A forest of seed and plant catalogs probably arrived in your mailbox and inbox over the holidays, but I wonder if you’ve had time yet to peruse them? I have, and I wanted to share a few of my favorite flowers from seed. Truly, you can have a lovely garden with a few packets of seed. How do you think the pioneers and Native Americans did it? They didn’t have a garden nursery following them about. They saved and swapped seeds.
Pick a sunny spot, direct sow these lovelies and stand back. Before long, you can create a garden of joy. Just remember to thin seedlings and rid your patch of competing weeds. Also, you will need to water. You don’t even need great soil, but please don’t plant them directly in red clay. If you do, you’ll hear a bell tolling a death knell for your future flowers.
Zinnias are possibly my favorite direct sown flower because there are so many possibilities. You can grow the very small ‘Persian Carpet‘ or ‘Thumbelina,’ or you can go all wild and crazy and pick a designer selection like ‘Decor‘ from Renee’s Garden Seeds. I also love ‘Art Deco‘ from Botanical Interests. With the crazy, drought stricken summers we’ve had, zinnias don’t even suffer much from mildew, and there are certain hybrids selected for even less. Frankly, I don’t care. I just plant something in front of the larger zinnias and enjoy the parade of pollinators that come sipping. Butterflies and bumbles love zinnias.
Sunflowers. Every sunny garden should have sunflowers. Buy dwarf varieties like ‘Musicbox‘ from Renee’s Garden Seeds, or cute little ‘Teddy Bear‘ from Botanical Interests. Plant tall varieties at the rear of everything else, or try the center of the bed and grow other things around your towering and graceful beauties. Plus, you can even make your child a sunflower house. My darling friend, Sharon Lovejoy, shows you how in Sunflower Houses : Inspiration from the Garden – A Book for Children and Their Grown-Ups.
If you plant sunflowers in succession, you’ll get more blooms for even longer. Last year, I loved Burpee’s ‘Strawberry Blonde‘ and ‘Autumn Beauty‘ mix. Those dark stems and flowers made me swoon, but there weren’t very many seeds of ‘Strawberry Blonde’ in the package. Buy two if you want a lot of flowers.
Although sunflowers are often grown in vegetable gardens and look great there, they can be a part of any garden scheme. Okay, maybe not the modern garden, but even there, perhaps, in a monochromatic soft yellow?
To climb around those sunflowers, you need some vines. Cardinal climber (Ipomoea x multifida) and its relative cypress vine (I. quamoclit), are easy annual vines. They are both quite aggressive as are most morning glory relatives, but I still love them. They self sow too. You’ve been warned.
Ah morning glories. I found this photo of ‘Heavenly Blue‘ I grew in 2011, I have ‘Grandpa Ott’s‘ everywhere in my garden, but I think I now need ‘Heavenly Blue’ again. It would also be pretty vining about something tall.
Datura. I know devil’s trumpet got a black eye when some local kids tried to get high by eating the seeds. Datura is poisonous from the tip of its trumpet to its leaves, roots and seeds. So, don’t eat or smoke it. Instead, plant the seeds and enjoy beautiful white or purple flowers. It also has awesome gray/green foliage. Cool plant.
Castor bean is another plant nearly banned from commerce. You can still find seeds from a few retailers, along with those quietly passed around at garden clubs. It is such a magnificent plant it seems a shame. I have an idea. Instead of banning poisonous plants from commerce, let’s teach our children. Education is always more powerful than ignorance. On my property, we have poke sallet and stately hollies too. Many plants are poisonous. Are they next?
Enough of plants that will kill you if you are silly enough to ingest them. Here are some other easy seeds to grow.
Cosmos. Although I love the pink, red and white ones that sway in gentle breezes, they topple over like divas in high heels on our wind swept plains. I grow the shorter yellow and orange versions. There is also a small white one, ‘Snow Sonata’ I’ve grown. I’m going to grow ‘Little Ladybirds‘ for a change of pace. I like bright colors in our sunny climate.
Bachelor’s Buttons/cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus.) ‘Blue Boy’ is my hands down favorite because it has solid blue flowers and silver foliage. Silver means drought tolerant, and true blue is so rarely found. If you deadhead cornflowers, they will bloom for two months.
Calendula or pot marigold is an early favorite. So are nasturtiums. I direct sow the seeds for both of these plants at the end of February. Yes, February. They come up when they’re ready, and I can enjoy them until our weather gets hot. Both are also edible. I like ‘Flashback‘ calendulas, along with ‘Tip Top Apricot’ and ‘Empress of India’ nasturtiums. The large seeds are also easy for small hands. Johnny’s Selected Seeds have a lot of calendula varieties. To me, they all look pretty much the same though. While we’re considering the edible, let’s also plant borage shall we?
A friend of mine, Cheryl, has the most exquisite dark red celosia. She’s promised me seed, but I keep forgetting to get by her house which is in Oklahoma City. It has dark red leaves and is close in appearance to Amigo Mahogany Red Celosia. You can start celosia indoors, or sprinkle then in fall after blooming like Cheryl does. I suppose they could be direct sown in spring too, but it would take them awhile to bloom.
I am a big fan of Amaranth, both the dark burgundy plume type and the Autumn Palette mix again from Botanical Interests. They are tall and feathery, take full or partial sun, and the seed is beloved by small birds.
There are so many other flowers that are easy to grow from seed. What are your favorites?