.Self Sowing Comeback Plants for Zone 5BIt is a good feeling to have some favorite plants that you know are So Happy in your place that they will be coming back of their own accord, year after year, through generations of new individuals. These are your Naturalisers.
- Some kinds of plants, amongst both perennial and annual kinds, naturalise through self sowing. This means that they make new plants by seeding themselves around, with babies growing up and flowering wherever the seeds have found suitable growing places. You can think of them as opportunists.
- Now, if a kind of naturalising plant is, as it happens, beautiful in both foliage and flower for an exceptionally long span, and has no bad habits except for occasional (reversible) overenthusiasm, it can be a great joy in the garden. Quite a few of self sowing comeback plants are exceptionally wonderful kinds to have, providing color and good foliage for months on end, every year. Wherever self sowing plants of good character appear and thrive, they can provide charming ‘repeating lyrics’ that help to connect your gardens visually.
- Naturalising plants provide a bit of serendipity in the landscape, turning up in slightly different places and configurations each year, sometimes planting themselves where we would never have thought to, or even have been able to.
Annual and Perennial Self Sowers
- Annual plants are among the longest blooming beings in the garden scene, so most of us like having some of them around to keep us company every year. Though the ‘parents’ of annual plants don’t come back, since by definition an annual completes its life cycle within a single year, in the case of my selected treasures, you may not need to buy new ones each year. The self sown offspring of annuals typically bloom in their first year from seeds.
- There are also long blooming, self sowing Perennials who can stand beautifully and flower over a long span, some even in their first year. With the self sowing perennials here listed, the parents may well return, and in addition there will be baby plants.
- Through many years of trials, I have found certain particular kinds of plants, some annual and some perennial, that are especially hardy and invariably represented by their self sown children every year, if left alone with a suitable piece of earth in an appropriate ecological context.
The Longest Blooming, Handsomest and Best Behaved of the Self Sowing Plants
have been chosen to recommend to you. These
Prizewinning Comeback Plants
have been selected from amongst the all the naturalisers for our ecotome.
- To be on my ‘Prizewinner Lists’, each kind must qualify in all the above mentioned desirable characteristics, also returning reliably pretty much on its own, and needing only a modest amount of tending. The volunteer offspring must also be easy to subtract (move or remove) if there are more than you want, because in some cases you will get both quality and quantity.
- Within each Genus there may be other nice representatives, but for various reasons some might not be as easy to enjoy as my selected wonderful cousins. They may have drawbacks as plants, endangering other plant places by greediness or other bad behavior. Some may have unattractive foliage, or leaves that turn brown at just the wrong time. Some are beset by pests or other problems that typically spoil their appearance. Any sign of these things will have kept such lesser kinds off my lists.
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys
- Just because a kind of plant happens to self sow, that does not make it a bad plant. It’s important to look into the matter case by case.
- There are many naturalisers that you probably would not want, inextricably weedy in the worst of ways, and not attractive in our eyes. With aforethought, you can avoid the bad guys.
- The good guys ask very little, but they have much to offer. They are often able to occupy places where season-long color and soft healthy greenness are hard to achieve with other plant materials. Some are drought tolerant, all are low to moderate maintenance.
Here the purple wands in foreground pictured above are self sown ‘ Linaria Canon Went reversion’, the parent purple genome represented. The Canon’s selected pink form is about to bloom in the left midground. Each of these blooms 2 to 3 months each year.
The other plants in the photo are not self sowing, but Oh ! the Larix d. pendula wreathing the garage, and the Rudbeckia maxima providing yellow daisies at the highest level, shall we say, over that lovely indefatiguable and weed impermeable grass, Hakenochloea aurea. These plants are growing in a surface of 3/8ths inch gravel = peastone, with sandy loam underpinnings at the garage end of a driveway.
- All the plants that are included here are both pleasing and easily pleased, and I am sure that you will enjoy any that you bring to your place.
- In my work as a Landscape Designer over these 30 years, I have met a great many thousands of candidate Plants, and these particular ones, I feel, deserve special recognition.
- Each of these kinds of plants seems to me so important, whether they are small or large beings, that I will be putting effort into providing you with individual Portraits. I plan to give you mostly information that you cannot otherwise get readily from other sources, identifying some of these wonderful plants for you and talking about how they behave in the landscape, helping you to see how you may best use them in your own endeavors.
- Once you know Who These Good Guys Are, you can Google their names for further specifications or to find some parent plants to start you off.
- I am the only Juror of these Juried lists, but I have been very choosy. These are just the very best plants I have found amongst the naturalisers and I want to be sure that you get know about them.
