May 18th 2016 – Growing Perennials from seed

Cathy from Rambling in the garden asked the other day about which perennials I grew from seed.

When I began the garden in spring 2007 I sowed a few seeds in an old wooden outhouse next to the house.  I wasn’t living full time at the house at that time so the seeds were left to their own devices sometimes for several days.  I grew Acanthus spinose, Cerastium tomentosum, Euphorbia myrsinites and Euphorbia characia subsp.wulfenii (I think).  All of these are still in the garden and now seed themselves around, mostly in useful places.  The only one which could become a problem is the Acanthus which is perhaps a little too generous with its spreading power.  This year I will cut the flower spikes before they set seed.

Euphorbia characia subsp.wulfenii, one of many that have self seeded around the garden

Euphorbia characia subsp.wulfenii, one of many that have self seeded around the garden

Cerastium tomentosum

Cerastium tomentosum

Cerastium tomentosum always visited by butterflies when in flower

Cerastium tomentosum always visited by butterflies when in flower

Cerastium tomentosum under the Melia in the Left and border, I must get some more seed as I'd like some other patches in the garden and this doesn't seed around

Cerastium tomentosum under the Melia in the Left and border, I must get some more seed as I’d like some other patches in the garden and this doesn’t seed around

The front edge of the Cerastium was the front of the border so you can see that I have widened the border considerably giving some more planting opportunities.

Melia Azedarach flowering now

Melia Azedarach flowering now

It has been a while since I grew any perennials from seed but this year I’ve sown the following: Alstroemeria aurantiaca (actually they haven’t germinated and I’m thinking of putting them in the fridge for a period of chilling), white Lychnis (a friend gave me seed from her garden when I visited her last year and these will be a nice reminder of her beautiful garden).

Meleanthus major

Meleanthus major and other perennials waiting to be planted out.  The tri-coloured sage is a new purchase waiting.

Eryngium alpinum, Melianthus major (I have grown this from seed before but the plants were for a friends garden and I’ve been meaning to grow it for myself for ages.  I have 4 nice strong plants that I will plant on the slope.)  White Valerian is another plant that should grow well here, even without irrigation and I can’t think why I don’t have it already!

Campanular persicifolia (I want these as cut flowers so these have just been planted out into the cut flower beds in the new Secret Garden), Phlox drummondii Creme Brulèe, Achilea ptarmica The Pearl Superior, (I grew this plant in my garden in England so it will be nice to have it here too; it is described as being suitable for cutting and for drying), Agastache rugosa albiflora ‘Liquorice White’ (this is also intended to be used as a filler flower for arrangements but should also add a good patch of interest in the border, it shouldn’t require very much irrigation.

Echinops ritro, I was given several plants of this a couple of years ago.  Last year they flowered in summer when not much else flowers so I saved seed and sowed into modules with a good success rate.  The seeds that I also scattered into the border have also germinated so I should have some large drifts of flowers next year.

Echinops ritro

Echinops ritro – July 2015

I would like to grow other thistle like plants as they should do well here, I’d be grateful for any recommendations.

All my seed sowing this year has been hampered by a purchase of compost from a different supplier that appears to have been infected with some kind of root eating fly.  I had good germination with most of the seeds including all the vegetables but as they grew on the leaves yellowed and many just died.  Coincidentally I read the following blog post (do read this if you’ve had any problems yourself).

I think it is very easy for us gardeners to blame themselves when seedlings don’t thrive and maybe sometimes it is our fault but I do think that often we underestimate the problems caused by incorrect or plain bad compost.  I remember that Cathy (mentioned above) had problems herself last year.

I grow from seed because here in Italy there it is difficult to buy perennials except from specialist nurseries and not all of those provide a mail order service.  The main disadvantage is that I don’t have access to named cultivars of many plants; I am always very envious when I read fellow bloggers descriptions of the special cultivars they treasure in their gardens.

Do you grow perennials from seed or are you able to buy plug plants or small pots at reasonable prices?

The Greenhouse and a bit of catching up

Although out in the garden not very much changed while I was away, it was a different story in the greenhouse where all of the tomato seedlings grew at quite a pace and have now all been pricked out into larger modules and some that I had pricked out before were ready to be put in 9 cm pots.  This is the stage I really enjoy partly because at this stage it is pretty certain they will survive.

There were positively forests of seedlings from the saved seeds of tomatoes that I had particularly liked last year; for the rest I had been more restrained in the numbers I had sown as I am always loathe to throw away unwanted seedlings.  I will still have enough to give lots away to friends. Continue reading

Greenhouse-seeds and a story

Julie at Peonies and posies is posting about her very beautiful greenhouse this week so I decided to synchronise my post with hers; so that we can easily compare sowing times and we can see how we use our greenhouses.  If you have a greenhouse or just sow seeds on the windowsill why not join in and we can all learn from each other.  Also as promised is the story of how I got my greenhouse! Continue reading

Greenhouse and Cutting Bed in Mid-May

There have been so many things in the garden to write about and enjoy that I haven’t had time to update you on progress in the cuttings bed and greenhouse.

