Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lead with seed to a flowery mead

Post 29

Is it too late?

Every year in late winter I throw a lot of seed around. An illustration of the results is on the left. It shows three of my favorites,-- larkspur, poppy and pot marigold. Winter seeding brings lots and lots of  summer flowers.

On the right you can see these three, with sweet pea thrown in, filling in between the perennial Cupid's Dart, Coneflower and Lavender.  One of the people whose questions helped inspire me to write this blog wanted to know how I managed to have such dense planting with so much in bloom. Annual seeds are part of the answer.

To look good, most perennial gardens need to meet three needs: 1) they need to have a succession of abundant flowering and/or interesting foliage that lasts from early spring to late fall, 2)  week to week, with whatever is in or out of flowering, the garden needs to look visually balanced as a whole and 3) colors should not clash, nor should there be too much of any one shape of flower or leaf texture together, nor should the rise and fall of the overall composition of the plants be too uniform and boring.

Can you imagine trying to figure this all out logically? What a boring nightmare! Luckily you do not have to. You do need patience, some intelligence and a decent eye though. And an ability to throw seed on the ground.

Every year, all through the year, I take time to look at my garden and mentally note what is not working. Then, in spring and fall I transplant or plant as needed and every late winter I throw seed at bare patches. It makes for a dense, vibrant look that pleases me and many others. Plus, it does not take much time or money. Seeds are cheap.

How did I fall on this solution? Not by looking for a solution but by following desire.

16th century Belgium tapestry in the V & A, Creative Commons
Since I was young I have felt something strange, wonderful and good in the atmosphere I picked up from the style of some late Medieval, Northern European things. It's a style that shows in the interlacing narratives of the Arthurian romances and the flowery meads (see above) depicted in the backgrounds of miniatures and tapestries. It's a style with a delicate, graceful strength that to seems to quiet and transmute the arrogant and aggressive tendencies of its day.

As a decorative style it is called Mille Fleurs, a thousand flowers. I have no meadow clearing to dedicate to it. But I do have bits and drabs of a garden. And so it was by searching for an ideal that I discovered a highly practical reality. By using seed for old fashion annuals, and by allowing as much self-seeding as possible, I had figured out how to balance the garden thru the whole growing season, while filling it up to its brink.

But then I usually throw out the seeds while it still feels like winter. Is it too late, this spring in winter that feels out of time? I hope not. I need the frail, brilliant beauty of  poppies. I need their delicate, graceful strength.


How to Seed:  O.K., so I extravagated a bit about being able to throw -all- the seeds. Poppy seeds you can throw and maybe larkspeare. Sweet pea you really plant in. Most of the others you just barely cover. Take your finger, indent a trench about 1/8 of an inch deep, dribble in the seeds, dribble over some earth, done. Its that easy if...the ground is damp. Do it right after, or right before, rain.

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