Posted on 27 Comments

Old Friends, New Favorites

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

Is it too early to start looking back on this growing season, when we haven’t even had frost yet? Well, maybe, but I think we’re far enough along to have fully enjoyed the performance of some dependable favorites, as well as to fairly judge some new additions. I have a second purpose for this post, too: providing a preview for some of the seeds I hope to share in my November giveaway. (I won’t have all of these available, but many of them.)

Petunia integrifolia at Hayefield.comI’ve never had much luck with the usual large-flowered petunias: they look great when I buy them, but then they fizzle out by the end of June. One year, I decided to try growing the species Petunia integrifolia from seed, and I was charmed. The flowers are small (about 1 inch across), but they’re bright and relatively plentiful. Granted, it’s not a “wow” plant: for  more of a cute weaver, popping through other front-of-the-border companions and scrambling several feet up through taller bedmates.

One online source I found for P. integrifolia is Diane’s Flower Seeds. Though the tiny seeds make sowing petunias a bit of a challenge, I had to start this one indoors only once, because it self-sows gently: generally not where I expect to find it but welcome wherever it appears. I took on tiny-seed sowing again this spring, though, with a gift of Petunia exserta from reader Rick R.

Petunia exserta at

Again, maybe not a “wow” plant, but a sweet little wanderer, with bright red, 2-inch blooms. I found a photo of it as a dense clump on the Annie’s Annuals site. They suggest growing it in a large container, which may be how they got it to be so bushy. Here, though, it wanted to grow every which way, mingling with other plant partners and eventually trailing out into the paths.

Petunia exserta with Emilia javanica 'Irish Poet' at

It started flowering in June and is still blooming in late September, with no signs of stopping. Besides being cute, Petunia exserta has a really interesting story behind it (Petunias Rare and Red). This one definitely needs to be shared!

Petunia exserta at

First petunias, and now marigolds? There was a time when I’d have been embarrassed to admit liking either one, but no longer. These days, I’m just grateful for almost anything that’s easy and colorful, and if it’s good at filling lots of space, so much the better.

Tagetes patula 'Hayefield Strain' and Alternanthera dentata 'Purple Knight' at

A number of years ago, I got seed of a French marigold (Tagetes patula) that was labeled “from ‘Villandry’.” As far as I can tell, ‘Villandry’ is supposed to have orangey red flowers, but my plants vary from solid yellow to orange to red-and-yellow striped, like ‘Harlequin’.

Tagetes patula 'Hayefield Strain' at

At this point, I don’t know what to call it other than ‘Hayefield Strain’. Whatever it is, it’s become a must-grow for me for the front garden, producing billowy, 3- to 4-foot-tall, lacy-leaved plants dotted with bright, single blooms from June to frost.

Tagetes patula 'Hayefield Strain' with 'Bright Lights' Swiss chard and Zinnia 'Profusion Orange' at

Some years, I plant it toward the middle or back of a border and let it grow as it wants to: mostly upright, usually, but some of the stems tend to keel over and bloom close to ground level too. This year, I pinched it several times to get it lower and bushier, for use as an edging for the ‘Glass Gem’ corn in the narrow bed along the front porch. If I’d known that the corn was going to reach over 8 feet tall (hooray for alpaca manure!), I’d have left the marigold alone to reach its full height and had a lot more flowers from it through the summer. Once I stopped pinching it in early August (about a week before the photo below), it made up for the lost time and is now filled with fresh blooms.

Tagetes patula 'Hayefield Strain' with Zinnia 'Orange King' and Zea mays 'Glass Gem' corn at

So, ok, ‘Hayefield Strain’ is nice, but my heart has been captured by a new favorite marigold. This one doesn’t have a proper name either, but it has a fun story. Reader Paula M. shared it with me last winter, with a note that a friend of hers had brought it back from the country of Moldova in a sock. For lack of a better name, I’ve been thinking of this one as ‘Moldova’, or “the Moldovan marigold.”

