Friday, October 9, 2009

Autumn Seed Toss

Above: Shoo Fly Plant - Nicandra
Below: Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate
Polyganum orienatale (Persicaria orientale).
As I walk around the gardens this late summer day, I am noticing all of the holes where nothing was planted this year. I’m not particularly apologetic about it. The recent event where the economy met the crapper has cut our staff down to a skeleton crew, and still they managed to keep the gardens looking lovely. But in an attempt to trouble shoot for next year, I am realizing that many of these holes can be filled up next year with annuals that we grow in-situ with seeds.
You may ask what gave me this brilliant brainstorm. It is, simply, the Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate that grows around the entrace to our gardens. This annual, botanically known as Polyganum orientale (aka Persicaria orientale) self-seeds itself every year and comes up each spring all on it’s own. Each year at our festival in September, we have multitudes of visitors asking what it is and where they can get it. One frustrated lady tracked down my e-mail address and lamented that she hadn’t been able to find it in any nursery. Well, no, you probably won’t. The only time I have seen it offered in the nursery was when they came out with a new variety a few years ago. It had variegated leaves and paler flowers, but didn’t have the same “Oomph” as the original. I haven’t seen it since.
So how do you get it? Find someone who has some, steal or beg some seeds and toss them into your garden immediately (as in now, autumn). Don’t till the soil first, don’t bother covering them up. Just toss them. Next spring they will come up with two oval, pointed leaves and bright red stems. Thin them out a bit and then keep them watered. By fall you will have 6’ plants dripping with dark pink-red flowers.
There are other annuals that will come back year after year by reseeding. Nigella (Love in a mist), Nicandra (Shoo Fly Plant), and Datura meteloides (poisonous) all reseed each fall and come back each spring with no effort on our part. One caveat is that if you want to get rid of these plants, you may have to weed them out several years before they are completely gone. But I would never want to get rid of them myself.
Other annuals that grow well with little preperation are Marigolds, Zinnias, Morning Glories (Ipomea varieties are not invasive like bindweed), Amaranth, and Cosmos. These just need to have the soil worked up a bit, a little fertilizer added and then plant and water.
Seeds are so much cheaper than plants and you don’t need a greenhouse to start many of the annuals available. The hardest part is waiting for the soil to warm up enough before you plant them. Put them in too early and they’ll rot. I wait until May for most of the annuals. If you have to get a quicker show, start them on a windowsill in April.

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