I was once afraid to start perennials from seed – so many doubts, so many questions – so many chances for failure. Why take a chance (money, time, emotional commitment) on a perennial when you know you can get a Marigold to germinate and grow just by dropping a seed in a cup of soil?
Here’s the thing: when you have a large garden, filling it with perennials is expensive! Even if you buy the smallest pot size available and don’t mind waiting a year or two for thing to grow into its space, the cost can add up quickly!
Here’s the other thing: if you’re in a garden centre buying perennials, especially the smallest size possible, it’s way too tempting to get one or two of a lot of different plants, instead of two dozen of one plant. Because really, in your imaginary garden, you have these magical drifts of blooms, created by massing dozens or hundreds of the same plant. Sure, you may be after the cottage garden look, with all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours vying for attention; but even then it helps a lot to use the same plant here and there, in clumps big or small, to add cohesion to the whole.
I started a few years ago by collecting my own seeds – from big yellow and red daylilies (Hemerocallis ssp) – I’ll get into the details on a future post, but the results were fabulous.
Two years ago I went to my first Seedy Saturdays – in Picton and in Trenton. There, I purchased seeds for Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and was able to plant them out last spring. These are both perennials that can’t be found in most garden centres – another benefit of starting your own seeds! With much hand watering (remember last year’s drought??) they survived the summer and winter, growing ever large leaves and this year they are set to bloom. Pictures coming soon!
Another plant I started from seed last winter was Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). I thought it would be neat to have a ton of them just in front of the tree/brush line on the Island bed. The ‘magical drift’ I mentioned above! The challenge with Foxglove is the seed size: they’re VERY TINY!!! I wound up with a flat of seedlings all jammed in together and had to carefully split them apart when planting out last spring. The foliage stayed green all winter and this year they sent up dozens of beauful flower stalks.