Friday, March 13, 2015

First of the Flowers – Petunias & Alyssum


I do enjoy beautiful flowers & ornamental plants but at this very early stage of my garden, I am concentrating mainly on the veggie side of things.  That doesn’t mean that I’m completely ignoring flowers, but simply that I’ll only be growing a few for specific purposes or because I happened to have the seeds lying around.

This year’s list includes alyssum (to help with pollination…hopefully), marigolds (for the tomato beds, just like last year), sunflowers (for their seeds), chamomile (for tea), and nasturtiums (just because I love them).  I also have several packets of “freebies” obtained from various sources over the past couple of years including love-in-a-mist, four o'clocks, daisies and a wildflower mix.  Some of these may be too old now, but I figure I’ll try some seeds from each, just to see what happens.

This past summer, I happened to be in St. Catharine’s with my daughter & took the opportunity to visit Stokes.  I had been meaning to buy a soil thermometer for a long time & they had a digital one that I had my eye on.  I don’t purchase their vegetable seeds as I find their offerings too commercial & their vegetable seed is often treated as well (although they are non-GMO).  I must say, however, that they have an incredible selection of ornamentals (none of which are treated).  In their store, they only had a small portion of their seeds on display (which was still quite a selection), so I told my daughter that she could take her pick.  This is what she chose:

Ultra Rose Star Petunia
Photo Source: Stokes
 
My impression has always been that many ornamentals are tricky to grow from seed, for one reason or another.  I also find that information on growing them from seed is not as widely available as that for vegetables – probably because most people opt to purchase their ornamental plants from garden centers and nurseries.

One thing I must say about the Stokes packets is that they provide VERY specific, bordering on scientific, seed starting information, a big plus for someone like me.  The petunia packet even went so far as to state the optimal soil temperature for germination (27C/80F) and typical germination sequence (pinks, blues & whites usually germinate first, with reds being last).  As someone who has had minimal experienced with ornamentals, this extra information is invaluable.

The petunias were the first flower seeds to get sown this year.  I helped my daughter sow the seeds a couple of weeks ago.  The packet indicates that they need light to germinate, so we sowed the seeds on top of the soil, gave them a light spritz of water and draped a bit of cling film over top to help keep the seeds moist.  Then off to the heat mat they went.

Only a few days later, this is what we saw:

If you look very, VERY closely, you can see a seedling in each cell
 
And yes, my daughter & I got out the magnifying glass to get a better look.  It's hard to believe that these practically microscopic seedlings will turn into large, lush plants.

Next up was the Alyssum, which I sowed a few days ago.  Last year, I planted borage in an effort to attract pollinators to the squash and cucumber beds.  They ended up being much larger than I anticipated, often overshadowing the neighboring plants.  This year I decided to try alyssum instead.  I’m planning on planting the squash in straw bales and I think the alyssum will be just the right size to squeeze into the bales as companions to the squash.  I will also be planting a few in the cucumber bed.

I sowed the alyssum seed in the same way as the petunias as they also need light to germinate.  They were a bit trickier, however, as the seeds were tiny – practically grains of sand.  The packet contained 750-1250 seeds but I'm not even sure it would fill a 1/4 tsp. measure...now THAT'S small!  Petunia seeds are probably just as small, but the seed we purchased was pelleted which made for easier sowing.


Alyssum Seeds
 
I sprinkled only a few seeds – or so I think - in each cell.  I have a feeling that I was still a bit too heavy handed & will likely have quite a bit of thinning to do when they come up.

Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

12 comments:

  1. I haven't managed to work flowers into my seed sowing schedule, they probably should be going already but I just haven't gotten to them. Sweet Alyssum has been a mainstay in my garden, it's a good size, blooms prolifically, self sows, basically it's just there all the time doing it's job. Unfortunately it's extremely attractive to a newly arrived bad bad bug so I've been pulling most of it out. I need to find some new flowers to take its place. I'll be letting more coriander bloom around the garden since it is also extremely attractive to pollinators and other good bugs, it just gets to be too tall for some spaces though.

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    1. It was your posts on the alyssum that actually inspired me to give it a go. I recall your issues with the bagrada bug but thankfully we don't have those around here - I guess that's one benefit to living in a climate that has a cold winter!

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  2. I sowed borage on my old allotment plot and was never without it again, it self seeds all over the place, but it's easy to pull up if you don't want it. I have to admit that vegetables take precedence over ornamentals with me, but I do still like some flowers in the garden.

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    1. I already had self-sown borage seedlings coming up last fall in the beds, so I have a feeling I will have self sown borage in the garden-at-large this year as well. I actually quite liked the borage flowers & the beneficials loved them too. I'll likely leave any that pop up in the flower borders or paths, so long as they don't get too much in the way.

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    2. I planted borage for the first time last year. Good to know that even with our cold climate that the self sown will still pop up as I wasn't sure if they might get killed off. I'd like to have a few here and there although they were much larger than I had expected as well.

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    3. Actually last year was the first time I grew it and the self sown ones that came up in the fall were from the plants I put out in the spring! So I'm not 100% sure if they will come up or not this year, but for some reason, from what everyone else is saying, I have a feeling they will.

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  3. Your petunias look just like mine, which are just now sprouting! It is so neat that you have your daughter involved in this stage of the gardening. And when those flowers are big and blooming, she can truly appreciate the process from seed to full grown plant. My petunia seeds were pelleted, and they were still TINY! I think my purple ones were the first to sprout this year.

    I used to order seeds from Stokes, and I remember the detailed growing info. Johnny's Seeds is much the same, and their catalog reads like a how-to manual which I appreciate. If the seeds need a certain temp, then at least I can try my best to adjust my growing conditions.

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    1. I'm still amazed at how flowers go from seed to plant as so many seem to be mere specks when sown.

      Thanks for the reminder on Johnny's - I often forget how detailed their catalogue is. I'll have to remember to pull it out & give it a read, especially for the new veg/flowers I'm growing - when it comes to starting seeds, I always feel that the more information I have the better.

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  4. I bought plants for alyssum the first year of the garden. Since then they have self seeded all over the place. They have become almost a weed really, but I love them. They line my brick paths and drape over the rock wall in the front.

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    1. Yours was another inspiration for the alyssum! I recall photos of it along the edges of your beds & spilling onto your paths...they were just lovely. Hopefully mine will be just as "weedy"!

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  5. Hello from the UK, I've just found your blog and am now going to follow.. I grow 'food' as well as flowers.. Look forward to reading some more from your archives :o)

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    1. Hi Julie & welcome! I'm a relatively new blogger and am having such a wonderful time sharing my experiences with others...and learning so much in the process too!

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