Don’t Be Ordinary: Explore Intriguing Alternatives

Petunia exserta [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia exserta

I’ve heard it’s possible to have a garden for many years without ever starting seeds. I’ve even met a few people who claim to have “never bothered with seeds,” so I know they really do exist. I feel sorry for those folks, because they’re missing out on what I think is one of the most fascinating aspects of the whole gardening experience. So, I’ve made it one of my life’s goals to convince as many people as possible to give seeds a chance.

There are so many ways that growing from seed is worthwhile, it’s going to take several posts to get through them all—enough to keep us busy through the winter, at least. Welcome to the “Don’t Be Ordinary” series, in which I hope to convince at least one person to try seeds for the first time, and to tempt those of you who already appreciate seeds into trying something new.

Let’s start off with a simple but obvious reason: Seeds give you the opportunity to grow something easy but just a little different than what everyone else has. Because you’re not ordinary, are you? And you don’t want your garden to be ordinary either. Petunias, marigolds, and tomatoes are about as common as it gets, but they come with some utterly uncommon alternatives to the garden staples you’re used to.

Try a “New” Petunia

In the last few years, quite a few beautiful petunias have come on the market. Some have spots or speckles; some show bicolor blushes or shading; some have gorgeous velvety black blooms. These intensively hybridized strains are stunning, of course. But if you can buy them at your local garden center, then so can lots of other gardeners in your town.

Petunia integrifolia [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia integrifolia

For something different, consider growing a species petunia from seed. One option is Petunia integrifolia (or P. violacea). Long before the big, bold hybrids came on the scene, this little cutie was delighting gardeners with an abundance of vibrant magenta-purple blooms just an inch or two across.

Petunia integrifolia [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia integrifolia

In the ground, Petunia integrifolia tends to form a low, spreading puddle of pretty blooms if it has no close companions. Where there are other low-growing plants, it likes to mingle with them; if taller, branching partners are nearby, the stems tend to weave up through them. Either way, it has a charming way of popping out in unexpected places to form colorful combinations.

Petunia exserta [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia exserta

Bright red Petunia exserta has slightly larger blooms and leaves—generally, it’s larger than P. integrifolia overall—but it is still daintier than most hybrids. It has a more open, spreading habit in the ground, so by itself, it tends to look a bit straggly, but it’s terrific interplanted with other front-of-the-border plants for pops of red.

Petunia exserta [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia exserta with ‘Imagination’ verbena

My favorite way to use both of these species is in full-sun containers, where the tight quarters tend to keep the flowers near each other, and close companions give them the opportunity to create many eye-catching combinations.

Petunia exserta [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia exserta with sweet basil and radish flowers

Petunia exserta has also been great for me in a pot by itself, with a wire topiary cone that helps to corral the stems, creating a little petunia “tree.” When the stems start getting leggy in mid- to late summer, I usually shear them back to the form, or even remove the cone and cut all of the stems back to about 4 inches, then put the cone back over it and keep it well watered. It grows back quickly and produces another spectacular show in fall.

Petunia exserta [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia exserta

The only problem I have with either species is tobacco budworm. The small caterpillars usually show up in late summer to eat the leaves and flowers and chew holes in the seedpods (not just on these petunias—on hybrid petunias too, and nicotiana, and related plants). You can pick them off, clip off the stems they are feeding on, or spray with Bacillus thuringiensis.

Tobacco budworm on Petunia integrifolia [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Various stages of tobacco budworm on Petunia integrifolia

It’s unlikely that you’d ever find either of these species petunias for sale locally as started plants, but you may be able to find them online. For the price of the plant and shipping, though, you could buy one packet of seed and grow several to many pots.

Sowing petunia seeds [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Sowing petunia seeds

The seeds are extremely tiny, so you need to handle the open packet very carefully; you could lose the entire batch with a single sneeze! Hold the open packet horizontally over a pot of moistened growing mix and gently tap on the side with one finger to coax the seeds out slowly and evenly. Press them into the surface lightly, then mist or drip water over the surface to settle them in. It helps to have clear plastic over them so they don’t dry out. I start mine on heat mats under lights, and both species generally germinate in about a week.

P. integrifolia seedlings tend to be somewhat delicate, so I like to start them in small pots or even cell packs, with a half-dozen or so seeds in each pot or cell, then transplant them as a clump and let them grow that way.