Tagetes patula 'Moldova' at

I assume that it too is some sort of Tagetes patula, but it’s much bushier and more compact than ‘Hayefield Strain’, forming tidy mounds that are just 12 to 18 inches tall without any pinching. They still have a touch of looseness to the clumps, though, and that, along with the small, single flowers, gives it a sort of old-fashioned look.

Tagetes patula 'Moldova' with Canna indica 'Purpurea', Crocosmia, Coreopsis tripteris, and Cotinus 'Grace' at

What I like best about it, though, is that each plant has three different colors at any given time. As far as I can tell, it’s not that the flowers change colors: they open red or orange or yellow and stay that way. From an indoor sowing in April, the plants started blooming in June and are still looking great, even without deadheading. Sure, the multicolored clumps are a little (ok, maybe a lot) gaudy, but I’ve really enjoyed them with the other bright blooms and dark foliage in the front garden.

Tagetes patula 'Moldova' at

While we’re on the subject of common annuals, I can’t skip some favorite zinnias. Zinnia tenuifolia ‘Red Spider’ has been a must-grow for a while now, for its dainty blooms and bright color. The new flowers are a clear to slightly scarlety red, aging to a somewhat darker brick red.

Zinnia tenuifolia 'Red Spider' at

It generally reaches 18 to 24 inches tall, but the stems are thin and tend to sprawl a bit. I like to plant it behind or between bushier companions, so it can lean on them for support if needed. If the stems do keel over, they’ll reorient themselves in a few days and start sending up vertical shoots along their length, mixing with their companions as they grow.

Zinnia tenuifolia 'Red Spider' with Canna 'Intrigue' at

Like the other annuals I’ve covered so far, ‘Red Spider’ blooms all through the summer and up to frost, even without deadheading. It also tends to self-sow gently. A couple of commercial seed sources include Summer Hill Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange.

Zinnia tenuifolia 'Red Spider' with Allium christophii seedheads, Zinnia 'Zahara Scarlet', and Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Georgia Heart Red' at

I’ve had so much enjoyment from these and other small-flowered zinnias that I couldn’t resist ordering Zinnia haageana ‘Soleado’ from Select Seeds last winter.

Zinnia haageana 'Soleado' at

It’s a bit sturdier and bushier than ‘Red Spider’ but the overall habit is very similar, and it’s been absolutely loaded with blooms for months, in a cheery shade of golden yellow with a tiny touch of red at the base of each petal.

Zinnia haageana 'Soleado' at

The online descriptions say that the flowers are single, and many are, but some of mine were semidouble.  (Below is one, mingling with ‘Moldova’ marigold, Petunia exserta, and ‘Isla Gold’ tansy [Tanacetum vulgare].) Whatever the form, they were all sweet.

Zinnia 'Soleado' with Petunia exserta, Tanacetum vulgare 'Isla Gold', and Tagetes patula 'Moldova' at

‘Soleado’ looks much like a marigold but lacks the sharp scent, so it’s a great choice if you dislike the smell of marigolds in the garden or as a cut flower.

One plant I dearly wish I could grow but have never had luck with are the big, crinkly-headed celosias. I do have good luck with the spiky and plumy ones, though, and I’ve tried a number of them over the years. ‘Wine Sparkler’ (or ‘Sparkler Wine’), with dark leaves and red plumes to about 2 feet tall, was a favorite for several years.

Celosia 'Wine Sparkler' ('Sparkler Wine') at

I also liked ‘Punky Red’, which is about the same size but with green leaves and slender spikes in a deep purplish red color.

Celosia 'Punky Red' with Zinnia 'Profusion Orange' at

After a few years of letting them self-sow, I ended up with these:

Celosia 'Mega Punk' at

The plants tend to be somewhat taller than either of the assumed parents—typically 30 to 36 inches—with deep purple leaves and brilliant magenta spikes. A mass of these would be rather much, I imagine, but they have a nice way of popping up as singles in various places, making great accent plants. I’ve been calling this one ‘Mega Punk’. I normally just let it self-sow, but I think I need to collect some to share this year, just to see who’s brave enough to give it a try!

