Grow Heirloom Flowers from Seed

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Grow Heirloom Flowers from Seed

Heirloom flowers are not easy to define precisely, but you know them when you see them. Flashy spikes of Hollyhock rule the early summer garden; fragrant Four O’Clocks bring a smile at day’s end; the glorious spires of Larkspur blossoms light up the spring garden.

Some call heirloom flower “pass-along plants,” because they are open-pollinated and you can save their seed, so once you have established a population in your garden, it’s a pleasure to save and package there seeds in pretty envelopes to pass along to gardening friends.

Treat yourself to these pleasures from the past. Although harder to find, as started plants in garden centers, Bachelor’s Buttons, and their various and sundry aptly named co-horts are easily grown from seed. For the price of a packet of seeds, these lovely, easily grown and often fragrant flowers will make your garden reign supreme
like regal plumes of foxgloves on a brilliant June morning.

These Time-honored Beauties will make your Garden Glow

Bachelors Buttons (Centaurea cyanus), traditionally
blue, come in a range of cool colors, and are dazzling in
a bouquet. Sow seed directly in a sunny spot in early
spring, or in fall, and thin the seedlings so they stand
about 6 inches apart. Plants can reach 3 feet in height
and are most effective in a mass. Stake them early on to
prevent flopping.

Balsam Impatiens (Impatiens balsamina) was a
popular garden flower 100 years ago, but the 18-inch
beauty is an unusual garden sight today. It grows easily
from seed sown in spring, adapts to sun or shade, and
attracts butterflies. And it has an interesting feature,
which makes it a great choice for children’s gardens:
when you squeeze mature seedpods, they explode!

Cleome (Cleome hassleriana) is a dramatic summer
presence. Seed can be sown in the spring or fall garden,
in sun or light shade. As the weather heats up, plants
zoom to 4 feet or more in height, and the characteristic
spidery seedpods appear. Hummingbirds love them!

Four O’Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) got their name
because the flowers open in the evening, and close
sometime the next morning. Plant the seed in spring in
sun or part shade, then just sit back and let them grow
into shrub-like 2- to 3-foot plants. Flowers are lightly
scented and attract hummingbirds

Larkspur (Delphinium Consolida), an annual version of the 

famously finicky delphinium, is easy to grow and even
easier to love. Sow in a sunny spot in early spring, or in
fall, and thin to suit as seedlings appear. The colorful
spires reach 4 feet in height, and mix beautifully with
rose campion, another easy-from-seed beauty.

Love in a Mist (Nigella damascena) is romantically
beautiful at every stage of its growth. It is ethereal in
bud, elegant when the delicate purple flowers appear,
and interesting when flowers develop into striped,
balloon-like pods. Sprinkle the seed among perennial
flowers in spring or fall, and enjoy the combinations.
Plants grow to about 2 feet in height.

Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) symbolizes
gallantry in the Victorian Language of Flowers. In the
garden it offers beauty and an intoxicating fragrance.
Sow this biennial directly in the garden in summer, in
sun or part shade, and it will bloom the following spring
and summer. Plants range in height from 1 to 3 feet.

Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) are readily available in tall and
short forms, with many-shaped flowers. But the
heirloom variety ‘Lillyput’, with its small beehiveshaped
blooms, is a rare garden center sighting.
Introduced in the late 19th century, the disease-resistant
2-foot plants produce a profusion of perky pom-poms,
and perform as well as or better than modern hybrids.


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