My friend Barbara in Roslyn admired my bright blue Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) and wished for some for her backyard border. As I had large clumps that I started from seed a few years before, all I had to do was divide these plants so Barbara could have a border with the blue flowers she desired.
Some people have the space to start seeds in their homes in February or March, but not all homes are able to accommodate the activity. I have tried that method, but ultimately gave up. It’s time consuming and takes a dedication that many, including my friend Barbara and I, are not prepared to undertake. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up trying to grow flowering plants from seeds.
If you plant seeds directly in the ground in May, you can be rewarded with plants that will flower and then provide beauty for many years. Planting seeds directly in the garden offers the advantage of having the most plants for the least amount of money, plus, your plants grown from seed will have a really strong root system that provides thick stems and large flowers.
Look for seed packages which contain a great deal of information. You may find the common name, the Latin name, whether it’s an annual, biennial or perennial, the hardiness zone (remember, we are in zone 7a), the required garden conditions, color and height, germination time and any special information concerning how to grow or sow the plant successfully. Given the size of the packets, that’s an awful lot of information. Many will indicate that you must start the seed eight to 10 weeks before the last frost, but you can plant the seeds in the garden where you want them as long as it’s after the danger of a hard frost. The plants will do just fine, though they may flower a little later than those sown earlier indoors.
The most cost-effective seeds to sow are native or heirloom perennial flower and herb seeds since they are naturally acclimated to the region, and will return year after year to provide you with seeds to use elsewhere in your garden. The advantage of starting annuals is that they are quick and easy to start and will provide plants that may not be available in your local nursery. An additional bit to remember is that many species self-sow—they drop seeds that will emerge on their own the following year. Remember that biennials will grow into lovely plants the first year but will only flower in the second year, so you must be patient.
I have found that the following plants all seem to prefer being sown directly in the garden in the fall or early spring, because they resent being transplanted: Balloon flower (Platycodon), a perennial; Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), a perennial; Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), an annual; Columbine (Aquilegia), a perennial; Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida), a perennial; Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), an annual; Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), a perennial; Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), a perennial or biennial; Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis), a perennial; Oregano, a woody perennial; Liatris Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), a perennial; Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), a perennial; Nigella (Nigella damascena), an annual; sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), an annual; Poppy (Papaver orientale), a perennial; Poppy (Papaver spp.), an annual; Tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora), annual or perennial; Zinnia (Asteraceae), an annual; and Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), a perennial.
Sow some of these seeds into your garden and they will give you years of blooms. Enjoy your blooming gardens!
The Long Island Horticultural Society meets each month on a Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at the conference center of Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay. The next meeting is April 19. The speaker will be professional photographer Yvonne Berger and her topic will be “Great Shots with Your Point and Shoot.” For more information, go to www.lihort.org.