“What?” you say! “The gardening season is nearly over, and you don’t even have your raised beds in place, let alone filled with soil. Why on earth would anyone be ordering seeds?”
Okay, those are valid points, but I have learned many things over the past forty years, and one is that if you want certain, specific varieties of plants you have to order early. Plus, my favorite company (GEO, a wholesale company, but remember I am keeping my business license since I still want quantities of some things and intend to do a few shows) sent me a coupon for 20% off if I placed an order before August 31. That’s incentive when you know it will be a big order.
Some of my favorite varieties are just not available as plants anyplace in my area…. and I’d be willing to drive a distance to obtain them. So, if I want them, I’ll have to grow my own, which is something I love to do. Plus, I’ve visited most of the major wholesale greenhouse operations across the country, and seen what they put on their plants chemical-wise. I want this garden to be a joy, and the plants in it to be safe for me and all the visiting pollinators to nibble. So, I’m growing my own as much as possible.
I’ve spent hours and hours planning the crops for my raised bed potager, and the flower beds around it. I reserved some of the plants on my list before closing the farm, mainly perennials and fruit bushes. But next spring, I will want massive quantities of some things to edge some of those raised boxes. And, I have 3100 linear feet of flower border, if I plant the front and south sides of the fence, not to mention the inside of the fence, where I plan to grow perennial herbs, and edible flowers. That’s a lot of plants, and most of them will be produced from seed.
What did I order? Only those varieties that I’ll need quantities to fill not only the new borders in and outside the potager, but also the existing beds around the lamp-post, the front sidewalk bed, the deck garden, and the “addition garden,” so –named because it is on the west side of the master suite addition built a few years ago. When you see the list, you’ll notice a color trend, determined by the color of the brick of our home. It’s an unusual shade: apricot/terra cotta/cream/gold.
Personally, I’ve never been a pink or red gal, so apricots, peaches, and oranges (sounds like a fruit salad!) with white and yellow and touches of blue is my palette.
Before I started my order, I listed my favorites. Then I divided them into categories, tall, medium, and short. I knew I’d need lots more “short” to edge some of the raised beds, more edible flowers for the potager, and flowers to add more height. My order included: Alcea (Hollyhocks, edible) “Halo Apricot,” about 6’ in height to place along spots of the fence and against the Lady Cottage. Alcea “Queenie Salmon,” only 20” tall, so a good mid-border plant. Alyssum “Easter Bonnet Peach”…I’m getting 2M seeds, because I love the fragrance of Sweet Alyssum, and I plan to use it in containers on the deck as well as an edger, and along some of the fronts of borders. It’s not edible, but Sweet Alyssum attracts many beneficial pollinators, including ladybugs and hoverflies, both of which eat aphids. Maybe I should have ordered more!
I love snapdragons (Antirrhinum, edible) not only for their durability and color, but they often self-seed or return if we have a mild winter. I’m getting two of my favorites, “Liberty Bronze” (18” above top) and “Twinny Peach” (bottom) a gorgeous soft pastel that’s 10” so I use it in containers and fronts of borders. these are not the traditional “snap” flower type, but the open, azalea-type. Aren’t they just gorgeous?
Another taller (30”) filler plant is Aquilegia (Columbine, not edible but good for hummingbirds) “Tequila Sunrise” which is coral orange and gold. I have a few, but I need lots more, along with bright yellow, double-flowered A. x Caerulea “Sunshine.” (24”)
Every year, I’ve grown Celosia (cockscomb, not edible but a great plant for pollinators, cutting, and dried arrangements) “Fresh Look Orange”(14”) for the Sunrise Garden at the farm, and at my house. This year, I’m adding a crested Celosia “Armor Orange,” hoping it resembles the beautiful Kurume Orange, which is no longer available. Cosmos “Sunny Orange” (20”) has been a mainstay for years, and I’ll continue to grow it. It’s not edible, but butterflies like it, and it’s a nice cut flower, too.
I’ll need lots of edgings in the potager, and one of my favorites is Alpine Strawberries, because they produce delicious berries the entire growing season. I use “Rugen.” Marigold “Little Hero Orange” (6”) will be another edger, even though it is not edible, I’m allowing it in to help fight nematodes and repel insects, and it’s just so darn cheerful it makes me smile even on cloudy days. Violas are a mainstay for edging a kitchen garden, perky and edible, and I’m growing lots: “Angel Amber Kiss” just intrigues me, so I’m giving it a try. “Penny Denim Jump Up” is a brilliant blue, “Penny Peach Jump Up” is peach with soft blue wings, and “Penny Orange” ties them all together.
More mid-size plants are 12″ Gaillardia “Arizona Apricot” (above) which I’ve had in my deck garden, love, and want lots more. I ordered Gomphrena “Qis Orange” because I enjoy its “ball on a stick” form and because they are a great cut flower, and I hope to have time to make pretty arrangements to give to friends and to enjoy in my home. Butterflies love them, too. Leucanthemum (Shasta Daisy) Silver Princess is a good filler, long-blooming, and the white petals help other colors “pop.”
My very favorite marigold is “Durango.” It’s an anemone-type, 12” tall with flowers often over 2” wide. They are so reliable and the colors are luscious and cheery. To its left is Zinnia “Profusion Apricot.” They play well together.
Another favorite is Rudbeckia “Chim Chiminee.” I’ll never have a garden without its quilled petals in various shades of yellow, through oranges. It’s a great cut-flower, too. And speaking of cut flowers, zinnias are essential, lots and lots of zinnias, for me and the butterflies. I use low-growing (shown earlier with Durango Marigold) “Profusion Deep Apricot,” and “Profusion Double Deep Salmon” for the front of borders. This coming spring, I’ll be adding Zinnia “Inca,” a brilliant orange cactus-flowered diva that’s 30” tall, and a gorgeous new multi-colored bloom with “puffed centers” called “Zinderella Peach” that’s a bit shorter, at 25”. Not only do I love zinnias for the bright colors, but they also deter cucumber beetles and tomato worms. None of these mid-size flowers are edible, but many of them are good cut flowers.
Since I might actually have time to sit in the gazebo some evenings, I’m adding Mirabilis (Four O’Clocks, not edible 2′) “Salmon Sunset” with pretty, evening-fragrance tubular blooms. Nasturtium “Peach Melba” will provide lots of edible flowers for salads, pretty herbal vinegars, and color in hanging baskets and containers in the potager. Pansies will also add their flowers to salads or potpourris, and be planted in containers near the front door of the house and the Lady Cottage. I chose Pansy “Mariposa Orange Blotch’ and a ruffled beauty named “Chianti Mix.”
Of course, I’ll be placing lots more orders in late winter for vegetables, herbs, and flowers in smaller quantities, but this will get me started. I’ll seed the perennials as soon as they arrive, and hope they get large enough before the ground freezes to survive the winter. The other packets will be filed according to correct seeding time in a plastic box and kept in a dark, cool, dry place (under a spare bed upstairs!) Is there anything more magical than watching seeds become green sprouts and turn into beautiful flowers? And the anticipation of the joy in those seed packets will keep me smiling and planning for months ahead.