If you like bright color, but maybe not that bright, maybe you’d enjoy tassel flower (Emilia javanica).

Emilia javanica at

The brushy red flowers are intense, but they’re tiny and spread out, so they’re more like small dots of color. In the range of 18 to 24 inches tall, tassel flower blooms for months whether or not you deadhead it. If you do let it alone, the first flowers tend to drop seed in July. And if there are empty spaces where those seeds can sprout, the seedlings can be in bloom by early September, providing even more flowers for fall. A couple of online seed sources for the species include The Monticello Shop and Trade Winds Fruit.

Emilia javanica with 'Bull's Blood' beets, 'Bright Lights' Swiss chard, and 'Limerock Ruby' coreopsis at

This year, I tried a new one from Select Seeds called ‘Irish Poet’. If you like orange flowers, you’ll love this one as much as I (and the bees) do!

Emilia javanica 'Irish Poet' at

Like the species, it’s a neat little annual for adding a sprinkling of eye-catching color all summer and fall.

Emilia javanica 'Irish Poet' with 'Marooned' coleus and 'Landini' Asiatic lily at

So far, all of these annuals thrive in full sun. I do have something that can take some shade, too, though. You may already be familiar with Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis), which has sort-of-pretty, little blue flowers but is quite a spreader, making it a real weed in many parts of the U.S., especially where the soil is moist. Heaven knows, I’ve pulled out loads of it over the years. But as part of an ongoing project of trying out ornamental versions of common weeds and their relatives, I decided to take a chance on a variegated strain of C. tuberosa (Coelestis Group) called ‘Hopleys Variegated’ from Plant World.

Commelina tuberosa (Coelestis Group) ‘Hopleys Variegated’ at

It is much less vigorous than the weedy species, which is a plus, and the blue flowers are still pretty, but the plant as a whole is hardly a show-stopper. As you can see (or maybe not see) in these photos, the variegation is a very subtle pale green and darker green striping. To be fair, each plant is different, and some have more creamy streaking, but even those aren’t very striking from more than a foot or two away.

Commelina tuberosa (Coelestis Group) ‘Hopleys Variegated’ at

I find one or two self-sown seedlings each year and let them grow, but it’s not something I’d plant again on purpose. This year, reader Kim M. sent me a different dayflower to try, and wow: this one is a beauty in both leaf and flower.

Commelina communis f. aureostriata (variegated commelina) at

It’s a form of Commelina communis, the really weedy species, and it too has a low, sprawling habit, rooting wherever the stems touch the ground.

Commelina communis f. aureostriata (variegated commelina) at

I wouldn’t say it’s an obnoxious spreader, though—not nearly as rampant as the straight species—and the striped leaves look great popping up through green or silvery companions.

Commelina communis f. aureostriata (variegated commelina) at

For some reason, this one seems to travel under the name C. communis f. aureostriata, even though it’s clearly white, not yellow: albostriata or simply variegata would be more appropriate, but whatever. The amount of variegation on each plant varies, and apparently some of the seedlings can be plain green. I think it’ll be worth watching for and pulling those out, though, to keep this one around.

Another seed-grown variegate I’ve really enjoyed growing is ‘Old Gold’, a great yellow-striped corn (Zea mays). Each plant is different, but they’re all beautiful.

Corn (Zea mays) 'Old Gold' at

‘Old Gold’ is a strain of field or dent corn, so the ears are the ordinary yellow.

Corn (Zea mays) 'Old Gold' at

Like ‘Old Gold’, ‘Quadricolor’ (also sold as ‘Japonica Striped’) usually reaches about 6 feet tall here.

Corn (Zea mays) 'Quadricolor' at

It’s a flint corn with deep red kernels.