P. exserta also starts off small, but it produces surprisingly stocky seedlings that aren’t difficult to separate, as long as you haven’t dumped too many seeds in one spot. I transplant these to individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle.

A single packet of seed usually contains more seeds than you need for one year, so it can provide plants for the next year or two as well. However, both species have a wonderful way of self-sowing: not enough to be weedy by any standards. If you don’t accidentally pull them out when weeding once the weather gets warm, you may find them showing up in surprising places in the garden, or around the base of the container they were growing in the previous year. I usually start a few new plants from seed in spring but keep an eye out for the volunteers and transplant them to fill empty spots in summer, or just enjoy them where they are.

If you need more seeds for yourself, or for sharing, look for the small seedpods that form after the flowers drop off. Try to catch them just as they turn brown; once they split, the seeds drop out easily and may be gone before you get them. The ripe pods tend to be several inches back from the shoot tips. It’s pretty easy to find the pods on P. exserta.

Petunia exserta [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia exserta: flower and seeds

On P. integrifolia, you’ll have to look closely to find the tiny pods, especially on horizontal or trailing stems (try lifting these stems gently to see if the seedpods are underneath).

Petunia integrifolia [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

Petunia integrifolia: flower and seeds

Want to give either or both species petunia a try? As of this writing, I have seeds of both Petunia exserta and Petunia integrifolia in my Hayefield on Etsy shop.

Marigolds? Really?

Aw, don’t be snooty; even marigolds can be interesting. If you aren’t a fan of the short, squatty ones with super-poofy blooms, there are excellent alternatives.

Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lemon Gem' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Lemon Gem’ signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia)

One reason I enjoy growing signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia or T. signata)—specifically, the strain ‘Lemon Gem’—is because I associate it with a friend who was a bit obsessive about finding it for her garden each spring. I was skeptical at first, because she otherwise had a good eye for worthy plants, and I didn’t consider marigolds as being up to her normal standards. Her enthusiasm for it gradually changed my mind, and I now acknowledge she made a good call on this one.

Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lemon Gem' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Lemon Gem’ signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia)

‘Lemon Gem’ really is a cute thing, with tiny, single, bright yellow blooms that are perfectly in scale with its lacy, bright green leaves. The plants are dense and bushy, forming mounds that typically reach 8 to 12 inches tall. Ruffling the foliage releases a pleasing scent, so I highly recommend planting this one within easy reach: right at the edge of a path, for instance, or in a raised container.

Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lemon Gem' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Lemon Gem’ signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia) with ‘Rubine’ Brussels sprouts and ‘Pistou’ basil

It’s also perfectly at home in an herb garden or vegetable garden, because both the flowers and leaves are edible. Granted, you wouldn’t make an entire meal out of them, but they’re so nice sprinkled over a green salad for a touch of color and flavor.

Another alternative to ordinary bedding-plant marigolds is the old tall kinds, usually attributed to Tagetes patula and called French marigolds, though they are from Mexico and Guatemala. These French marigolds typically reach a few feet tall, with a loosely bushy habit. Just like the signet types, they start flowering in early summer and continue until frost. The flowers are small compared to the size of the plant, but there is a pleasing balance between the colorful blooms and the rich green foliage.

The flower color ranges from yellow to orange to red, mostly in solid colors. For a while, I enjoyed growing the stripey kinds, with alternating red-and-yellow spokes, such as ‘Harlequin’; then I started hearing about a strain from Great Dixter called ‘Cinnabar’, with deep red petals rimmed in golden orange. From what I can tell, this is what the blooms are supposed to look like.

Tagetes patula 'Supposedly Cinnabar' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Supposedly Cinnabar’ marigold (Tagetes patula)

I have twice now purchased seed of ‘Cinnabar’ from what I consider to be reputable UK sources, and each time, most of the flowers look like that; some, however, are a bit more orange, and a few are yellow—all on plants that are consistently around 3 feet tall.

Tagetes patula 'Supposedly Cinnabar' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Supposedly Cinnabar’ marigold (Tagetes patula)

Because of the variation in color, I’m not 100 percent sure I got the true ‘Cinnabar’ either time. Perhaps the bit of variability is normal–do any of you know? The strain is really pretty, whatever it is. I’ve taken to calling it ‘Supposedly Cinnabar’ and finding a place for it anywhere I need a dependable splash of color in a sunny spot.

