Sunday, June 5, 2011

Top 5 easy perennials and easy re-seeders – plant once enjoy for years

As any gardener can attest to, filling a garden with a rich show of color can be a lot of work and very expensive.  Building a garden design around perennials and annuals that seed themselves can really help stretch your budget and avoid the work of planting a whole new bed every spring.

Coneflower (Echinacea) is known for its medicinal properties in fighting off colds as well as the cheery purple daisy-like flowers. When the flowers are left to fade on the plant they will provide you with plenty of seeds. The seeds also attract finches and other birds to the garden.

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) can be started easily from seeds but will not bloom their first year. The best plan is to seed directly in the garden after the frost date in both year one and again in year two. The first season will produce plants with lovely lush foliage about 2-3 feet high. Year two brings a colorful show of tall spires filled with red, pink or yellow papery flowers which if left to seed will set the growth for blooms in year three and so on.

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum magus) comes in a variety of colors. A few years ago, I scattered a seed packet in a planter on my patio in early Spring. That year they filled the container with a multi-colored blooms. I let the plants die off in the fall and moved the pot to a fairly sheltered corner of the patio. To my delight, the next spring a new crop popped up and continues to do so still. Snapdragon is also a great choice for borders.

Chinese Lantern is a charming two season plant. Seeds can be sown directly in the bed in the fall.  By Spring the foot high plants will have pretty little white flowers.  In the mid-summer the seed pods will begin to enlarge, turn pumpkin orange and dry.  Just break the pods open and plant the seeds in the fall.  Chinese Lanterns will make a nice border or look bring impact when grouped together.

Phlox is both a true perennial and a ready seeder. Phlox varieties range widely in height and color so it’s at home in nearly every design and the flowers are great for cutting . It spreads over time and will need to be thinned or split. Phlox attracts birds and butterflies.

I have one word of caution about perennials and plants that reseed, if mother nature is left completely to her own design “philosophy” a garden can become over-grown or messy looking within a season or two. To keep your design intact, it’s a good idea to remove the seed heads and plant them purposely to avoid too much of a good thing. You should also move and thin plants as needed so familiarize yourself with
what the young plants look like so that they can be moved early in the season if needed. If you have more seeds than you need or are getting tired of your design, consider trading seeds with friends to keep it fresh.

Perennials and plants that seed easily can become the frame work around which a lovely design can be built and enjoyed for years to come. And doing so is a great way to stretch your gardening budget at the same time.

photos by Brandie Shaw

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