There is now some colour in the cuttings bed (not much, but this is a beginning!). The first of the sunflowers that I sowed on the first of February has opened its buds and it is covered in flowers, several large heads at the top and maybe another 8 or 10 down the stem. I’ve just sown some more sunflowers which have already germinated so I’ll have some more plants to replace the 4 that are all have large promising buds. Continue reading

Greenhouse and Cuttings Bed – March

I am late to link with Helen’s greenhouse meme (The patient Gardener) which was last week; but I wanted to keep a better record this year of how the greenhouse is used and blogging about it seems to be a good method to achieve this.  This time I’m including a little about the new bed for cut flowers, hopefully as more is happening there I’ll write separate posts. Continue reading

The Greenhouse – February 2014

Welcome to my greenhouse, I haven’t posted about it for ages.

I’m joining Helen at Patient gardener for her new meme about gardening under glass.

I use my greenhouse for overwintering Citrus although this year one lemon has remained outside and is doing very well in the most sheltered place on the terrace protected by the house from the cold north and east winds.  Continue reading

Seed sowing and the greenhouse

The greenhouse was delivered in March 2011 and so was too late to be used for sowing seeds that year.  I also needed to know how hot it would become in summer and if it could be used at all for summer crops.

Last year I sowed some seed but I started most indoors on a windowsill but then had to go away so they didn’t do very well as they didn’t receive enough light and I switched the propagator off worried about it starting a fire or just cooking the seeds.  I succeeded with sweetcorn (but they didn’t receive enough water when they were planted out so the crop wasn’t as good as other years.  To be honest my local supplier has a huge range of small plants ready to plant out in trays of 4, 6, or 12 (depending on type) and that is really about the right number for me to plant.  They are usually about a Euro and a pack of seed costs a lot more than that!  The only issue is that sometimes the trays aren’t named correctly; two years ago I ended up with a lot of tomatoes all of the same type when I had thought I was buying different varieties.  There is also sometimes quite a variation in the quality of the plants, which makes me think that many are grown from saved seeds rather than quality seed.

Italian gardeners don’t always want to grow the same vegetables that I do so those I have to grow from seed.  Sweetcorn comes into this category – here it is corn (not sweet) and grown as an animal feed, using vast amounts of water too, which never seems very environmentally correct.

This year I have started with more purpose!

I began on January 19th mainly because my Italian gardening magazine suggested that this was the best day for sowing Aubergines according to the moon. I sowed the following: Verbena ibrida, Nigella African Bride, Aubergine small round Vietnamese seed, Scabious, Suttons mixed, Broad beans, Coriander, Scabious Perfect Blue, Sweet Pea Beaujolais, Pepper New Ace, Pepper Beauty Bell.  All except the sweet peas went onto a propagating tray at 20°C.  But I didn’t use the greenhouse! I thought the great differences from day to night time temperatures might prove a problem so I’ve placed a seed tray stand in the spare bathroom on the third floor of our house.  This is giving me some extra exercise as the stairs in the house are all very steep!  The peppers and baby aubergines germinated in 11 days as did both varieties of Scabious; the broad beans were quicker at 9 days and the others are yet to germinate.

From the left, peppers, peppers,scabious blue, Scabious mixed, and Aubergine marble sized for Thai cookery

From the left, peppers, peppers,scabious blue, Scabious mixed, and Aubergine marble sized for Thai cookery

I sowed a lot of the small aubergines as the seed came from Vietnam and I was unsure of how viable it would be.  I will have to be very strong willed and only pick out the strongest seedlings.

The seeds are germinating quickly (I sowed the following on January 31st: Aubergine, long thin, Vietnamese, Leeks, lungo della Riviera, Helianthemum, rock rose, Digitalis ferruginea, Aubergine, White Egg French, Aubergine Round white flushed pink, French, Aubergine Loa Lavender, French, Clemone Pink Whiskers, Orange scented Thyme, Spinach, Pak Choi Red, Jekka’s Herb Farm, Sweet Marjoram, Monarda Bergamo). Of which the red Pak Choi from Jekka McVicar germinated in TWO days!

As I removed them from the heated tray and placed them into unheated covered seed-trays I found they were all bending towards the light coming from a north facing window – what to do?  I remembered that Janet at Plantalicious had rigged up a board using, I think, foil to throw the light back from the other side.  I did the same and so far this is working well.

Foil covered cardboard is working but I need to add more for the top shelf

Foil covered cardboard is working but I need to add more for the top shelf

I have already put the Pak Choi into the green house but without a cover as I am concerned that during the day the temperatures can rise.  After being badly organised for some time there is now a Max. – Min. thermometer in the green house.  I have been taking daily readings.  My fears about the variations in temperature are well founded, on Monday (February 4th) the daytime high was 39.7°C (yes that is nearly 40°C! and the night-time low on Sunday night was less than one degree, 0.9°C to be exact.  I don’t know how anything is surviving those kinds of temperature variations, but all the cuttings and small plants seem to be Okay.

Broadbeans are now in the greenhouse

Broadbeans are now in the greenhouse

I sowed the following 3rd February: Pak Choi green, Lettuce, Oak Leaf, Lettuce, Red Romaine, Parsley, Peppers d’Asti.  The Pac Choi has already germinated as has the Romaine lettuce. So I can look forward to some hours of pricking out as soon as the first true leaves have formed!

View of shelving in the greenhouse

View of shelving in the greenhouse