Tagetes patula 'Supposedly Cinnabar' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Supposedly Cinnabar’ marigold (Tagetes patula)

Both of these marigolds are easy to raise from seeds. They’re quite thin, so just barely cover them with growing medium. I like to get a jump-start by sowing some indoors in a warm, bright spot in mid-spring, but I often start a few more pots outdoors in early to mid-June to have fillers for empty spots that appear in late June or July.

Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lemon Gem' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Lemon Gem’ signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia): flower and seeds

I just added both ‘Lemon Gem’ and ‘Supposedly Cinnabar’ to my Etsy shop for the first time this year, in case you’d like to give either or both a try. You can blame these two for this post being late, by the way. Though both produce plenty of dark seeds, a fair number of them are flimsy, so I sort them carefully to pick out only the firm, viable seeds.

Tagetes patula 'Supposedly Cinnabar' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Supposedly Cinnabar’ marigold (Tagetes patula) flower and seeds

Oddball Tomatoes

It’s terrific to see some intriguing heirloom tomato varieties appear among the hybrids in garden-center transplant offerings. They are just a teaser, however, of the seemingly endless options you can find if you go hunting for heirloom tomato seeds online. It’s easy to stick with your time-tested favorites each year, but if you have the space for a few extra plants, consider giving something different a try from seed to expand your solanaceous horizons. There are so many fruit shapes, colors, flavor qualities, and origin stories to choose from!

If you really want to go all out on the tomato-to-talk-about front, you can even find varieties that are prized more for their foliage than for their fruits. As a fan of (almost) all things variegated, finding out that there are tomatoes with multicolored foliage was a real revelation to me. The most common of a truly uncommon group is known as ‘Variegata’ or ‘Variegated’. You may also see it sold as ‘Splash of Cream’ or ‘Irish Cream and Green’.

Tomato 'Variegata' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Variegata’ tomato foliage

Just look at that variegation! It does come true from seed, but the amount and intensity of the cream-to-white variegation varies through the growing season; usually, it is strongest on new shoots early and late in the growing season.

Tomato 'Variegata' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Variegata’ tomato stems

Shoots can turn solid green, then start producing variegated growth again. The markings often extend into the stems and sometimes even to the flowers, and the young fruits may have faint paler green striping, but I’ve never seen noticeable striping left once the fruits mature to red.

Tomato 'Variegata' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Variegata’ tomato: unripe fruits

The fruits are roughly plum-sized (though rounded, not plum-shaped). Though the flavor is not particularly distinctive, I think it’s pretty tasty: definitely worth picking, and that’s a good thing, because the indeterminate plants tend to produce moderately but steadily until frost.

Tomato 'Variegata' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Variegata’ tomato plant in fruit

Consider letting a few ripen fully on the plant, until they drop off or start to split, and extracting the seeds so you can keep them or share them around. If you miss a few dropped fruits, you may find variegated volunteers in that spot next summer.

Tomato 'Variegata' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Variegata’ tomato fruit

Do you prefer your foliage on the golden side? Well, I don’t know of any bright yellow-leaved tomatoes, but if you’re willing to go a bit greener, there’s one you might like to try. Introduced by the Livingston Seed Company in the late 1800s as ‘Honor Bright’, it is now also known as ‘Livingston’s Honor Bright’, and as ‘Lutescent’ too.

Tomato 'Lutescent' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Lutescent’ tomato foliage

If you’re a hosta collector, you may recognize “lutescent” as the term used to describe hostas with leaves that lighten from dark green to light green or from chartreuse to yellow as the growing season progresses–as it does on ‘Sun Power’, for example. On this tomato, it refers to the overall greenish yellow color of the leaves, though it stays pretty much the same through the growing season.

To be completely honest, ‘Lutescent’ looks like it could use a good dose of nitrogen fertilizer, especially when it is growing near “normal” tomato plants. Fortunately, it has some other noteworthy features besides the unusual foliage and its long history. For one, the flowers are ivory-white, instead of the usual yellow.

Tomato 'Lutescent' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Lutescent’ tomato flowers

And the fruits are quite colorful—particularly eye-catching when they are at different ripening stages in one cluster, as they turn from ivory-yellow through orange to red. They are flavorful too—perhaps the best reason that this variety has been around for so long. Taken all together, these features make ‘Lutescent’ an interesting addition to any vegetable garden.

Tomato 'Lutescent' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

‘Lutescent’ tomato fruits

Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants for anyone to start from seed: sow 1/8 to ¼ inch deep in moist growing mix indoors in early to mid-spring, under lights or on a warm, bright windowsill. Transplant to your garden once the chance of frost has passed.

