Gone to seed

By Jennifer E. Beaver

According to my grab-bag of flower seed packets, it’s time to plant. Wildflowers, poppies, nasturtiums– let’s go!
True, I should have gotten them in before the rains. And I wish I had planted more in the fall, another ideal time to scatter seeds in our Mediterranean climate. But my inner New Jerseyan now hears the siren call of spring, and I’m poised to plant.
Many gardening gurus say simply tossing seeds casually over your shoulder reaps beautiful, easy-care blossoms. I tried that, and it doesn’t work. My wildflower seeds got washed away and are now blooming in some happy person’s yard who thinks gossamer-light Shirley poppies and cheerful clarkia just spring up out of nowhere.
There are three places in our little yard crying out for color– front yard, driveway borders, and back yard near the vegetable garden. The perfect solution for all? Annual seeds.
My newly planted front lawn may be drought-tolerant, but it looks sparse. Annual wildflowers, poppies and nasturtiums will fill gaps in temporarily. Our driveway borders are too narrow for most shrubs, but not for wildflowers. In back near the vegetables, they’ll attract beneficial pollinators.
Wildflower and poppy seeds are tiny, making them tricky to scatter effectively. Mix them with sand and they have more substance. Once the seed-and-sand mixture is in place, walk over them gently. This will help them adhere and take root.
Nasturtiums demand a different trick. They’re large seeds, easily sown. Yet their tough outer coating sometimes hampers germination. Nicking seeds slightly with nail clippers increases success.
Okay, now the fun part: What to plant? And why stick to traditional orange poppies and nasturtiums? At OSH, I picked up Mission Bells California Poppies in mixed colors. For more fantastic poppy selections, check out reneesgarden.com. There’s an article about growing all different kinds (sorry, no opium varieties) of poppies, including Shirley in pink, salmon and white; peony-like French Flounce; pale pink Hungarian Breadseed; and vivid Heirloom Pepperbox.
For nasturtiums, I’ve chosen “Whirlybird Mix” mix, also from Renee’s Garden, in “seven warm shades: cherry rose, creamy yellow, soft peach, tangerine, mahogany, scarlet and rich gold.” For my hanging baskets, it’s “Amazon Jewel,” a climbing variety– the “unusual variegated vining foliage and brilliant spurred blossoms in exotic and unusual shades of pumpkin, painted peachy-rose, ruby, gold and pale lemon” will cascade down the sides. For a couple of bucks, that’s a lot of joy.

Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California.

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