Corn (Zea mays) 'Quadricolor' at

Where I want the stripy corn look but need a shorter plant, I use ‘Tiger Cub’, with bright white markings (like ‘Quadricolor’ but with no pink) on 3- to 4-foot-tall plants.

Corn 'Tiger Cub' at

Its kernels are yellow.

Corn 'Tiger Cub' at

Last year, reader Rick R. had something interesting pop up in his patch of ‘Tiger Cub’: a plant with excellent white striping but on a taller plant (to about 5 feet) with red kernels. When I grew it out this year, the resulting plants were still in the 4- to 5-foot range, with good white striping. For record-keeping, I’ve been calling it ‘Tall Tiger’.

Corn 'Tall Tiger' at

Some of its cobs were yellow, like those of ‘Tiger Cub’, and some of them were a rich rust color. It will be very interesting to see how these turn out next year. Maybe some of you will want to give it a try too?

Corn 'Tall Tiger' at

Also new for me this year is ‘Glass Gem’, which looks like an ordinary, green-leaved corn when it’s growing, waiting until husking time to reveal its colorful kernels.

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

The results from the Native Seeds/SEARCH seed were the best, with the glossy, translucent kernels I’d hoped for based on the few pictures that were available last year.

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

Besides the thrill of peeling back each husk to reveal the beautiful cobs, I’ve had loads of fun playing with the shelled kernels. First I tried spreading them out on my scanner, which was kind of interesting but didn’t quite do justice to the rich colors.

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

Then I tried shooting them outside, which was better.

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

But my favorite shots came from spreading the kernels on a light table, so the light could shine through them. Gems, indeed!

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

Corn 'Glass Gem' at

This summer, I was thinking it would be really cool to have a corn that was showy both before and after harvest, so I hand-pollinated a few cobs of ‘Glass Gem’ with the yellow-striped ‘Old Gold’ and vice versa. The ‘Glass Gem’ cobs didn’t look any different this year, but I’ve kept them separate to see how they turn out next year. The cobs of ‘Old Gold’ pollinated with ‘Glass Gem’ were more interesting. You can see two cross-pollinated ears below, with one normal ‘Old Gold’ ear on the right.


Granted, the few darker kernels aren’t anywhere as pretty as ‘Glass Gem’, but who knows; maybe a couple more years of backcrossing with ‘Glass Gem’ will produce something of interest. Something to look forward to!

Posted on 27 Comments

27 thoughts on “Old Friends, New Favorites

  1. Wow! I Absolutely love your photos – as usual – but the ones at the corns are stunning!!

    Aren’t those colors absolutely stunning, Susie? I have of bowl of ‘Glass Gem’ on my desk to play with, but the colors are so distracting that I may have to put them away so I get some work done. Though I do have have yet another idea of how to photograph them….

  2. Another fan of the glass gem corn here. Stunning! I’ve seen it in magazines and didn’t think it was widely available yet. Just gorgeous! Also who knew that corn could be so pretty in the garden – variegated varieties really have some punch. Also quite taken with the variegated commelina, very unusual.

    Hi Brenda! It looks like anyone who wants to grow ‘Glass Gem’ next year will be able to get seeds much more easily this winter than last. Native Seeds/SEARCH has it listed on the site right now: ‘Glass Gem’ seed. I’m collecting seed of the variegated commelina (a rather time-consuming task, because of the weird way it produces the seed), so that’s one I’ll be able to pass along.

  3. Hi Nan, Amazing! Love those photos of glass gem. Every time I get an e mail to say you have another new post on Hayefield I can hardly wait to see what goodies you have for us. I am never disappointed and always find one or more particular photos or plant combinations that are just stunning. As well as the corns I just love your ‘mega punk’ Celosia – wow! The combination of flower and foliage is fantastic, clever you to put it with the gold foliage and a similar colour flower to the celosia, what is the plant behind ‘ mega punk’ ? Looking forward to your other idea for photographing the corn, teasing us lol. God bless you

    Ah, good for you to notice the background plant as well, Allan: it’s ‘Limelight four-o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa), with yellow foliage and hot pink flowers. I’m collecting seed of that one too!