Ready to add a tomato-y conversation piece in your veggie garden? I just listed seeds of these two in my Etsy shop for the first time: ‘Variegata’ and ‘Lutescent’.  By the way, the ‘Lutescent’ plants I grew this season were from a 2012 packet—not bad for 7-year-old seeds!

A Closing Note

Just so you know…it turns out that I was ridiculously over-optimistic to think that I would have all of my 2019 seeds cleaned and listed at Hayefield on Etsy by mid- to late October, as I mentioned last month. I have some amount cleaned of everything I currently have listed for sale, but only a few packets of each ready to go.

If you find something there that is already sold out, don’t worry; there’s a chance that I have more. Feel free to send a restock request through Etsy (they will send you an email when I get more listed), message me there, contact me here through a comment, or send me an email (address available on my About page).

I also have over 50 new seed listings to add for this year, and a few of my usual offerings are just now ripening. I’ll be adding them as I get them cleaned and packed over the next month or two. You may want to check the shop every other week or so and add things to your Etsy wish list if you’re not ready to order yet.

I do plan to post a seed giveaway again here, in January 2020. Some of the offerings will be unique to the giveaway; others will be seeds I also have in my shop. Really special things tend to sell out as soon as I list them for sale, though, so if there’s something you’re really hoping for, you may not want to wait until January to see if it will be on the giveaway list.

Ok, that’s it for now. I’ll be back next month with another reason to give seeds a chance. Until then, dear readers!

 

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lisa at Greenbow on October 26, 2019 at 6:26 am

    Your seed collecting is admirable. I always look forward to seeing what you have found to grow each year. Do you have a place where you grow things for shade?

    Good morning, Lisa! After nearly 20 years, I’m finally starting to get some shady areas. I’m in the process right now of renovating those spots for plants suitable to shade rather than sun. They tend to be slower-growing and not as forthcoming with seeds, though.
    -Nan

    Reply

  2. Posted by Susan Gilmour on October 26, 2019 at 6:41 am

    Good morning Nan, your preaching to the choir here! I love starting plants from seed. It’s so much fun to see their little heads poking out of the soil and watch the plants develop, a great way to make winter shorter for me! Last year I collected seeds from a fancy black petunia and the different colours that bloomed from those plants was so much fun so of course I am doing it again. Lots to make me smile for sure. It’s getting down to the wire for me, summer bulbs coming out of the ground and spring bulbs going in! Always trying to make new colour combinations. One of my fav things to do.I grew verbena imagination this year too, it’s still blooming and we have had a few frosts! Looks lovely just now with Carmine cosmos and Black Magic kale. Just looked at your Itsy, so many treasures! And thanks for identifying Bupleurum! I tried the seed and got nothing this year, sometimes that happens. I had a low spot in the garden and put all my old soil there, lucky for me, 2 came up out in the garden, I never pull out anything that looks that cool so waited to see it grow, still didn’t know what it was till I looked at your seeds! I best collect some just in case they don’t reseed for me, I can sprinkle them next year with the kale, that will be awesome! Hope you have a great day, TTFN…Sue

    It’s always a treat to hear what’s going on in your world, Sue. The cosmos-and-kale combo sounds gorgeous! Wait until you see the Bupleurum really get going. The plants that come up in fall or very early spring always seem to be the most vigorous. Your vision is right on target: In leaf and in flower, it’ll look terrific with that kale. Good luck getting all your garden jobs done before snow!
    -Nan

    Reply

  3. Posted by CAROL POUNDERS on October 26, 2019 at 7:41 am

    What beautiful pictures to brighten up a gloomy, wet Saturday morning!

    Aw, wish I could share our beautiful PA morning with you, Carol. We’ll get our turn at the rain tomorrow, apparently. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.
    -Nan

    Reply

  4. Thank you Nan for such a timely and interesting post. Starting plants from seed is my favorite winter activity I have begun collecting seeds on my farm and I was wondering if there is a book you recommend that would be a good reference for identifying what viable seeds look like.

    Hey there, Nicole. I find Google Images to be the best resource for that. (Just search for the plant name and the word “seeds.”) It often takes a bit of scrolling but you can generally find at least one picture. If there’s something I’m really stumped by, I sometimes purchase a packet of seed from someone else as a reference sample.