Whether Annuals or Perennials, once you have determined which particular excellent plants are likely to self sow for you and have sited them to suit their preferences, their future is ensured, and yours will be enhanced. If you start with wonderfully garden-worthy varieties such as I have listed below, they can become welcome cohabitants.
You may also know of some potential Prizewinners that I have never met, and I will hope that you will write to me and tell me about them, and I will be so very pleased to make their acquaintance.
Making a Beginning.
- The most reliable way to start out your sowing cycle is to get a few good mature parents of each kind you want. Site each in a particularly propitious place, perhaps choosing a few different places for your best probability of pleasing them, and watch over their establishment. If you make the ground around them welcoming, the original purchased parents will then seed themselves into the neighborhood. Their babies will mature and flower all through the next year. The babies of those babies will cover the year after that and so on indefinitely.
Since these plants can sow themselves directly into neighboring earth for each next generation, there is no ‘potting up’ necessary, ever, unless you want to for reasons of transport or some such. If they turn up in the wrong places in your landscape, you can easily move chosen babies when they are small from wherever they turn up directly to wherever you want them.
In the case of self sowing perennials, the system of establishment is the same, but some kinds take more than one year to get to flowering size from site sown seeds.
Keeping Things Going
- You will need to follow certain simple practices in your gardens for self sowing to work, but these things are easily accomplished. The methods are described herein, and contextually in my up and coming Plant Portraits series.
- In the meantime, to begin this recurrent life cycle, get your choices from this list at the nurseries when they appear (or grow them from seed, just this once) and Site them in various parts of the garden to see where they may do best, choosing places where you won’t need to disturb the earth nearby too much.
- When you set about getting these things, you may need to look in at the garden centers somewhat frequently, since not all the ‘best’ plants arrive at the same time. They arrive in batches, different kinds at differing times. Nursery production is seasonal, but whenever some of the best things do come in, they leave at a surprisingly rapid rate, and then you might have to wait till next year to get started.
A Garden with the Best Plants in it is made by a process
which spans some years.
Or They’ll March out of the Beds
- Self sowing plants, like most plants, grow towards the light, so their blossoms and later their seedpods tend to lean that way too. Over the years your front row plants may thus seed themselves right out of their intended beds, into places where they can’t succeed or you won’t want them.
- Similarly, if you put self sowing things on the tops of little hills they will somersault beautifully down for a few subsequent generations, and then they may seed themselves right over the edges of the embankment. Unless you intervene once in a while, these treasures can disappear entirely from wherever it was so special to have them.
Suspenders and a Belt Principle
- To prevent such losses, I pay special attention to my front row plants and ‘harvest’ seed from these.
Basically, this means that I snip off a few handfuls of seedpods when they are ripe and I am trimming gonebys off the parent plant anyway.
- These then go into a paper envelope of some kind, with their name and the year of harvest written on it. I let them stay in the envelope till fully dry. At some point I do take out the large chaff, but I’m not a bit fussy about leaving some. I can’t imagine it matters much about the extra bits you also shake out. These kinds of plants usually provide enough seed to sprinkle themselves liberally, and in a natural, undisturbed setting the ground around the parent plant would be made of seed and chaff together, after all.
After the Fall Cleanup.
- Once you have finished any raking and cleaning or blowing you may do in your beds each fall, prepare the earth places where you want to have those particular enveloped plants next year and liberally sprinkle the seeds, adding a bit of earth over them.
- Another source of seed for site sowing in fall is the old parents themselves. When it is time to remove the seed carrying annual parents, typically after the beds surrounding them have been finally cleaned, you just add back a little earth to the removal indentations you create as you as you take out the parents, to get back to grade. Now shake the old plants upside down in these places then sprinkle the area with a very light overlay of earth, just to keep the seeds from blowing away, much as you would do for the enveloped seeds.
This will add some more seeds to those already self sown, improving the overall odds of germination and thus probably the speed of colonization in your gardens. And it is so easy to do..
Listen to the Parents
- For direct site sowing of a particular kind of plant, I often choose the area around the place where an old parent of theirs succeeded, which helps assure that the babies will be born in an ecologically appropriate context, and this location assists me in keeping track of whose babies are whose, when everything is germinating all at once.
A Please Do Not Disturb Sign
- The areas you disturb by cultivating, blowing or heavy mulching may lose some of their seeded inhabitants, so try to avoid these activities in areas you want to colonise. A memory marker on the attended area can be helpful. I use croquet hoops until things are established, just to remind me where to be careful.