  4. Wonderful review of plants, seeds and photos!! I love your site and news letters.

    Thanks for checking in today, Jean! Have a great week.

  5. Everything is so pretty. I’ve been loving marigolds again too! Love your red petunia, tassel flowers, celosia. Oh heck…..I love it all!! I did get a few ears of ‘Old Gold’ corn from seed you sent me. I got lots of pretzel beans too.

    The ‘Old Gold’ looked so pretty in your garden, Mel, so I’m glad you got some seed to grow it again if you want. Our taste in plants seems to be very similar, so I bet you’ll be tempted by lots of the new things I’ll be sharing!

    1. Yes I can’t wait to see what you will be offering this year. I love growing different things. The corn was definitely fun to grow….will grow again. The South African foxgloves did really well too! I’ve collected lots of seed. I’ll be sure to share with my gardening friends.

      And that is EXACTLY why I love doing this, Melanie – to get the seeds out to people like you who will then pass them along to other gardeners. Thanks so much!

  6. Everything looks great. I may look for the species Petunia. Used to love the ones my grandmother grew, perhaps that is what she had. Not so fond of the fancy ones. Love that Zinnia tenuifolia ‘Red Spider’!

    You might want to look for Petunia axillaris too. Also sold as ‘Rainmaster’, it’s an old, really fragrant, white one that’s supposed to be more weather-resistant than the modern hybrids. Select Seeds is one source.

  7. Nan:
    I am so glad that you showed the pictures of the marigold from Moldova that I sent you. I wouldn’t refer to them as “gaudy” but as “smiling happy faces”. I will have lots of seeds to share this year since I planted a whole border of them along my son’s driveway. Your pictures are so beautiful that I can’t wait for next Spring to start the adventure all over again of starting seeds to add to my flower beds.

    I have sent many good thoughts your way this summer, Paula, in thanks for your gift. You’re quite right: it’s just a happy little thing. And granted, it’s not the plant itself that’s gaudy: just, perhaps, the way I’ve used it. I will definitely be growing it again, and passing it along, too!

  8. I have the second variegated dayflower… you probably don’t want to allow it to spread as much as I did… before I pulled it all up… Pic on this post

    Middle Ga is a terrible place to attempt corn… Those I got from you didn’t grow… It’s likely that the voles ate the seed as soon as it hit the ground… A real problem this year with all my food crops.

    And still… every time I see those gorgeous pics… I feel determined to grow it…

    Oh, whoa…that surely DID spread for you, didn’t it? Ok, I will definitely be keeping an eye on it next year. I had only a few seeds to start with, so I really coddled the two plants I ended up with. I’m so glad you shared the link to your post, because I now know the identity of a no-id seed that was shared with me last winter: it’s Crotalaria spectabilis. I agree that it’s a beauty! And hey, if you want to try ‘Old Gold’ again, let me know. I have loads of seed of that one and could send you a larger packet in the hopes that the voles would spare you a few.

    1. Here’s a nicer pic of the showy crotalaria.
      I also have dangle pod (sesbania herbacea) if you’re interested… 2 kinds of caterpillars use it!
      Totally want to attempt any corn you’d care to share… maybe in the Spring when I could sow it as soon as it arrived?
      My cat had kittens… I’m hoping they get some kind of a handle on my rodents, soon… this year was the worst I’ve ever seen… I’ve been catching rats with carrots in the trap…

      Oooh, verrry pretty! And yes, the sesbania looks cool too. We can swap seeds in spring. I’ll set aside some ‘Old Gold’ for you, and some ‘Tall Tiger’ too. If the kittens are as good at hunting as your rat-catcher, maybe they’ll help get the critters under control for you.

  9. Hi Nancy,
    It’s great that you praised the usual annuals, they are hard workers in the garden and at the end we are thankful for the everlasting beauty!

