Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Seeds gotta grow, and now is the time.
(double click on any image to enlarge)
I used to time the planting of my first indoor seed trays to the end of the Philadelphia Flower Show. I'd come home from ten days at the show where I was selling my season's crop of dried flowers. I'd unload the truck, restore some order in the barn, and plant whatever perennial seeds I was trying that year. I started annual seeds about three weeks later.
Below, Jen's sweet pea 'Cupani' that she starts from seed and sets out in the cool spring of NH.Although I had been an inveterate planter of marigold and zinnia seeds since childhood, it wasn't until I needed to plant 200 foot rows on my farm that I was forced into expanding my seed repertoire. If I had had to buy all the plants, there would have been no Meadow Lark Flower & Herb Farm.

Low and behold, I found I could grow lavender, delphinium, yarrow, globe thistle, artemisia 'Silver King', Eryngium, Centaurea macrocephala, even day lilies from seed under the simplest home conditions. I had no heating pads, no grow lights, and didn't transplant seedlings into ever larger containers. What I had were 19 windowsills, wide enough to hold two or three standard planting trays with 48 or 60 cells each, bagged potting mix, and plastic wrap to keep in humidity till the seeds germinated. My ability to grow perennials from seed under these most primitive conditions was a revelation to me. Were plant nurseries in a conspiracy to prevent my knowing that for the $1.50 price of a seed pack I could grow 48 Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote'. Did I care if the plants were not identical? In fact I reveled in the differences.

In New York I have three long windowsills with very good light. The hardest part of growing from seed is choosing which plants to grow.
Three Rules for Growing Plants
from Seed
1. Read the back
of the seed packet.
2. Read the back
of the seed packet.
3. Read the back
of the seed packet.
Determine if the
seeds are better off
planted directly in
the garden, as my
sunflower and pop-
py packets say. Pay
strict attention to
whether the seeds
prefer to be cover-
ed with soil and to
what depth. Some
seeds need light to
germinate and get
no covering.
Pay attention to the timing. If you plant too early, your seedlings will get leggy indoors, and plants will be weak and scraggly.
This Years Choice
I need morning glories to climb up my fence. Despite all the new varieties I always gravitate to 'Heavenly Blue' for that gorgeous zap of sky in large flowers. The seed packet says soak overnight before planting, and oh yes I will.
I must have bachelor buttons, and choose 'Blue Boy' for even more heavenly blue. I'll plant these outside "as soon as the soil can be worked" says the packet from Renee's Garden. That will be this week for sure, as soon as the rain stops. If I don't deadhead assiduously, these flowers will drop viable seed and I won't have to replant next year. I'm happy to see them wherever the blow.The bachelor buttons in the photo above were all volunteers from two years ago, flying in among the David Austin rose, 'Crown Princess Margareta'.

This year I'll try for the first time Pride of Gibraltar (Cerinthe major atropurpurea)
The Cerinthe stunned me last summer in the gardens of Diana & John M. near Cardiff, Wales. It has dramatic purple bracts and foliage with a blue cast. I'm hoping that what grows in the Welsh countryside will look as dramatic on an 18th floor roof garden in Manhattan.
Below in Wales with calendula and poppies. And remember it's not necessary to have a doll tucked in your jacket when you plant your seeds, but who knows, it might help.Thank you to Renee's Garden Seeds, Ferry Morse Organic Seeds, Hart's Seeds, and Lilly Miller for feeding my seed habit and supplying me with free seeds to try.


Ellen Spector Platt said...

Posted for Frances from Santa Fe:
What a lovely collection of photos and comments – really pleasing– makes me (in spite of 8 inches of fresh snow!) want to rush out and buy seeds. Ellen you continue to amaze me.

Frank said...

Maybe you know, but the GIWSDesign has been fishing for clicks- so silly. I've had their auto-generated scripts on my comments too!

But, yay seeds!

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Frank, extremely helpful. many thanks.

Patrice said...

Beautifully captured photos! The flowers are just gorgeous.

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