- Nature will move your self sowing plants around, and there will be multiplications and losses, so the placements of most of these kinds of plants will change if they are without a guiding hand through the years. Midground plants may end up in the foreground, and background ones in the midground, so some may need to be resited. Just move them when they are young, and this won’t be difficult.
- You can have too much of a good thing.
By character these self sowing plants are all opportunists and easily pleased. They may be so willing that, through the years as their numbers accumulate, the colonies may require a ritual of subtraction.
- The tending of these lovely volunteer plants is principally in deciding which to leave where they are, which to usefully transfer elsewhere, and which to ruthlessly remove to compost. In these matters you will be the Editor in Chief, a job which you may enjoy. There is rarely only one right way to use your materials, you will just need to decide what you want. As in cooking, when you begin with plenty of good ingredients, you can scarcely go wrong.
There are some people who think that
everything comes up in all the right places,
…and others who that think nothing does….
Use Various Exposures
- If any given Kind of Plant can thrive in a range of exposures, and you put some in a shadier and some in a sunnier place, you will usually have a much longer season of bloom of this favored thing within your landscape.
If a long blooming kind of plant is sited in various locations, it will have an ultra- long season, overall.
- If you have chosen garden places that have No burning hot or parchingly dry episodes, most long blooming plants will flower and stay nicely green their very longest.
Tend to Their Water Needs
- All of these plants need attention to their water needs. Some need less than others, but especially when you are establishing any garden place, your attentions to suitable watering are needed from the start.
Keep them Trimmed
- While it is not necessary to trim most of these things but once or twice in the season, you will do what you want about neatness, trimming to your taste and preferences.
If you trim, you often improve the performance of the plant. When you want a long blooming plant to spend it’s energy on providing new stems for upncoming flowers, you will be helping it to conserve energy for that purpose if you trim away goneby stems, even if they are somewhat hidden under flowering skirts, after trimming the plant will have a rejuvenated appearance.
Have different ages of plants.
- Last year’s plants may start earlier and end sooner than the new young ones, but then the young ones starting later may flower beyond their parents span.
- Have patience, the colonies take a while to establish. With perennial plants, shrubs and vines, older individuals may flower for a much longer span of time as the years of residence accumulate, which is probably tied to how many roots support them.
Handsome and Reliable Plants ?
PRIZEWINNERS 1980 – 2010
Part One :
The Front Row Plants = Featherweight Category
- Often used as an endlessly blooming white bed edging, this double form is the loveliest alyssum that I have ever had the pleasure to live with. Her fragrant flowers, though tiny, are visibly larger than those of most alyssums, and they cover her freshly for months on end. A fine textured, low and flowing character allows her to be a beautiful floor-foil for most any plants arriving in the surroundings. As a container plant, these fill in edges and corners nicely, and will often seed themselves into the ground below the container for a lovely naturalized effect the following year. She has returned in every garden I have ever made.
- If you prepare the ground near the parent plant for the babies to be sown into, your patience will be annually rewarded by some volunteers. Over time, through the snowball effect, these can become colonies. You just have to start that snowball rolling.…
I let the self sown plants proliferate and leave them or move them to wherever they may be needed, but I also usually succumb each year to getting a few more of this alyssum from the greenhouse in May. These will provide their white details for the month before the naturalized babies from last year’s parents are big enough to flower.
- There are many varieties and also other colors of edging alyssums in the trade, and many of those also return sometimes, but L.m. snow crystals stands out amongst them all in appearance and in reliability, making little colonies in a great variety of places. And white is so useful.
- This is one of the less well known annuals whose surprise and enhancement value make them beloved contributors in every garden they find their way into.
- The pixie dust pink chiffon of hundreds of tiny Gypsophila muralis plants can make you a floating, translucent carpet. Muralis is the smallest of Gypsophila, the genus of plants referred to as ‘Baby’s Breath’ for their airy appearances. Though many kinds of plants in this genus are large and perennial, G. muralis is an annual usually ~ 5” tall. The very substantial visual effect she has in the landscape comes via the great number of individuals in the self sown colonies she can make for you. Although this plant is believed to originate from eastern europe, a folk name for this plant in Italian is ‘Nebbia’, which translates as fog or mist, and sounds to me like a term of endearment. The softening outlines this Gypsophila provides enhance the floor of any sunny or semi sunny, well drained place. The older varieties, the soft pinks (g. muralis) return extremely well for me, but I have added G.m. gypsy rose for her darker pink coloration, and am hoping that she will add her gypsy genes for a wider range of pinks overall in the landscape.