    Thank you also for the discovery of such interesting corns!

    I have a question that maybe you already answered in a past post or in your books. Feel comfortable to answer it or to refer me to the right post or chapter: what is your fertilization program to obtain such big and gorgeous plants?!

    Have a nice day!

    Hi there, Jasmine. I don’t have a specific fertilization program. Part of my luck is due to the soil here, I think: though the land was poorly farmed for many years, it still seems fertile enough to support a wide range of plants (those that don’t mind the acidity, anyway). In the front garden and in the vegetable garden, I spread whatever alpaca manure I’ve collected each winter. There’s never as much as I could use, but it’s enough to fill the holes left when I dig up the tender bulbs and pull out the annuals, and it seems to be enough to provide for good growth the following season.

  10. Wow. The single bloom Marigolds are beautiful. I have only grown the doubles. As usual my seed list is growing after reading your blog!

    I see that Thomas Rainer over at Grounded Design likes the singles too, Barb–as mentioned in his post Fab Late Season Annuals–so we’re in good company!

  11. I too love the smaller zinnias and marigolds. Petunia exserta looks like one worth looking into. Self sowers are welcome in my garden. I’ve had fun with nicotiana varieties too.

    The small-flowered versions seem a lot more forgiving of weather extremes, and their daintiness makes a great contrast to big leaves. Let me know if you want me to set some of the petunia seed aside for you.

  12. Nan! Love the Quadricolor corn, and love the ‘Mega Punk’! They both might go well with big blobs of red shiso, don’t you think? I know it’s hard not to be snobby about the most common “I’ve seen those a million times” flowers like marigolds and petunias, but you’ve got such great varieties, and all those other more exotic plants to make the whole garden an interesting whole. I think it looks great. Emilia javanica ‘Irish Poet’ is one of my new favourites for “Never seen those before!” flowers.

    Hah – told you I’d have some fun stuff for you this year. I skipped the ‘Quadricolor’ corn this season, seeing as how I had a couple other corns going and wanted to keep them as separate as possible, but I’ll make sure you get some ‘Mega Punk’, and the ‘Irish Poet’ too. And hey, thanks for the link on your blog!

  13. Hey Nan I read recently that Commelina is really easy to dig up (I imagine after frost) and store like a dahlia or canna !

    That might be a good idea for some of your nicest selections and something for your seed recipients to try.

    — Jesse

    Hey, Jesse. I just ran across that info when I was checking the name of the commelinas last night; it should work with the C. tuberosa ‘Hopleys Variegated’, at least. Maybe I’ll give it a try!

  14. Thanks for your lovely pictures! Other than playing with the dried corn, do you do anything else with it? Grind it? Pop it?

    Usually, package it into envelopes to send to other gardeners!

  15. I never really liked Marigolds until I had more beds to fill. Unfortunately, they won’t last the summer for me, because the sow bugs (roly-polys) defoliate them for me!

    I don’t really like the foliage of corn (for the same reason I don’t really like millets) but those variegated ones have me considering…

    Interesting you should mention that, Alan: I too have problems with the sow bugs some years, but these tall marigolds seem to be able to outgrow the damage. If you decide that you’re tempted to try the ‘Old Gold’ or ‘Tall Tiger’ corn, let me know!

  16. Great article on Petunia exserta; thanks for sharing! I wondered what the ‘wild’ or more ‘natural’ form of petunia might look like. What’s really interesting is how, through natural hybridization, P. exserta is actually becoming more extinct!

    Your corn crossing experiments sound like fun. Would love to see the result of next generation offspring plants. Keep us posted!

    Yep, whether it’s in the wild or in the garden, you never know what the plants (and their pollinators) are getting up to. I just noticed an interesting new nicotiana variant in the back garden this evening: something else to add to the seed list!

