Seed extravaganza…

Is this a rogue Leonotis? Tostat, September 2020

Fifteen years ago when we moved to France, I was really a bit intimidated by the idea of growing perennials from seed, but now it really is my preferred way of growing plants, though I do still buy plants from time to time- when the wait is just too long. I have learnt that there is tremendous surprise and pleasure in the growing of something from scratch and I have a great emotional commitment to all my plants that I have grown myself! Sometimes there are great results and sometimes no results, dud seed- or rather probably, wrong time, wrong place, no can do. So you have to be prepared for a little Russian Roulette.

This plant grown from seed this spring is a mystery. One reader of this blog is a lovely chap called Tony Tomeo, who often leaves me interesting questions and observations, lives in Southern California and is a genuine horticulturalist- I am very pleased that he enjoys my blog and always look out for his comments. Puzzling a couple of weeks ago about this plant, he wondered if it was a monarda…he was bang on about the smaller plant, which clearly now a somewhat stunted Leonotis leonorus. To me this mystery plant is trying to channel an East European TV tower from the 1960s…and I am still at a loss. Have another go, Tony?

Conoclinum coelestinum, Tostat, September 2019

This is another new-to-me by seed plant. It used to be called ‘Eupatorium coelestinum conoclinum’, but is now just Conoclinum coelestinum– or in plain-speak, Blue Mist-Flower. I shouldn’t really be growing it as it needs a tad more water than I have in the garden, but I adore this shade of blue right at the end of summer, and it is a pretty thing in a raggy sort of way. This is the first flower on a new baby plant so the adult version will be about 1m tall with big, wide plates of blue fluff- and I will find a spot for it- as always happens.

Dendranthema weyrichii, Tostat, September 2019
Dendranthema weyrichii
Photo credit: http://www.rhs.org.uk

Grown from seed this spring, these were seriously miniscule as seedlings- but now measuring 2 handspans in the garden, and survivors of three canicule heatwaves, these plants already have a gong in my book. Dendranthema weyrichii is a tough, no-nonsense plant- in effect, a tiny chrysanthemum as shown in the RHS photo, and with a growth habit that just keeps on spreading, I think it makes a really good hot, dry groundcover plant. No flowers yet for me.

Vernonia lettermannii
Photo credit: http://www.specialplants.net

This plant has been such a triumph that I have already sown more seed for next year which I bought from the fantastic Derry Watkins at Special Plants. She has always got interesting new plants to try, and this Vernonia lettermannii is a good’un. Growing to less than a metre, with feathery branching stems, it is close to flowering in the garden with me, but is such a wispy, almost see-through plant, that my photograph looked pathetic in comparison with Derry’s clump. The growth rate has been astounding for a perennial, and like the Dendranthema, it has come through serious heat and drought without blinking. The giant Vernonias are fabulous, but this smaller, feathery relative is such a good plant for late-summer and totally trouble-free for a dry, hot spot.

Early this morning, the tail of dying Hurricane Dorian brought us good rain- no wind, just good, serious rain for a couple of hours, and this works miracles on the exhausted garden. So, not to ignore old favourites that are also doing a good job, I love this combination of the bright, fresh blue of the Caryopteris and the soft orange of the Abutilon.

The Caryopteris is just at the limit of what it can handle in my summer-dry garden, but two out of three plants have survived this summer- probably because they have been a little sheltered from the full sun by other plants, like the Abutilon. There are many many reasons to be cheerful.

Caryopteris clandonensis ‘Hint of Gold’ with my unknown orange Abutilon, Tostat, September 2019

Seeds and cuttings part 2…

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Kalimeris incisa Madiva, Tostat, July 2018

Oh, I am getting impatient- I think that my patience muscle, which has improved since stopping working, what a surprise, is always a bit tested around this time of year.  The enthusiasm of the New Year,  I love that, dissipates a bit in a cold, wet January- and I always start seeds in the house on a window ledge in the sitting room too early, after having told myself I would wait till February.  Which is exactly what I did two weeks ago.  I soaked the seedtray (must get new ones, all a bit collapsible) and since then, have been misting the seeds with slightly tepid water (if I remember).  I have got a good handful of seedlings coming up, albeit reluctantly.  But one whole tray is still in waiting.  I don’t think it’s a disaster, every week there is more daylight and they will wait for the right moment.  It’s just not good for the impatience.

So, this plant Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’ which I bought as 3 small godets two years ago is a fantastically tolerant and well-behaved plant.  Forming good solid clumps, growing to about 1m, never flopping, continuously flowering, not needing extra water- it is the perfect houseguest.  So, I am trying seed of Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’- this is the seed that has yet to budge.

kalimeris incisa blue star bc
Kalimeris incisa Blue Star photo credit: http://www.bethchatto.co.uk/nursery-online-store/

Three or four years ago, I got very interested in Eriogonum.  The common name is Buckwheat- and the genus has real potential for the summer-dry garden, because not only are they a food source for many butterflies and moths, but also they tolerate dryness, clay soil and handle tough conditions.  I found small .plants of Eriogonum fasiculatum- I lost two and now have only the one, and while I like it for the creamy flowers- it’s true, it’s not a great looker.  So, finding seed for Eriogonum allenii ‘Little Rascal’, I am giving it a go in the seed tray, and quite a few are already up.  Check it out on the link and you can see why I am bothering- and it’s yellow!  One of my favourite summer colours!

eriogonum fasciculatum 717
Eriogonum fasciculatum, Tostat, July 2017

eriogonum allennii little rascal the garden professors
Eriogonum allennii ‘Little Rascal’ photo credit: http://www.gardenprofessors.com/perennial-funday-eriogonum-allenii-little-rascal-2/

Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’ is a plant that I love- giving you towering, broad flowerheads of a warm mauve, but at 2m high it won’t please everyone.  So, what about a Vernonia that is only 1m high?  Ah, ha.  Vernonia lettermannii is just that thing.  The link takes you to a comprehensive blog post about Vernonia from the Laidback Gardener.  As I read to the end, I notice that he mentions cold-stratifying the seed.  Oops. I haven’t done this, so I may be waiting a very long time.  Patience, patience.

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Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’, Tostat, August 2017

vernonia lettermannii ncnurseries
Vernonia lettermannii photo credit: http://www.northcreeknurseries.com

And the last plant being trialled in the windowsill seedtrays is: Dendranthemum weyrichii.  Completely unknown to me until I found it in the listing of a very good ebay seed seller from Poland- it is a mat-forming, short growing, all-summer flowering sunlover which can apparently easily make a Im wide groundcover, but is not badly behaved.  I love a daisy, and though this insists on being a chrysanthemum, I will forgive it.  If you are interested, I recommend the ebay seed-seller ‘pogoponus’ from the link.

dendranthema weyrichii mr nurseries
Dendranthema weyrichii photo credit: http://www.mrnurseries.co.uk

And another seed recommendation from Huntingbrook Gardens on their Facebook feed is this lovely man from Greece.  He is called Liberto Dario, and his seedlist is impossible- stuffed full of fabulous plants and varieties.  You can ask for his lists by PMing him on his Facebook page.  I am, with huge reluctance, only ordering 6 packets.  Must be realistic. Groan.