…and not one that I classically take to, being of the busy bee variety of person. There was a very irritating book, that I don’t remember the title of, which I read as a child, and I remember wanting to stab the character, a girl called Patience, with a fork. But, probably what turned me from just being an enthusiastic gardener with not a lot of time ( you know, 3 small children, full time job) to being a total nut, was the experience of finally obeying the instructions and successfully growing plants from seed.
It is a job for the patient, especially if you are growing perennials and shrubs from seed, as you do have to put in a long wait for the final outcome. Of course, once you get there, you are busy patting yourself on the back for growing 30 whatever they are for about £5, including the compost.
So, I thought I would share with you some of the successes that I have had in growing from seed. And I am choosing plants that give out in more ways than one, often great foliage and then superb flowers. I often pay homage to Derry Watkins, and my first plant was one of my first seeds from her. Here it is, right now, in my garden, and the size of these leaves has to be seen, easily 12″ long and 8″ across..
they are spectacular. It is Telekia speciosa. And the best bit is that in July-ish, enormous yellow daises are produced on 2m stalks, which last right through till Autumn and beyond, as the seedheads brown up but make a great skeleton in the winter. I absolutely love them. I planted them where Derry suggested, moist-ish, not far from the canal or ruisseau. But since then, they have brought themselves right to the front of my partly shaded woodland area, so that they have put themselves right into the sun and away from the moisture. And they also seem fine. Here are the flowers from two years ago- as they age, they copy Echinacea and the big centre goes chocolate-brown, another little virtue. From seed to flower, I think probably a 2 year wait.
And now for something smaller and discreet. I also bought this from Derry. It is Libertia procera. Of this, Derry says, plant in dry sun. Well, for me, they also work well in not bone-dry sun, but she is right in that the flowers are bigger and better on the plants in my bone-dry spot. In fact, this week, caught at quite a jaunty angle, I thought they looked almost Japanese, a delicate spray of white, see below…
the slight breeze accounts for the faint wobble. The foliage is grass-like, a bit like Sisyrinchium, and stands up straight and defiant all year round, making a clump about 1m tall and 0.25m wide. So it is a good companion for other, more floppy flowerers giving some welcome punctuation. Easy from seed, but probably more than 2 years wait for the flowers. For me, I think it was 4 years wait, and although they don’t last long, they are very decorative.
Quite often, I’ll see a plant I like the look of somewhere on the net, discover I can’t buy it in France, and then I spend an enjoyable hour scouring the internet for seeds. Sometimes off and on, for weeks, I confess. So it was with Sideritus syriaca, which I first saw on Annie’s Annuals weekly email. It is a mountain plant, from Greece and Crete, from which a refreshing anti-oxidant tea can be made. I haven’t tried that yet, but I really love the plant. Low-lying, a bit like Stachys with woolly-ish leaves, for me it is a ground-hugger.
Now, it may be that as it grows it will stand up more as in Annie’s photo in the link. But, this is the second year and it has produced flowers! Result. It was one of those tweezer jobs to deal with the seedlings, I don’t literally use tweezers, it’s more to illustrate the tinyness. But, this year, they have really put on the beef and are 10 times as big as they were at their biggest last year. Yes, it’s for hot and dry, throw in stony and it will be utterly at home. I am pretty sure I got seed on ebay. It is always worth looking there.
And for my last plant, here is also my hand in the picture which shows how tiny it still is in Year 2. Dianthus cruentus, sometimes called the Blood Pink, is going to be a stunner next year. Already, the tweezer scale plantlings are producing flowers and have grown, so you wait. The colour is really hard to reproduce. It is an electric red, rather as Verbena bonariensis is an electric mauve. So the colour is very intense and looks a bit too safe in my photograph.
Here is where I saw it and was entranced.
Again, the colour is not as it is. But this small plant was a highlight of this beautiful show garden. After Cleve West and his Best in Show Garden in 2011, Dianthus cruentus plants were in limited stock and disappeared from shelves all over the UK. It was only a couple of years later that you could buy seed easily. Derry Watkins now has it in her seedlist, see the link on the plant name above. Again, it prefers hot, dry, stony…but full sun and handfuls of gravel when you plant it would probably do the trick. Enough already.