Yesterday it was -16 degrees Celsius and the wind made it feel even colder. I shouldn't complain- at least we didn't get touched by any of the snow spring storms that struck the East coast of Canada. My enterprising brother in Halifax, Nova Scotia made an igloo in the backyard and he and his 4 year old son camped out for a night inside it.
With the exception of a few stubborn patches, our snow is almost gone. The garden emerging from under the blanket of white snow looks brown and exhausted. What we need now is some warmth and a bit to rain to bring around that miraculous transformation to fresh shades of green.
To usher in the official arrival of spring, my first order of seeds arrived in the mail last week.
Annual seedlings available at local nurseries tend to be limited to traditional favourites. Last year I found that starting my own flowers from seed opened up the possibility of growing so many more interesting and unusual types of annuals.
So... what flower seeds did I order?
I have been growing biennial foxgloves every spring for a few years now. This year I thought I'd try Sutton's Apricot which are a soft peachy-pink color.
Verbena bonariensis seeds have proved hard to find at local nurseries. So this year I mail ordered some.
In my Zone 6 garden, these are an annual, but Verbena bonariensis are a tender perennial in zones 7-10.
Verbena bonariensis like sun and moist, well-drained soil. Sprout time: 10-30 days. Sow 6-10 weeks before planting out after frost. Plant height: 4'. Seed depth: 1/16 inch. Sprout time:10-30 days. Sow 6-8 weeks before planting out after frost.
I've always grown the more standard orange varieties of Calendula. These yellow Calendula from Select Seeds looked like an interesting alternative.
I also ordered these ruffled Cosmos just for a change of pace:
Cosmos 'Snowpuff', Cosmos bipinnatus (annual) with double white flowers. Seed depth: 1/8-1/4 inch. Sprout time: 3-10 days. Sow 4-5 weeks indoors before planting out after last frost.
Nigella, Love-in-the-mist 'Persian Red': I grew the more common blue and white Nigella last year and thought some rose flowers might mix in nicely. Seed depth1/16 inch. Sprout time: 7-14 days. Sow direct in early spring.
Lavatera 'Pink Blush' : I thought I'd try this soft pink variety. Lavatera gets quite tall ( 2.5-3 ft) and fairly bushy. It likes sun and lots of water. Lavatera is best planted in rich, well-drained soil. Seed depth:1/16 inch. Sprout time:10-40 days. Sow indoors 6-10 weeks before planting out after frost.
Have you noticed? Frilly flowers seems to be a recurring theme in my seed choices.
I've always loved double poppies, so I picked up some Peony Poppy seeds from Floribunda Seeds when I was at Canada Blooms. Seed depth:1/16 inch. Sow directly in early spring. Poppies don't like to be transplanted. Full sun.
If you like the shaggy lilac colored poppies (seen above) that I photographed in Joe's garden here is a link to similar poppies offered by Select Seeds.
Even though they are reputed to be prolific self-seeders, I want to try my hand at growing annual Candytuft.
Annual Candytuft, Iberis Umbellata: Height 30-40 cm. Full sun. Flowers range from white to pink and mauve. These plants are taller and less compact to their more familiar white flowering perennial cousins.
Here are a few seed starting basics (lessons I've learned the hard way!):
Read the information on the back of your seed packets as soon as you get them so you can plan properly. For example, some seeds need a period of cold to germinate. It will be a little late to discover this important information like this later in the spring when the weather is already warm.
Pay heed to planting depths: Remember you are not burying treasure, you are sowing seed. Each seed type will have a recommended planting depth. Some seeds, like the foxgloves I ordered, are teeny-tiny and should be sown directly onto the surface of the soil. On the other hand, the Lavatera I will be planting needs to be planted at a depth of 1/4", while the love-in-the Mist needs a depth of 1/16" of an inch.
Sow your seed thinly: I have a bad habit of over sowing and that only produces weak, spindly seedlings. Try to sow thinly, and if like me you tend to get carried away, thin out the seedlings to give them room and better air circulation.
Annual Rubeckia I grew last year from seed
Some types of annuals hate to be moved: Last year I planted sunflowers and rudbeckia in a nursery bed with the grand plan to move them into their final positions in the garden when they got big enough.
But when they were transplanted, the sunflowers and rudbeckia wilted immediately, and though they eventually recovered, they sulked for days. I am thinking of starting them in plug trays, where I figure I have a greater chance of creating firm root ball that will make transplanting less stressful for the young plants. Perhaps you have a better method?
I am looking forward to getting my seeds started. Now if only the weather would co-operate!