Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Seedlings of 2009

Now that we are undeniably entering fall, I paused to reflect on the seedlings I grew this year and how they fared since their growing season began, way back in mid-January. First, the herbs...

I grow a number of perennial herbs (that I did not start from seed), including oregano, lemon balm, and chives, and I decided to add Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) to the list of perennials. The seeds sprouted easily and showed vigorous foliage growth all year, but it's the flowers I want for tea, and I'm now finally getting enough blooms to harvest some every couple of days. I'm hoping against hope that we have a milder winter this year than last year because Roman chamomile is only nominally hardy in zone 5.

(Chamomile with lemon balm and Italian oregano nearby. German chamomile [Matricaria recutita] is an annual while Roman chamomile is a perennial.)

Annual herbs are a staple as well; this year it was basil (Ocimum basilicum) and cilantro (Coriandum sativum). The basil took a long time to get going, but these three sturdy little plants are producing more than enough for my purposes. There should be plenty to dry for the winter. Despite the slow start, they're producing more than the anemic plant I purchased last year that was twice as tall as these guys but had little foliar growth, so I will definitely be growing these from seed again!

(Small but robust basil)

The cilantro became a surprise ornamental when it bolted and started to flower uncontrollably. The plants put their energy into flowering and seed production and their foliage basically disappeared, with the result being no cilantro leaves for my cooking.

But I've enjoyed the lacy white umbels all summer, and now I have coriander seed, which is not what I expected to harvest but still is nice nonetheless. (By the way, any recipes using coriander seed are welcome!) Now, onto the perennials...

After doting upon and hovering over my one little Eupatorium seedling, I foolishly planted Baby Joe in the shade of my goldenrod. Of course, this past spring when the goldenrod was barely leafing out, I didn't realize this would be the case but here we are. I am just glad that Baby Joe seems to be surviving whatever bugs are chewing on him (likely those typical thugs, Japanese beetles), and hopefully he'll grow tall enough next year to get out of the goldenrod's shadow.

Here are some thriving Canadian columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) seedlings. They were easily collected last summer from the seed pods; I cold stratified them for about three months, then scarified them gently with sandpaper, then cold/moist stratified them for another month. The germination rate was fabulous! It sounds like a lot of work but really it wasn't. They sat in my fridge most of the time, and it was only a total of about 10 minutes of actual activity to stratify/scarify them. Don't hesitate to try this at home!

(Don't be scared to scarify!)

This is both a perennial and an herb: anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).

I figured it would be foliage-only this year because of its slow growth, but in the last couple weeks it's surprised me with lovely, albeit miniature, purple flower spikes. In a few weeks, when frost is imminent, I'll harvest the leaves and dry them for tea.

I know I said onto the perennials, but we've finished with those so we're back to some annuals at the other side of the garden: 'Velvet Queen' sunflowers.

I feel very conflicted about these. On one hand, I'm delighted they finally started blooming, although only one is currently flowering and the others are about to explode. Also, they've reached robust heights despite the rainy, gloomy summer. On the other hand, the seed packet clearly showed deep coral blooms, and these are a rusty yellow. (I'm bummed I lost the packet because I'd like to show it here for comparison.)

(Not what I expected)

That's gardening for you! The disappointment of a mistaken color is tempered by the success of getting tall vibrant flowers. Plus this color sort of complements the coreopsis and smooth blue asters blooming nearby, so perhaps it's for the best. I'll have to decide that once they all finally show their faces!

And last but of course not least, there's my coleus.

It's still going strong--the foliage, the flowers, all of it! In fact, it's so vigorous that it was shading the spearmint to death. So I took the spearmint out of the pot and I'm trying to nurse it back to health with partial sun, instead of the constant shade from the coleus going buckwild.

And that concludes my seedling review! Overall I'm really pleased with how everything turned out, particularly in the challenging conditions we've faced this year. Seedlings need consistent, full sun to help them grow, and that has been in short supply around here. I used no grow lights when I started these seeds, which makes it all the more amazing that this many seedlings survived! I am looking forward to starting more flowers, herbs, and vegetables next year when winter's doldrums are at their peak, but that's another post for another day! Did you grow seedlings this year? How did it go?

PS--I will be out of town this week and likely will not have another post until Bloom Day. I will try to visit blogs, however, and I will be back gardening and blogging about it as soon as I can!


Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I'm still waiting for my Cosmos and Zinnias to bloom. The Cosmos finally have buds, but it all seems a case of too little, too late.
I've never scarified my Columbine seeds. I wonder if it would make a difference. I don't worry about stratifying, as any seeds I actually sow are in pots outside. Usually, I just shake out the seed pods and waiting for the seedlings to appear on their own. Then I dig them up and grow them on in pots.
Never trust the color photo on a seed packet. Aside from the vagaries of printing, sometimes seeds aren't always as true to name as cloned plants. Your sunflowers are lovely (even if they are orange).

Rose said...

I would say your seed starting was a rousing success! Most of the seeds I started indoors did not do well, but I had better luck with direct sowing in the spring. The cosmos and the bachelor buttons have provided a riot of color since July. I've never collected too many seeds from my perennials before, other than the coneflowers--is it too late to look for the columbine seed?

Seed packets are misleading: Beckie and I both bought the same kind of cosmos seed, but I have a wide variety of colors in mine, while she just has one. I don't know if it's how they're packed or genetic mutation.

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

Thanks for that information on the A. canadensis. I grow both that and Hinckley's columbine. Hinckley's reseeds very easily but the candensis doesn't. I'll collect seeds next spring and try your method!

Gail said...

Hi! I do wish I could get sunflowers to grow here~~Yours are great looking. I don't have trouble getting
A canadensis to germinate...But have no luck with other varieties. That's gardening for you~~None of my zinnias or cosmos germinated this year. Both from reputable companies. We had serious rain and I think the seeds were washed away. gail

garden girl said...

Nice work Rose - you got a lot of mileage from your seeds!

I started a lot of stuff from seeds this year - all the veggies, some herbs, and a lot of perennials, including candytuft, three varieties of columbines (planted in cell packs, watered, and stratified in the fridge and freezer for about four weeks without scarifying, and got 100% germination.) Didn't seem to be any difference between those in the freezer and those in the fridge.

I started some lady's mantle from seeds, and although they're small, a lot of them are already blooming. And I started some baptisias from seeds too. They're pretty small and I'm dubious about whether they'll survive the winter. Just in case, I'll start more in the basement over the winter. Except the herbs and veggies, all the above were started mid-summer in the basement under the light. I took advantage of the controlled conditions and the space since everything else went outside in May.

I've seen some slow-bolting cilantro varieties on the internet, might give them a try next year. I do love the bloom though - so pretty and delicate-looking.

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