Amazing Flowers to Direct Seed in Your Naturalistic Garden
There is something simple and rewarding about direct seeding. Most seeds are inexpensive and small, easy to transport and save without much fuss. And yet, for something so small they can add so much: seasonal interest and colour, habitat and pollinator food sources plus visual texture, form and connection. Seeds can also help to conserve or restore native or endangered species, add bio-diversity and build soil health.
There is also a particular magic that comes from witnessing natures power to create living plants when something that fits in the palm of your hand comes into contact with soil. And that's exactly what direct seeding involves, literally tossing or placing seeds directly in the garden where they will grow and mature. Not only is it a simple method but it is a great one. Plant roots won't be confined to the dimensions of a seeding tray or small pot, but rather stretch and grow and most importantly connect to other plants, mycelia, nutrients and water sources in a natural way creating strong efficient mature plants. They will become hardy survivors, temporary triumphs or total nonstarters as conditions allow. The trick, as always is to work with nature rather than against it. Most of these seeds are easy starters but don't be discouraged if things don't work out as planned, rather learn a bit more each time you seed and you'll soon be on the right track.
For the purposes of this blog, we've decided to include flowering plants that will give you an immediate result in a single season. These are individual cultivars and species that are easily direct sown in an existing garden space, if you're interested in a more complex seeding project like a meadow or prairie that includes many annuals and perennials functioning as a combined plant community over many years then be sure to check out James Hitchmough's Sowing Beauty, it is an absolute gem on the subject.
Now, here are some of our favourite flower seeds that you should try out in your planting designs this year. Please note that we've choose species that are easy to obtain, plant and maintain but as always, be sure to use plant material that is suited to your specific area and needs, and always make certain that they are not considered noxious weeds or invasive species in your area. Most seed companies also provide great information on sowing times and plant care so have a read of the seed packets or check online for individual care tips.
S =Soil Builder
U =Unique Form
N =Native Species
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed) - Bright orange clusters of flowers much loved by butterflies. Easily seeded but can take some time before flowering. Does well in poor dry soils and is drought tolerant. P,C,N
Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ -Small deep purple ornamental thistles on tall stems. Flowers attract all manner of pollinators and seed heads are a great winter food source for birds. P,C,U
Eschscholzia californica 'Ivory Castle' (California Poppy) - An ivory version of the well known orange poppy often seen in poor soils and dry conditions. Loved by bees and looks equally amazing as a mass planting or mixed in combinations. P,C
Anethum graveolens 'Mariska' (Florist's Dill) - A compact 2' tall variety of dill that attracts a variety of beneficials. Easy to direct seed and not as quick to self seed as fennel. P,U
Borago officinalis (Borage) - Beautiful star-shaped blue flowers on fuzzy foliage. A hot-spot for all types of bees and butterflies that will come back year after year. P,C
Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape' (Opium Poppy) - Huge grape purple flowers will bloom all season long on this heirloom variety poppy. Enjoyed by bees and has great seed pods for added visual interest. P,C,U
Cosmos bipinnatus 'Xanthos' - Unusual chartreuse yellow coloured single flowers make beautiful combinations with cool coloured companions. Also attracts many beneficials and will self seed although not vigorously. P,C
Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' (Sunflower) - A 6-7' multi-stem Sunflower that produces soft lemony blooms all season. Can be staked but also looks great when left as is. P,C,U
Calendula officinalis 'Indian Prince' - The traditional cottage garden flower, Calendula is an edible, pollinator friendly and colourful edition to the garden. Indian Prince is a brilliant orange colour with petal tips that fade into deep red. P,C
Lathyrus odoratus 'Matucana' (Old-Fashioned Sweet Peas) - A bi-colour version of the much loved favourite. This is an heirloom variety that is unsurpassed for scent and insect adoration. It's deep magenta/purple flowers bloom all season long as it gently climbs it's way skyward. P,C,S
Alcea rosea 'Halo Apricot' (Hollyhock) - An architectural 7' tall bi-colour beauty! Huge single apricot flowers with a deep purple centre that will grow almost anywhere. This is a seed bomb star that both insects and people will love. P,C,U
Achillea millefolium (White Yarrow) - A native favourite here on the west coast of Canada. Small dainty white flowered umbels with feathery foliage that fills space and invites wildlife. A total winner! P,N
Aquilegia formosa (Red Columbine) - Another native gem, showy red and yellow blooms will attract hummingbirds to any woodland planting. This is an easily seeded and self seeding perennial that always brings a smile. P,C,N
Lupinus polyphyllus 'My Castle' (Lupine) - Huge red towers of flowers that are a real showstopper. This variety brings not only unique colour to your garden but large palmate leaves, structure and loads of pollinators. P,C,U,N
Lobularia maritima 'Easter bonnet violet' (Sweet Alyssum) - A great ground cover and living mulch with buckets of teeny purple flowers. If bees could high five you for planting this, they would. P,C,S
Trifolium incarnatum (Crimson Clover) - A nitrogen fixer extraordinaire! Can easily be turned under for maximum soil benefits or left to bloom its glorious red flowers for pollinator satisfaction. A great low growing legume that tolerates shade well. P,S
Dalea purpurea (Purple Prairie Clover) - 1-3' tall prairie favourite that fixes nitrogen and adds texture to a naturalistic planting. A profusion of purple cone shaped blooms on wiry stems. P,C,S
Verbascum bombyciferum, 'Arctic Summer' (Mullein) - An architectural standout with 6' tall fuzzy silver stems and substantial leaves. Butterflies are attracted by its lemon yellow flowers that sit on tall stems above a central rosette. P,C,U
Cerinthe major var. purpurascens (Honeywort) - A truly unique visual in the garden, Cerinthes blue-green leaves set off a profusion of purple bell shaped flowers. A good self seeder that never gets out of control. P,C,U
Amarathus caudatus 'Dreadlocks' - Stunning version of Love-lies-bleeding! Gigantic wooly pink textured flowers drape dramatically to the ground on 3' tall stems. Birds love these seed heads! P,C,U
Ammi visnaga, 'Green Mist' (Queen Anne's Lace) - Delicate domes of tiny flowers that fall somewhere between white and chartreuse on the colour spectrum. Easily seeded, these beauties attract pollinators and add structure wherever they go. P,U
Gomphrena globosa 'Fireworks' - Unique globe shaped blooms sit on 4' tall architectural stems. Its pink flowers are long blooming butterfly favourites. P,C,U
Lavandula multifida 'Spanish Eyes' (Lavender) - Fragrant branched lavender that blooms in the first year. Ferny grey-green foliage looks great and adds a fine texture to the garden. P,C,U
Winter is the perfect time to pour over seed catalogues with a cuppa and plan for the spring ahead. It's become a bit of a ritual that I've been enjoying even more than usual this season. With Covid restrictions in place and the wet dismal weather here on the west coast of Canada, seeds are both a fabulous distraction and a way to connect with other gardeners. We are a community of people that love to learn new things and revel in our shared hope for the future. So, never feel shy at connecting with or chatting to other gardeners, we love to exchange our knowledge, it's actually a huge part of why I love hort so much. You can get in touch with us at simpleleafdeisgn2 (on instagram) or email us at simpleleafdesign.com anytime.
-Sara-Jane & Alicia
*please note not all photos belong to us and are simply used for illustrative purposes.