Flower Seeds: Self-Sowers

images of perennial border with annual poppies

Annual poppies enhance the cottage garden effect in a sunny perennial border,

Today I received a bulk order of my favorite flower seeds; all 72,300 of them. These are considered self-sowers. While these are mostly annuals, biennials or short-lived perennials, once these plants become established in the garden, they will continue to cast their seeds about, ensuring that they reappear each year, albeit in unpredictable places. These include Shirley poppies, foxgloves, Sweet William, Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos sulpherus, Nigella damascena and Columbines.

The annual poppies, of which there are many varieties including papaver rhoeas, papaver nudicaule, escholzia (the yellow, orange and cream colored California poppies), along with Bachelor’s Buttons, Nigella damascena, (aka Love-in-a-Mist) and Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus) enjoy full sun. But one must be able to tolerate the somewhat scruffy look of the spent flower stalks in the garden as the plants need to produce seedpods, mature and then cast their seeds in order for them to multiply.

image of foxgloves behind perennials

Foxgloves provide a nice transition between a perennial border and a woodland.

The foxgloves and columbines thrive in a bit of shade, making them perfect candidates for creating a naturalistic transition between a sunny perennial border and the edge of a woodland, which is how we use them. Here, they’re shown with salvia, nepeta, agastache and a few self-sown Shirley poppies.

As we gear up for Spring, you might want to consider ordering some of these seeds,  to cast about the gardens and create a relaxed, cottage-garden/wildflower look. They’re usually inexpensive; geez, for $3.95 I got 44,000 seeds. If only 1% decide to germinate I will still enjoy a few colorful blooms that offer the promise of future generations. Go for it!

Eek! “I want my gardens to look like yours”

That was the statement and request of our dear friend and client and surely a compliment that is difficult to live up to. This was clearly stated in kindness (or blindness to the weeds, chicken scratchings and the almost accidental, haphazard quality that our gardens possess) but  we did understand her meaning. When we’re on top of our game, our gardens do express abundance, jubilance, colorfulness and romance. We create cottage gardens. This garden is newly planted, and it always irks me to see the gardens that we create at this particular stage because of their awkwardness. The fresh mulch and the instant color is nice, and yet, they are immature. Many of the plants have been reared in greenhouses and so their flowering periods are somewhat out of synch with nature. Plants chosen to cascade, drape and mound are too young to do so and those meant to stand tall, proud and boldly display color like a peacock may not perform instantaneously. As always, it takes a year or two for a garden to come into its own. Many of the previously existing perennials, including peonies and hibiscus, will languish after the move and may not flower this year or next, but, still, the  promise of a new garden, carefully created; removing invasive weeds, stem by stem, filtering the soil, hand-digging 12″ of horse manure into the ground, incorporating organic fertilizers and watering and mulching, is a promise of beauty and sensual enjoyment for years to come.  New perennial borders for Thirsty Boots Farm paddocks.

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New perennial borders for Thirsty Boots Farm paddocks.

New perennial borders for Thirsty Boots Farm paddocks.

Letters from Stonewell: Garden Design

Spring Flower border

The exuberance of Spring.

Speaking personally, the creative work of making paintings,or creating gardens ,or designing  interiors (even writing about them), emerges from the same place; a passion for beauty, harmony,grace, clarity,colorfulness and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of playfulness.  I share a professional commonality with painters, landscape designers, landscape architects, interior designers, architects, sculptors, and, yes, farmers and gardeners. My interest in horticulture, and the studies I’ve pursued in this field, are similar to those that I pursued in painting; knowing my materials and tools, knowing the history of the craft and the art. Pigments, paints and techniques are supplanted by plants; trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and their behaviour and how they contribution to a landscape, and yet, I still garden like a painter. I see the big picture and focus on the overall effect, not the details of particular plants and their attributes.

Andrew’s vision comes from a different place. Born, raised and having lived most of his life in a designated protected area in England, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, his point of reference is farmland; sweeping vistas of sheep and heather clad hills and dales, into which are nestled villages, into which are further nestled, like Russian dolls, cottage gardens nestled within those villages. He knows those personal, private gardens. They create luxurious floral displays and fecund kitchen potagers in cozy settings that suggest homeiness, intimacy and respite. Andrew’s horticultural qualifications, through the Royal Horticultural Society, have provided him with the training and education to objectify and analyze the workings of  gardens and landscapes. He’s good at it, and, as a stone artisan, he understands the importance of hardscaping and structure in a landscape.

We share a dialogue about gardens and garden design. Perhaps not always verbal, but usually visual; we move plants around, we place shrubs and perennials in different locations, we shift ourselves and the plants to various places until we find an arrangement that we feel can,and will, in time, become settled,rich, beautiful, exuberant. Only then do we commit to a garden plan, and when that happens there’s a sense of great satisfaction we share because we know that our individual strengths have come together, in a way that could not have been articulated through language or pen and paper, but through a shared sense of beauty.

I don’t remember who it was who said that creativity is ” 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”, but whoever it was, he/she wasn’t far off the mark.

I’d like to think and write more about the process of creating a lifestyle along with a landscape into a more self-sufficient and aesthetically satisfying environement.  With this is mind, I took the plunge and registered ‘lettersfromstonewell’ as its own domain. The new location is ‘Lettersfromstonewell.com’ I hope you’ll visit often.