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Fabulous Foliage from Seed: Purples and Reds

‘Purple Majesty’ millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and ‘Osmin’ basil (Ocimum basilicum) with golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’) and ‘Limelight’ four-o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa)

Whether you’re a fanatic for foliage-focused plantings or simply appreciate the many ways that colorful leaves can enhance your flowers, it can be hard to resist the latest anything-but-green perennials and woodies in nursery catalogs and garden-center displays. Take one look at the price tags on these beauties, though, and you may be contemplating a loan to bulk up your plant-buying budget. And then, you’ll still have to wait a couple of years for them to settle in and fill out to their full glory.

There’s a way to make your gardening dollars go further and get faster results at the same time: by taking advantage of the many annuals and tender perennials that are easy to grow from seed. They come in a wide range of heights and colors, so you’re sure to find some that can complement just about any bed, border, or container planting you can dream up, and you’ll be waiting only weeks to start enjoying them.

Lovely in their own right, seed-grown foliage annuals are also useful for testing combinations or large-scale planting plans before fully committing to them. If the heights and colors work out, you can then replace them with similar perennials or shrubs; if not, you can easily replace them with another option the following year.

There are so many excellent seed-grown foliage annuals that I’m dividing them up by color. Let’s start the series with the deliciously dark-leaved options.

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Three Neat Plants

Persicaria orientalis 'Shiro-gane Nishiki' [Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com]

First, my apologies to all of you who got the new post notification several days ago, only to find an incomplete post or a “page not found” error. Fourteen years of blogging, and I finally made the mistake I’ve been dreading, of hitting “Publish” instead of “Save Draft.” How mortifying. I promise to be more careful in the future!

If you happened to catch the draft post before I deleted it, you got a sneak peek at the first in this group of three neat plants: a glorious annual with a humdinger of a common name: ‘Shiro-gane Nishiki’ kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Persicaria orientalis, formerly Polygonum orientale). For the sake of convenience, I shall henceforth refer to it here as KMOTGG.

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Eight Utterly Un-Ordinary Gems

Nancy J. Ondra/Hayefield.com

Last month, I started the “Don’t Be Ordinary” series to explore the many excellent reasons to consider growing from seed. This time, let’s look at one of the most tempting, for many of us: the opportunity to grow truly uncommon plants that we can’t easily buy (or sometimes, even buy at all) as plants.

You’ve probably heard it said that there’s a good reason common plants are common: they are easy to find and easy to grow, thriving in a wide range of conditions with minimal care. Though uncommon plants are hard are find, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are hard to grow, or that they are merely botanical curiosities with little garden value; it may just indicate that few gardeners have had the opportunity to give them a try. I’ve had good luck with all eight of these oddities in my Zone 6/7 Pennsylvania garden, most of them for several to many years, without providing any particular soil preparation or specialized care. And, it just so happens that I have seeds of all of these currently available in my Etsy shop, so if any of them strike your fancy, you have a chance to grow them for yourself. Some are also available from other sources, which you can investigate through an online search. Continue reading Eight Utterly Un-Ordinary Gems