Time to update!
My brother in law from Switzerland has been living with us the past month on a well deserved holiday and it quite fun to have such an easy-going house guest...we are going to miss him when he goes home. Othmar took him hunting and scouting at least 3 times a week and I like to think my German improved a bit because of Roland.
Even tho I'm no great cook he never had a bad thing to say about my meals- even on the second day or so of his arrival and I undercooked the chicken! While I did fix that mess there wasn't much I could do about veggies from my beloved garden. A lot of things like tomatoes and gourds are still trying to ripen and we are starting to get frosts. A near total disaster that wasn't improved by the wind knocking down the corn and some of the tomatoes followed by the dog ruining a few more.
My brother in law witness Gazu coming out of the garden after stealing tomatoes! I really didn't think Gazzy would ever figure out the tomatoes came from plants but there were so many ruined ones on the ground I guess the smell gave it away. Still, the flowers were great and what now follows is my observations and notes on my favorite annuals:
On Seeds and Flowers
I don’t buy too much in the way of annual seeds anymore since I always have a stock of what I want to plant from the previous year as well as seeds collected from other gardens or exchanged with fellow gardeners. I sell seeds for about a dollar for a package; a plastic craft bag that contains about two to three times the amount of seed you will find in a typical seed package purchased at the store. All my seeds are fully dried and kept in refrigeration until purchase time. I have a pretty big collection of various flowers and vegetables many of which originated from a seed package purchased years ago. Since I’ve added to my flower seed stock from other sources there is more variety in form and colour in a lot of the flowers. For example, I only ever purchased blue bachelor buttons to my recollection but from collecting from other sources there is now more colour variety to be found in what now grows from the stock: pinks and purples for instance.
Likewise the single orange and yellow calendulas have been reseeded along with samples of double flowering forms and the colours will mix up nicely and even go pastel. This is ideal when a great variety of colour is what you are going for. On the other hand I also label certain colours/forms I like with an identifying tag and keep that seed separate which is particularly important for my poppies which tend to have a lot of variety.
Now what follows is a list of favorite plants for which I have collected a great deal of seed from. All are super easy to grow from seed and do well even in arid climates. Other than staking in the case of tall ones and a bit of thinning out for bushy ones they don’t require any special care…just water them every few days; perhaps a bit more in really dry, windy climates.
Bachelor's Button, Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus
Cornflowers have grown to about 2.5 feet in my garden and are almost startling in their colour, which is sapphire blue for the most part. There are also shades of purple and pink that show up. Cornflower tends to bush out at the top and produces a nice bouquet of flowers that even looks good when the blooms are gone; the remnants of the flower base forms a multi-pointed star the colour of dry straw.
Calendula, Pot Marigold - Calendula officionalis
I can’t say enough good about Calendula. It just grows and grows and grows. It is also a medicinal plant that is often used in making skin salves. Typically the flowers are yellow or orange, sometimes a blend of both. Flowers can be single or double. Calendula grows to about 2 feet in height and lasts throughout the summer and well into fall.
Cosmos - Cosmos bipinnatus
Cosmos is probably one of my favourite flowers. Typically it comes in shades of pink and purple although there are other varieties available. This plant grows very tall- up to 6 feet in my garden. It has large petals that sit on long stems and makes for a good cut flower. Leaves are rather lacy and soft. Because of it’s height it should be kept towards the back of a flower planting.
Feverfew - Tanacetum parthenium
Feverfew is an old time medicinal plant that strikes me as being overlooked. It has bright white flowers that last a long time and bushy green foliage that fills out gaps very nicely. It grows about a foot or so in height and does well in both shade and full sun. It is also very aromatic.
Nasturtiums – Tropaeolum majus
Nasturtiums do well in the shade here in Merritt. They will also flower in full sun as well but benefit by additional watering.
The collection I have range from scarlet to pale amber and bush out quite a bit as well as trail along the ground. Mine were elevated on a rock-lined border and rose to about a foot or so in height and about 2-3 feet in width since they had enough room to spread where they wanted. They are almost tropical looking in their habit with round single leaves attached to long stems. Flowers are also on long stems and are often hidden amongst all the greenery, which is very easy to thin out.
I understand the entire plant is edible- the seeds taste quite peppery when they are still green. A great cover plant.
Poppy – Papaver rhoeus
Can’t get any easier. Shades of red, orange, pink and white often mixed in some combination; white with orange edges for example. Most have a central “cross” that is a contrasting colour; typically you find a black cross in the center of red flowers. Petals can be smooth or ruffled. Single, double, and pom-pom blossomed varieties can show up in the mix I’ve re-collected from and added to over the years.
These poppies grow on very slender stems and can reach 3-4 feet high. The wind can easily knock them down so consider staking or tying them to something solid or using other flowers as a wind buffer. Although I’ve tried them in pots they just don’t thrive in them at all.
Poppies are very prolific- one flower alone produces hundreds of seeds.
Poppy – Papaver somniferum
Opium poppies have such a reputation! This year was a bit troublesome for me as twice some person/s crept into my garden and ripped the seedpods off several plants. These plants are a well known source of many narcotics so consequently I don’t recommend planting them in lone clumps but rather interspersed among flowers of similar height. The flowers themselves are extremely large and can be single, double or pom-pom. Typically red, pink, white, and orange they often have a contrasting central colour rather like corn poppies. The leaves are ruffled mint green and are quite ornately twisted in the red flowered somniferums. They grow to about 3 feet high although the white variety grows about a foot taller and the pom-pom sorts seem a bit shorter.
Seedpods are charming and look very nice on the stems when they are dried and placed in floral arrangements.
Sweet Pea – Lathyrus odoratus
Sweet peas are climbers; they will wrap themselves around other plants so this should be kept in mind when planting them. They can be tied back to a fence but little tendrils do like to creep out and grab hold of whatever they can reach. What makes sweet peas such a popular plant despite their toxicity is their scent, which is given notice in the Latin name. They may require stratification (roughing the surface of the seed to allow for quicker absorption of water in order to facilitate germination) but I have not found it necessary even in this dry climate. Sweet peas come in a variety of colours from pastel pinks to deep purple.