Thursday, March 28, 2019

Starting Ornamentals and my "No-Plan" Plan


Each year I add a few new ornamentals to my seed starting list and 2019 will be no exception. 

Ornamentals on this years list that I’ve not grown before include:  Honeywort (Cerinthe major), Craspedia (Pycnosorus globosus), Celosia, Ageratum, Annual Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila muralis) and an annual grass “Frosted Explosion” (Panicum sp.).  All of these were received as sample packets at various events I went to last year.

Celosia 'Asian Garden' baby

I love trying out new varieties and these samples give me the opportunity to try varieties that I may not think to purchase myself.  There are so many wonderful plants out there and I’ve been surprised on more than one occasion by how much I end up loving a previously untried ornamental.  Last year’s revelation was Scabiosa – it really blew my socks off and I would now not be without it in the garden.

I mean, look at that gorgeous colour!  The seed pods (you can see one
just above the blossom) are so unique as well.

There is always a bit of a learning curve when you are growing something for the first time, especially when it comes to timing.  The first year, I tend to sow things according to the packet instructions (if there are any) and/or information I've gleaned from books or online.  The most important bit, though, is that I make a note of how the timing worked out for me as, more often than not, I have to adjust it.

Everyone has a different indoor growing environment and seedlings may grow more quickly or slowly depending on a multitude of factors such as lighting, temperature, as well as the soil mix used and any added amendments.

For example, the first time I grew petunias from seed, I sowed them in the 3rd week of February, per the packet instructions.

Petunia seedings in mid-March 2015

I found, however, that the seedlings were at the perfect transplant size at least 3 weeks sooner than I had planned.  This meant that they were somewhat overgrown and stressed by the time our last frost date rolled around and I could get them in the ground.  Recording when I sowed them as well as noting that this was, in fact, too early meant that I remembered to make the necessary adjustments to the sowing schedule the following year.

In addition to the new varieties noted above, there are a LOT of repeat performers from prior years including coleus, and, of course, lots and LOTS of zinnias!

Zinnias and cosmos camouflage the chicken wire fencing
that surrounds the vegetable garden 

In an effort to be a bit more laid back this year - and completely contrary to my usual "plan every detail ahead of time" attitude - I'm going to grow a wide variety of annuals and then decide on where they are going once transplanting time arrives.

Scabiosa is on it's way...

There will be no "I need this many of that and this many of the other" this time round.  I'll simply grow more of the guys I love (zinnias, tithonia, scabiosa, calendula, cosmos) and not so many of the new, untested varieties.  That's about as specific as I want to get.

Over the course of the summer I'm planning to take a LOT of notes on potential plant groupings as well as growth habits.  I was really surprised by how tall/short some plants ended up being, even with the seed packet descriptions, and there were a few (I'm looking at you cosmos!) that definitely needed a bit of support.

Picotee cosmos was gorgeous but floppy - no wonder as it was over 4' tall!

On another note, I switched up my seed starting mix this year.  Earlier this month, I was about to sow a few more things when I realized that I was out of seed starting mix.  I was sure I had a full bag left from last year so didn't even think to pick any up when I was near William Dam Seeds last week (Note to self:  Always double check these things instead of assuming!).

William Dam is not exactly down the street and that particular day I was heading in the complete opposite direction to drop my daughter off, so I decided to pick up a different mix from a local store.  When I opened up the bag, I was pleasantly surprised as it seemed to be ok - not as fine a texture as the mix that I normally use, but not bad either.  So I've been using it for a few weeks now and so far so good - fingers crossed I don't end up regretting it!

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

14 comments:

  1. We grew cerinthe once and now it pops up all over the place.

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    1. I love annuals that self-seed - it will be interesting to see if Cerinthe does that in my garden.

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  2. I'm trying to get a few more flowers into the mix this year also but my space is limited so my selections are limited also. My approach is pretty much the same, grow a bunch and then put them in where I find the space. Like Sue I grew Cerinthe once and now it pops up here and there but it's not weedy. I love it when flowers volunteer around the garden unless they are weedy types, it saves me the work of starting them and planting them. I just wish I knew in advance what the weedy ones were going to be.

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    1. I hadn't even heard of Cerinthe before I received the packet. It looks so lovely I can't wait to see it flowering! I too love self-seeders (but as you put it, the non-weedy ones!). Around here one of the most rampant is calendula - dozens pop up every spring. I still sow some indoors, though, as I get an earlier start so flowering starts at least a month sooner than the self-seeded ones. Can't wait to see which ornamentals you are growing!

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  3. My ornamental grow list this year is short, and I confess I've not heard of cerinthe before. It does sound like an attractive plant though! We do have quite a few perennial flowers growing already, and in fact we are reducing the size of one bed to make it easier to maintain. I started quite a few petunias and three cannas from seed, but that is likely to be it for this year.

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    1. I can't wait to try these new-to-me ornamentals - I'll bet there are at least one or two (or more!) that will end up added to the rotation. I didn't realize you could grow cannas from seed - I had assumed they were a bulb. There you go...once again, I've learned something new :)

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  4. I've been planting more ornamentals from seed these last 2 years but thus far I've relied on seed that can be sown directly in the garden. With persistent critter issues, this doesn't always have satisfactory results (my Cerinthe seeds have disappeared due to raccoon incursions) but, until our remodel is complete and I can spread my seed-starting out a bit inside, it's pretty much what I'm stuck with.

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    1. If I had a long enough growing season, I would try to start more seeds outside...one of my least favourite things about indoor sowing is hardening off which would be eliminated altogether. But raccoons..ugh - you'll definitely be a lot less frustrated once you have the ability to start seeds indoors :)

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  5. Flowers are fun to have in the garden. Your zinnias and cosmos are lovely and they do a great job of camouflaging. I've only ever grown Shasta daisies and marigolds successfully from seed, even sunflowers give me trouble.

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    1. There is definitely a bit of trial and error when growing annuals for the first time. Speaking about sunflowers, I did grow some last year but they barely made it to a couple of inches tall before the dang rabbits got to them.

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  6. I'm also planting lots of Zinnias! I love Scabiosa, but it never lasts more than a couple of years for me.

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    1. The variety I grew (Black Knight) is an annual - I didn't realize there were perennial varieties out there...must look into that.

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  7. That Scabiosa is such a fantastic colour, and the zinnias and cosmos look great.
    So nice to see colour.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan - I'm really looking forward to seeing all of my favourites in the garden again this year :)

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