    Once you get a new seed figured out, cleaning-wise, consider using a piece of clear tape to pick up a few good seeds and stick it in a gardening notebook for future reference. Or, take a picture as, or after, you are doing the cleaning, and label or tag the image with the plant name so you can find it later, if needed. If I’m really organized, I take pictures of new seeds just before sowing, but sometimes I am too eager to get them planted.
    -Nan

    Reply

    • There is a good reference site that shows many (but not all) seeds, seedpods, and seedlings. It’s necessary to look up the botanical name but it’s a helpful site. Using the site will allow you to train your eye to better see when the seed pods are ready and the seeds ready to harvest.
      http://theseedsite.co.uk/seedsize1.html

      Saving seeds can be addictive; if there is a Seed Savers Annonymous group, I probably should join!!

      Thanks for sharing that for Nicole, Mary. For some reason, the seed photos appear to be very low resolution on my screens, so I can’t use it. But since you find it helpful, it must just be me.
      -Nan

      Reply

  5. Posted by sherry Park on October 26, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Oh…SEEDS !!! I don’t understand people who can resist the lure of seeds…lol..seeds are the tiny miracle, the ‘Oh, my gosh…..look what I can have from these bitsy little seeds………’ the way you can have so many, many interesting plants that you are not going to encounter in the nurseries, the way that those with very little-to-no-cash can still have beautiful yards, the way that nature replenishes itself, the tiny miracle of seeds. For those of us who fall in love with seeds, there can be a downside…we almost have to plant every seed we see…cuz, why not?…lol..so, if I’m out and about and I see a hedge of Pittosporum…oh, look, seeds…well, I now have Pittosporum seedlings that I really do not have room for…I’m on a smalll city lot now….and a generous acquaintance from Garden Web knew that I had been wanting Echium simplex sent seeds to me. I now have E. simplex seedlings ready to go into the ground come Spring…yes, in fact, THIRTY-TWO of them. The nice Pennisetum that I came across at the gas station ??…well, 40 of those are ready to go into the ground…FORTY to be squeezed in amongst all of the other grasses I’ve fallen for. It used to be that I could trade seeds, give plants, no problem with having too many of anything, just pass them along to someone else, now I have a yard that has Verticillium Wilt…well, that’s awful, can’t pass that along to anyone else. So, I will have to squeeze in 32 Echium simplex, etc…and try to not sow every seed that I encounter…the Wilt ? Easy Peasy- I love the grasses and they are resistant / immune to Wilt….

    How in the world can anyone resist SEEDS ??…lol..

    Ohhhh, Sherry…you have seed fever bad, don’t you? It’s a happy and healthy obsession but, as you point out, does have consequences. At my first garden, I ended up starting a nursery to find homes for all of my botanical offspring. Since moving here, I’ve tried to be more careful about sowing: Instead of planting an entire packet, I sow part of it and keep the rest as backup. That has been very helpful if the first sowing doesn’t work out for some reason. If I end up not needing the leftover seeds, it is…well, not easy to discard them (in the meadow, usually), but easier than getting rid of excess seedlings. Best of luck to you in your planting puzzle. May you find lots more things that will thrive despite your challenges.
    -Nan

    Reply

  6. Posted by Jan Wirth on October 26, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Fun article, Nancy. Can’t pass a bunch of seed heads without snagging a few. Nice photos of the viable marigold seeds. Love “Supposedly Cinnabar.” I’ve cleaned a bunch but need to cull out a bit more. Just scored some big marigold seed heads from pots in front of the library on North Haven island last weekend. Just suggested to a friend that maybe we should start a Seed Savers Anonymous support group. LOL

    Good morning to you, Jan. I think it’s not really necessary to worry about completely cleaning marigold seeds for home use, or even for sharing. I just like to be picky when selling them. I like the SSA idea, but hey, let’s not be anonymous; we’re proud to be seed savers!
    -Nan

    Reply

  7. Posted by Barbara Dashwood on October 26, 2019 at 11:49 am

    Hi Nan, I agree; that was a fun article. Kudos to you for promoting the horticultural non trendy, like the marigolds and the Lemon Gems. My mother always was a big fan of the latter and I have inherited the enthusiasm. I really enjoy the miracle of seeds as well. Even though I get bested so many times by slugs or whatever. For example, this July I planted 60 pink forget me not seeds a friend gifted me from Butchart Gardens ( Chirstopher Lloyd was a big fan of these gardens and their bedding out schemes, by the way). Unfortunately, only 4 of that batch survived. I have finally figured out after unsuccessfully seeding so many other things, in a piece of drain pipe, in that spot, that it’s stealth slugs who come by and top the tender leaves as they emerge from the potting mix. Thanks, Nan. All the best. Barbara. Victoria, BC