- Coming back willingly from seed as they do, as many as I can make room for will nestle in between other edge plants. I also grow them in my dry stone walls and between paving stones in footfall protected places.
- They are nice to touch, and lovely close up, so I particularly like having them in near to hand locations. I encourage them in my stone and hypertufa troughs which are sited atop stone walls or other surfaces at touching height. They are a great asset in these permanent containers, being a companionable height and scale for the other perennial and annual occupants of these small scale trough worlds.
- Brilliant royal magenta flowers cover this floor dwelling plant all blessed summer, as its graceful foliage rambles happily among stones.
Of all the Delospermas I have tried, D. cooperei is the hardiest and most reliable by far, not to mention the handsomest (just an opinion). In the just right place he will return each year, and the colonies can even increase stoloniferously if you can find a spot to please them. Yes, that means that even the parents come back sometimes.
- D. cooperei seems to like a hot sunny place with an opportunity to put roots under, and foliage over, stone. Their colonies thrive when receiving overhead water a few times a week, but their succulent leaves allow a lot of heat tolerance when necessary. Some gardens have kept this plant in Z5b for years, but only in the best of circumstances. If you are a bit warmer, perhaps these will prove even more reliable. This plant hails from New Zealand originally, and so may be fine in a good many Zones besides my own.
- For landscapes that cannot overwinter this treasure, some plants can come in via the local Nurseries each year. D cooperei has fortunately become widely available, hence easily replaced. I wouldn’t want anyone to have to miss a year.
- The true fruit-orange and lemon colored California poppies are sometimes difficult to site with groupings of flowering plants having gentler tones or otherwise incompatable hues. Eschscholzia blooms for such a long time span that through the season, these neighborhood color disagreements can be many.
- If you like, you can choose to build your compositions around the bright orange and hot yellow of the common forms of this poppy,
but the good news is that there are ivory, pale yellow and a whole range of pink California poppies = Eschscholzia varieties. These alternate flower colors get along more easily with a wide range of the typical hues of other planted compositions. Like their brightly colored relatives, these less color dominant varieties have a very long blooming habit.
When sited according to their ecological preferences, some babies of these forms will ritually appear through self sowing, if somewhat less prolifically than their bright cousins. But they are easily encouraged. You will need to save seed, as they are notorious for escaping from the front row. They pop, after all, being Poppies, and so the seeds can land up a bit afield from where you meant to have them.
- These very small flowered Pansies are handsome and willing, and they flower semi-endlessly. They have been in cultivation for uncounted years, and are the long ago parents from which most garden pansies were derived. For 4 months or so their white, purple and yellow faces are companionable in a broad range of garden contexts, the purples excluded perhaps where you’re growing more truly blue things in the picture..
- These enhance both sunny and semi-sunny locations, as they can manage fine with a few hours of the day’s sun..
- All these Violas should be trimmed a bit as the season progresses. Whenever stems get long and rangy and don’t please me anymore, I just trim them back to their crowns and shake their seeds onto ruffled ground. Sometimes these plants then start making new flower stems from their crowns, but anyway there are usually other individuals starting up nearby to freshen the scene.
- The word Pansy is thought to come from the French word ‘pensee’ (pon-say), which means ‘thought’. A bouquet of Pansies, in the symbolic language of flowers down through history, has represented a bouquet of thoughts. Flowers that represent thoughts. Wonderful.
Viola tricolor = Heartsease
- Another traditional name for this historically beloved European herb plant was ‘ Hearts-ease’. This refers to its medical uses for chest complaints and other physiological problems.
- Most all of the small faced Pansies seem to intermarry. The outcome color combinations of their faces are marvelously diverse and sweetly surprising. It turns out that a given plant may be self-fertile, that is with both sexes on the same plant, but in addition, they cross pollinate amongst themselves with noticeable abandon.
- To add interesting characteristics to the offspring, I have sought out white, pure yellow and near black Violas as well as particularly small foliaged or extra-long blooming varieties, and added these to the landscape as I came across them to refresh the genetic possibilities of my home colonies. My colonies are thus a colorful admixture of every handsome, tiny face I ever met.
- I just put some of these prospective parents in the beds with the resident small faced Viola cousins to get some more variety into the offspring of the next generations. Any hybrids turning up with unattractive colors or features are removed. Typically they show a wide range of pleasing variations in their faces and statures.
- Since I brought all their parents together, and my name is Ellen Cool, I call the ones who live here the ‘Cool Hybrids’. If you similarly arrange marriages, you will have your very own hybrids too.
The List of ‘Longblooming, Self Sowing
will continue in my next Posts.
Some of the Upcoming Front Row Prizewinners Are :