  17. I love your pictures. So much to admire! I love your ‘Mega Punk’, the Quadricolor corn and Commelina communis f. aureostriata. I did well this year with ‘Lauren’s Grape’ poppies, despite predation by rabbits, and also the blue nigella (love-in-a-mist), as well as primula japonica. I know these are pretty common – any interest?
    The talinum ‘Kingwood Gold’ that you shared with me last year is so beautiful in a wicker planter at the end of the front porch. It still has some of the tiny pink blooms on it, intermixed with the little orange balls of seed. On Sunday morning I was idly sitting at the breakfast table, watching some pretty little birds with grosbeak-like beaks flitting all through the planter. And then it dawned on me that they were eating my seed! I ran out to the porch with my scissors and cut several of the stalks that had the highest proportion of seeds to blooms. They’re safely inside now, but I left some for the birds too.

    Oh, goodness! I’m glad you saved some. Thanks for the reminder, too; I’d better see if I have any ready to collect. Let’s see if you’re interested in anything on my seed list; then we can discuss a possible trade (though it’s really not necessary!).

  18. I love the mix of shapes, textures, and varied colors in your garden. It is hard for me to move past the wonderful inspirations and ideas I see in your photos to your discussion of seeds. I am going to have to go back through them again.

    Hi there, Charlie; thanks for stopping by. Take all the time you want: there’s a full 2 weeks before Bloom Day!

  19. Nan-

    It has been interesting to see which of your seeds are able to “make it” in my drier and more alkaline Southern California garden. South African Foxglove one tough bloomer… blooming even in drier soil. Giant echinacea and Japanese Burnet doing well but still have yet to bloom so thinking they may prefer higher latitudes for the longer day length. Will try acid forming fertilizer on them to see if they pop! A fun experiment… thank you for the seeds! Growing the plants has been a joy all year… looking forward to next love the Tiger Corn. The pointillist effect of those marigolds a pleasing surprise in the garden. Isn’t amazing how much we learn about color in the garden???

    All the best,

    Thanks so much for the update, Kay. The giant coneflower (rudbeckia) and burnet seedlings take several years to reach flowering size, so they may still come through for you. And you’re right, there’s something to learn every year. I never used to like the “tiny dots of color,” probably I can’t see them well, but I’ve found that they work for me when they’re as bright as the marigolds!

  20. While I was excited to grow (and harvest!) corn for the first time in my garden this year, I have to say that I never even imagined that there are so many varieties with ornamental qualities before seeing these on your blog. They are beautiful. Do you use alpaca manure on these too? Maybe you should market that! (Not by mail, though – the US Postal Service has enough challenges.) Thanks for the great post.

    It has taken hunting and luck to find these few variegated corns, Kris, but they’re not the only ones out there. I hope to track down two more for next year: ‘Field of Dreams’ and ‘New Gold’. I used the alpaca manure only on the ‘Glass Gem’ in the front border along the porch. The unamended patch was much shorter (to only 5 or 6 feet). My two boys don’t make anywhere near as much as I could use, so I hoard it carefully. There are bigger alpaca farms all over the country, though, so anyone who wants to try it in their own garden could probably get it for themselves. Here’s one reference for U.S. alpaca breeders: Alpaca Map.

  21. Looking through your post makes me finally realize I have some kind of agricultural plant obsession! I think your corns are the coolest things (I’m already growing the tiger cub and old gold from one of your previous seed offers!) I needed the black cotton, found the black rice…. and I like all the amaranthus varieties, maybe because they look kind of “grainy” too! Is there a term for farm-plant-it is?
    How do you keep the corns separate for pollination? Is a little bit of distance fine or do you cover husks? Figures the old gold would tassle at the same time as my sweet corn… always something to make it a little bit challenging, but I guess that’s what makes it new and fun!

    I’m with you, Frank. My degree is in agronomy, actually, so I too have a fondness for ornamental versions of field crops. Does that wake us hortogronomists? Or agronomiculturists? Have you tried the variegated barleys (‘Variegata’, with white stripes, or ‘Montcalm Mutant’, with banded markings)? I found them through Seed Savers Exchange several years ago.