    It’s so neat that your mother loved ‘Lemon Gem’ too, Barbara. Having a personal connection to a plant always makes it worth growing. Those rotten slugs really did a number on your poor forget-me-nots, but at least you were able to save a few. If even one of those survivors gets to seed next spring, you’ll probably end up with a glorious abundance the following year. That will be quite a sight!
    -Nan

    Reply

  8. Posted by wenvic2014 on October 26, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    I got into growing from seed because of you & your wonderful seed offerings. Two years ago I got seeds of “Red Spider’ zinnia from you, and I used the last of them this season. I was mulling over whether to order more…then, while doing some fall cleanup, it occurred to me to look at the spent zinnia flower heads to see if there were any seeds (there were). LOL! What a revelation! Seeds don’t originate only from other people, they can come from my very own garden! Sometimes I am very slow :) Thanks for all you do, Nan, you’re a wonderful & generous educator, and I’m looking forward to what you’ll be offering that I don’t have yet.

    My goodness–my life’s work is already complete! It makes me so very happy to hear your story about the zinnias. Once you start thinking about collecting seeds, you’ll start spotting many more. And soon, you’ll be sharing the bounty of your own garden with others–and maybe get someone else to give seeds a chance. How exciting!!!
    -Nan

    Reply

  9. Posted by Britta on October 27, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Well said, Nan! It is very rewarding to grow annuals and perennials from seed. One does need patience with some of the perennial plants though. But the reward is a well adapted gorgeous plant which you “know from when it was a baby” – very special. It is also an advantage that seeds are light and easy to trade. I went to a plant swap today and boy was my stuff heavy for all the soil it carried.
    Did you try the Pawpaw? Did you ever grow Yacón? I think you would enjoy it for it’s big soft leaves, the late cheery yellow flowers and the delicous tubers.
    Best wishes, Britta

    Hello Britta! How lucky you are; the plant swap sounds like a wonderful thing. I did eventually get to taste ripe pawpaw. The first one or two were nice–definitely the banana-pineapple flavor I’ve read about. Buy the fourth one, it wasn’t quite as enjoyable; by the 10th one, I’d had more than enough. That tells me that cross-pollinating a few flowers per year should be enough. No, I haven’t yet tried Yacón; I’ll look into it. Thanks!
    -Nan

    Reply

  10. Posted by Jean Spangenberg on November 1, 2019 at 6:57 am

    Nancy, it’s always interesting to read your post and learn new plants. Have loved growing from seeds for a long time now and try to encourage my friends to give it a try. I like to clean and make packets of my favorite seeds and pick 5-10 pks. to put in a card as a gift for my gardening friends to try. This year I was excited to try a new marigold called Mr. Majestic. The picture on the packet showed a lovely striped look of red and gold petals. Unfortunately, they looked nothing like the commercial picture. A few however were interesting in their own right and filled one planted on my porch with a nice grouping of mixed colored plants. It is always exciting to see plants grow and bloom from seeds.
    So much more satisfying to see them in your garden and know “I grew that!” Sending many best wishes to you as you work on your seeds.
    Jean

    You have very lucky friends, Jean. What a lovely, personal gift from your garden! I too have grown ‘Mr. Majestic’, and if I remember right, I had the same experience with it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing if a seed strain is variable, but I wish suppliers would be honest about it in their descriptions and photos. Thanks so much for your good wishes. I send good thoughts back to you!
    -Nan

    Reply

  11. People really don’t propagate much. Overgrown perennials are likely to be removed and discarded rather than dug and divided. People actually pay money for some of the simplest of succulents and pelargoniums rather than just getting pieces from friends and neighbors. I do not mind purchasing seed that I lack, and seedlings for vegetable plants (in cell packs) but almost never purchase plants that are already growing. I grow what I want from cuttings or division.

    Good to hear from you, Tony. Wouldn’t it be sad if plant propagation were relegated to a quaint, “old-time” skill, like churning butter or making brooms? I think (hope) it will always be of interest to people who really enjoy gardening as a process, even if those who just want to “have” a garden are content to let others have all the fun.
    -Nan

    Reply

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