As with fall leaf veggies, seeding in spring annuals now, gives you green ground cover and texture over winter; then flowers come in the spring time. There’s just no better value; in Deep Rooted Wisdom, I tell the story of a mentor who bought a pack of red poppy seeds in 1959 and still has them every year. Now THAT does take skill. And it takes recognition of what those poppies need. But even if you just get a year or two of flowers, fall seeding in is the best old trick for romantic, full spring gardens.
1. Seeding larkspur in the fall adds purple, pink or white flowers and romance around Mother’s Day and you’ll have tiny, ferny leaves all winter. Larkspur gets about 3 feet tall, enough to cover up bulbs’ fading leaves after most bulbs flower. For tiny gardens, try the dwarf white larkspur, ‘Snowcloud’. It’s important to note, however, that this larkspur is in the genus Consolida; it is not the commercially sold Delphinum, also referred to as larkspur.
2. Linarea, Chinese Toadflax, makes people smile. This most cheerful little flower in every pastel color you can imagine is the Chinese cousin of our old blue toadflax which blankets fields in spring. Linarea has thin, thread like leaves all winter and masses of color from April through June– and it’s the perfect size to carpet under daffodils and tulips. Here’s an entire blog on this favorite flower. For your designer and sustainable building types, know that Chinese Toadflax is said to be great on a green roof.
3. Love in a Mist flowers have the most lasting blooms of plants on this list. Sow this for interesting color in May, even June color. Even after flowers fade, Love in a Mist has an interesting seed pod. In addition, all winter it has a thin, wiry, weed-smothering foliage. (Fun side-note: The seed of plants in this genus (Nigella) is sold as black cumin, which is considered a powerful healer in plant-based medicines from around the world)
4. Flax is an easy plant to seed-in now since you can just buy raw flax seed at the grocery and scatter for silver leaves and blue flowers in April. Tall, skinny and silver, flax is unique in texture and color. (There’s also a red one, which you can get from seed suppliers.) It looks great with late dutch iris!
5. Red Poppy beats out yellow, orange and purple poppies in my heart because of it’s association with old men and their wars. Also, the red one germinates reliably and makes small plants. Poppies start out as tiny things; they don’t offer much in the way of winter green or ground cover as the above plants do. You know that mesmerizing effect a bunch of butterflies can have on you? Something about the way poppy flowers float around, their stems all thin and sort of invisible, gets me the same way. I like them for sentimental reasons as well. Red poppies make the words of the poem In Flanders Field flow through my head all jumbled up with memories of old men. One caveat: poppies need a soil temp of 55-60 F to germinate, so wait until late October to sow.
Our soil temperature at 2″ deep is about 80 F during the second week of September. The surface temperature would be higher but varies depending on sun, shade, etc. You can check soil temp at USDA sites. I use this one, for Hampton SC, where the soil temp at 2″ is about 80 F this week.
There are plenty of suppliers for seed, but I buy bulk flower seed from Wildseed Farms.