During September, our gardens transition from summer blooms and harvests into a quiet period that invites installing plants in anticipation of the rainy season.
This is the time for knowledgeable gardeners to dig and replant bulbs, divide larger perennials, take cuttings, gather seeds from annuals, and buy and install new plants. This busy period is the true beginning of the gardening season. If you still think about gardening in the early spring and rush then to the local garden center to see what’s in bloom, you are quite simply gardening the hard way.
Let’s focus on seed propagation. If you have enjoyed some annuals in your garden this year, gather their seeds and plant them where they will create a pleasing display for next year. This process could not be simpler or more satisfying.
Timing is important, however. Monitor the favored plant to track the development of seeds. The objective is to gather the seeds when they ripen (turn brown) and just before the plant drops or disperses the seeds itself.
This year, I collected seeds from several Opium Poppies (Papaver somniferum), which are legal for ornamental use. The hybrid I believe is ‘Lauren’s Grape’, a rich ruby purple. The seeds develop in capsules that function like saltshakers. Clip pieces of stem plus capsule, keep them upright and drop them in a plastic bag, then shake the tiny seeds into the bag.
In October or November, loosen the soil in a sunny site, mix the seeds with sand to make them easier to scatter, and press them lightly into the soil to frustrate the birds. The plants will spring into life in April and bloom in May.
I also harvested seeds from a Butterfly Flower (Schizanthus grahamii), a Chilean annual that produces masses of magenta-pink, orchid-like flowers over a period of months. It doesn’t require all-day sun exposure, but appreciates bright shade. Planting tiny Butterfly Flower seeds is very similar to planting Opium Poppy seeds.
These seed-propagation projects took very little time and no expertise, money or resources, and will yield very fine displays of delightful blossoms next spring. This year, enjoy planting some annual seeds.
Organic Gardening magazine has provided a useful article on planting annuals from seed.