Friday, October 15, 2010

What Flowers Do I Raise?

One of you wrote in response to Monday's email, "Please make a list of all the flowers that you have in your property. Please also say if they are perennial or annuals."

My first reaction was to think that after the bulbs I have, through the season, columbine, zinnias, and chrysanthemums, but when I went through my mind and the yard listing them, I discovered that I had about three dozen blooming plants in my yard this year, not counting the varieties of each.

Annuals I raise from bought seeds: impatiens, zinnias, nasturtiums Self-seeding annuals: alyssum, columbine (or is it a biennial?)
Perennials: chrysanthemums, asters, monarda, swan's neck, black-eyed susans, echinacca, yarrow, Jerusalem artichoke, milkweed, day lilies (yellow and orange), Dutch iris, yellow and purple Siberian iris, winter sedum, astilbe, primrose, winter rose, rose, lily of the valley.
Bulbs: snow-drops, miniature crocus, flower-record crocus, hyacinths, daffodils, tulips (many varieties of each of the last two)
Shrubs: lilac, Andromeda, azalea, holly tree that Bob McLean planted in 1987, an offspring of one of his Groundcover: periwinkle (aka myrtle, vinca)
Weeds: violets, dandelion, some white flower in bloom now (October).

Shakespeare wrote repeatedly about "sweet columbine in spring." After I became a gardener, I realized he lived just before bulbs from the Middle East came to Europe, so he lived his winters flower-deprived. I raised some columbine from seed over two decades ago, and they reseed prolifically. I realize I should put some of the on my front steps for those who want to start them. I have more than I need and have been
throwing extras into the compost heap. The original package had many colors, but the survivors are mostly in the pink-purple range. Very pretty in early spring!

I raise zinnias from seed each year. I always have State Farm zinnias growing up my garden fence, and this year I have a variety of other types in the front yard.

In the mid-80's I raised chrysanthemums from seed, and they do well along the neighbor's driveway, providing color all fall. In recent years I've been supplementing them with asters. I used to have another variety that bloomed later, but recently I've contented myself with autumn sedum and paperwhites (also called "indoor narcissus") in very late fall. I bought one autumn sedum plant years ago, and I have separated it each spring and distributed it widely in my yard and elsewhere.

A Dutch immigrant neighbor gave me Dutch iris plants that grace my front yard and next to the garage. They have purple flowers, smaller than the usual Siberian irises. I should probably promulgate her generosity next spring; remind me if you want some in early spring. I have purple and yellow irises in the back, which I am known to give away in mid-summer, the right time for sharing them.

I planted minarda (also called "bee balm"), raised from seed also in the mid/late 80's, in the front of my north-facing house, where it has done well. When I started my front yard garden last year, I put some between the sidewalk and street, where it has gone crazy. I need to pull some out. It has a light purple bloom in late spring and/or early summer.

I started alyssum from seed about the same time, and it would like to take over the entire yard. I gave away some last spring, and would be glad to do more next year. It has many tiny white flowers, now invading the sidewalk and my garden in the back.

A former student gave me lily of the valley, which does well under the tree next to the street. I could share some of that next spring too.

I raise impatiens and nasturtiums from seed each year. The nasturtiums have mostly disappeared both this year and last, I assume eaten by those pesky woodchucks. I dug some of each last fall and they did well over the winter inside - very pretty in my greenhouse window. One nasturtium started this fall and I brought it in. More about that in a later email about potting soil.

In January I must content myself with VERY dark (dead) autumn sedum to supplement the holly and indoor bulbs. In late February or March snow-drops and then miniature crocuses scattered in the "lawn" appear. Winter rose and real crocuses appear in March. April brings hyacinths and daffodils, first tete-a-tete and then the full-sized ones. Late April and May have lots of tulips, by then joined by columbine.

The front yard had azalea, laurel and Andromeda when we moved in, and I use them still in bouquets. Do they count as flowers? It's not legal to pick laurel in public places, but I would think I could from my front yard.

Do ferns count? There were many here when I moved in, and I use them abundantly in bouquets. There were just a few at first, but I've separated them and moved them around and now have more than I need. Others took some from this past spring and I plan to be even more generous next spring if I can get takers.

Long ago I planted astilbe, which has fern-like red and pink flowers (?) that make lovely bouquets with ferns in spring.

I planted milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies, which they do, but they are also pretty when they bloom, which isn't for long. The butterflies are still pretty in October this year, which is late for them.

I was given swan's neck and black-eyed-susan for my curb garden and they are nice in late spring and early summer. I was given echinacca seeds, but they aren't very prolific where I planted them.

Day-lilies and Jerusalem artichokes have flowers that don't last when picked, but look festive in the yard, the former in mid-summer and the latter in fall.

Myrtle was here when I moved in at the back of the yard, and their small purple flowers and nice below the daffodils that have naturalized after I planted them following their performance inside. It is quite a riot of color each spring.

The day my nephew was adopted, having made the trip from Korea at age four months, I planted a rose bush. It still blooms this year of his joyous wedding.

A cousin gave me two primrose plants descended from those of our great-grandfather. They are doing fine in front of the holly bush, but when I tried to put pieces of them next to the curb, they didn't thrive and have apparently recently died. She tells me this is very unusual, so I may try again.

Writing this has been a revealing venture. I have thought of myself as a vegetable gardener and a "gardening evangelist," meaning vegetable gardening. Now I realize I have a shadow life, one that doesn't take nearly as much of my time and that I hadn't quite acknowledged before, but might also be of interest to others. That is a curious realization because for the past decade I have regularly given away two bouquets a week along with having one on my table. It appears that flowers are more important to me than I knew. Thank you for giving me this self-knowledge!


Freebees: I should give away minarda (which thrives in shade) and columbine now. I'm not going to pot them up, so bring a plastic bag to take them away. You can take them directly from here and put them in your own ground. I'll put them on the steps, each in a tray with columbine on the left in alphabetical order. Both spread.
When you take any freebees, please do not disturb the family unnecessarily. Too much of that could soon make it impossible to continue giving away hundreds of plants a year from my front steps.

Next spring I realize I must have a freebee morning, where folks can come thin (i.e. dig) out my perennial plants. My wrists have been better in the past couple years since I've been recruiting volunteer help for this. Don't let me forget, and if you have something you especially want mentioned above, it might be useful to shoot me an email late next March.

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