out from places they aren’t wanted. :)

    I don’t bother saving seeds from any of these, because I like to see where they are going to come up year after year.

    Kim, I never thought about leaving a trail of snackable seedlings in the garden – it’s genius! A perfect way to stay energized while weeding. We have a couple of bronze fennels that come up through the gravel in our container bed – we leave them up for the swallowtails and it’s amazing that fennel hasn’t taken over the Display Garden by now. And I would think the only reason to save seeds from prolific self sowers is to share them with friends! -kris

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