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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Somewhere in my wanderings last year I acquired a free pack of 'Giant Double' Mixed Zinnias seeds, offered by the Home Gardening Seed Association. Who even knew there was such an association, but the flowers they list as easiest to grow from seed are Cosmos, Sunflowers and Zinnias. To that list I'd add among the annuals, Marigolds, Cornflowers, Larkspur, Calendula, and Cock's comb; and among the perennials, Globe thistle, Yarrow, Lavender, and Globe centaurea.
Starting late March my office windowsill was filled with seed starts, some old favorites like the Zinnias and some new ones like Cerinthe and a biennial hollyhock. Also new for me were recycled containers: a pineapple juice carton with the side cut off, several cardboard egg crates, and the plastic pots that came with my spring pansies.
I used to buy trays with plastic liners each winter, but no more. I do however use new, sterile seed starting soil-less mix. After careful watering, turning the trays daily to capture the light, feeding with an organic liquid fertilizer, and nipping the growing tips of the Zinnias, by early May the seedlings were ready to go outside for hardening off in a sheltered location behind two huge pots. The egg cartons were holding, up but dried out quickly, wicking moisture away from roots. At this stage I watered from the bottom, wondering if my nice jelly-roll pan would ever be usable again.
I planted California poppies (here with Cinquefoil), Bachelor buttons, and Calendula directly where they were to grow since they like to get a cool weather start (late March). A little later, the bush morning glory seeds went in among some roses and by July 1 they were in full bloom, just when the poppies and Bachelor buttons were going to seed. This true blue variety, a gift from Renee's Garden seeds, is Covolvulus tricolor 'Royal Ensign'I'm not as impatient for cosmos, so I strewed some seeds at the base of tomato starts. When the seedlings looked strong and healthy, I distributed them into flower containers around the roof

Above, more Zinnias grown in egg cartons. It's amazing what a bang you can get from half a pack of seeds. I'm saving the other half for next year. And below, more poppies from Renee's. Look carefully to see the long thin seed pods. I'm hoping the seeds will distribute themselves all over my garden and bloom in glory next year.


meemsnyc said...

I did Zinnia, Cosmos, poppy and lavender also. Zinnia was the easiest to germinate. The cosmos never bloomed! Not sure why.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

I love all your flowers, especially those pink poppies. We grew poppies in our yard in San Jose. You really have to control them. Before you know it, you'll have poppy pods exploding their seeds all over your garden. Then they'll come up in cracks and crevices next year.

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Nate, I'm hoping that poppies will explode in all the cracks between the pavers on my 18th story roof garden in NYC. I love volunteers as much as the incongruity of California in New York.

JHopkins said...

recommend the book A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed by James Fenton for more idiosyncratic and lovely seed faves. I grow sweet peas from seed and plant them to climb at my garden gate, just for the smell

Frank said...

I've collected seed from zinnias and cosmos -easy to collect and save. At what point do you snip those zinnia tops?

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Jen, I was thrilled to see that I've grown more than half of Fenton's BEST 100 list, and love his philosophy of starting with what you NEED in your garden this year. But I've never heard of some on his list, either by scientific or common name.

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Frank, I nip off the growing tips after the seedlings grow at least two pairs of true leaves, or after that if the seedlings are getting too spindley. You must leave at least one set of true leaves

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