    Keeping the corns separate has been a challenge. This year, I used a combination of placement, distance, timing, bagging, and detasseling to minimize the chances of unwanted crossing. The ‘Glass Gem’, for instance, got sown indoors for an early start, and I planted the seedlings out front, in a spot where the prevailing wind would be unlikely to carry pollen from others. The ‘Tall Tiger’ was far out back; I hand-pollinated the ears, then bagged them and detasseled the plants. And the direct-sown ‘Old Gold’ was in between, but it tasseled several weeks after the ‘Glass Gem’.

  22. Hello again Nan, so nice to see your results with the Tall Tiger. I think I am familiar with the other 2 corns you are looking for. I may be getting some seed of another variegated corn (I will have to see how my friends does) I will keep you posted. It may be like Tall Tiger in all respects, if he does get some extra seed I will try to get the background on his source?? Thanks again for the pics. Very nice as always. I was wondering, did you ever have any success with the 2 Lunaria I shared? My few plants from both varieties succumbed to the heat.

    Hey, Rick! Leads on any other variegated corn strains are always welcome. I did have success germinating both ‘Ruth’ and ‘Chedglow’ and set out beautiful seedlings, but they all shriveled away in July, I guess due to the one really hot spell we had. I’m disappointed about that, because they both looked really pretty as youngsters.

  23. Woo-hoo! Lovely seeing people growing Glass Gem. It’s a thing of beauty no matter how you photograph it. I like that red petunia too. Off to read your post on rare and red petunias. Thanks for the photo inspiration Nan.~~Dee

    Great to hear from you, Dee. Wouldn’t it be an amazing life accomplishment to create something of such beauty as that corn? If you decide you want to give that petunia a try, let me know!

  24. HI Nan,

    Thank you for the photos and sharing your experience on growing from seed. I find this very useful advice and look forward to growing more from seed. Have you ever tried Zinnia ‘Aztec Burgundy’? I bought a gangly super-six pack this summer and it is probably one of the show stoppers of the garden this summer. Lasts forever in a vase. I am curious though on how and when to collect the seed from it (or any zinnia for that matter) and when and then how to store it and start all-over again this spring? This year, I grew tuberous begonias from tubers under lights and truly am enjoying the flashy show now. I am from the Detroit area, zone 6.
    Julia Hofley

    Hi Julie! I’ve tried and loved ‘Aztec Orange’, so I think ‘Aztec Burgundy’ belongs on my must-try list for next year. You can find tips of gathering zinnia seeds at Zinnia elegans: Collecting and Saving Seeds or by searching for “collecting zinnia seeds” on Google. Have fun!

  25. Nan, Lovely post as usual. I am fascinated by the Glass Gem corn which reminds me of some sort of wonderful Easter candy. “A-maize-ing” to think corn comes in all those different colors (Sorry, couldn’t resist!). Celosia is cool too, something I’ve always meant to try. My favorites were the marigolds though even though they are not trendy plants right now. I have always liked that pungent smell when the foliage is bruised or the plant is dead-headed. I had a garden filled with just marigolds and morning glories many, many years ago when all I could afford was a few bucks for some seed packets on sale at the five and dime store (pre-Walmart!) I didn’t know soil needed to be turned and amended so I just sort of scratched it up a bit and shook out the seed. I’ll bet I got a 99% germination rate! The morning glory vines engulfed the back porch steps and was full of bumble bees until frost. The marigolds were a riot of hot colors and different combinations, singles and doubles, short and tall. The garden was filled with butterflies that year too. It was such great value for very little effort. I don’t know why I don’t use either or both of those flowers more often. I will make a note to do so next year! Once again thank you for a window into your garden to share the beauty of the season.
    Kate P.

    You’re forgiven about the corn, Kate; I keep thinking the same thing! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with the marigolds. If you want to try either the tall one or ‘Moldova’, let me know.

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