Sunday, 9 September 2012

The seedy truth about this blog

Le Photographe and I were sitting in a restaurant last night when he said to me, "You know one thing I like about you?  Your honesty."

I was pleased with this at first.   (Le Photographe was of course referring to my character as I don't have an honesty plant in my garden.)   Honesty is definitely something I aspire to personally; I was born and bred in Yorkshire where a spade will always be a spade and not a hand-crafted oak-barreled blunted plant division instrument.  So when I got home, I was on the patio, admiring the Cosmos in the moonlight when I realised with horror that I had grown them from SEEDS.

Now readers of this blog will know that I have previously dissed and disrespected seeds.  I made grand statements about how real people with day jobs don't have time for them, perhaps even inferring from this that I might be a high octane career woman who is so busy with board meetings she has no room in her life for seeds.  It was thus that I was even more mortified when I looked around and noticed how much stuff I have at the moment that was grown from seed.  A restless night ensued, tossing and turning, knowing I had to come on here and confess to having grown things from seed.

It isn't that bad a lie: successful seedlings here have only survived by either freaks of nature or extraordinary resilience in the face of neglect.  What usually happens is this: I plant the seeds following the instructions on the packet to the letter.  If they're lucky, they'll get potted on but then it all goes wrong.  Seedlings don't like being transplanted, no matter how careful you are not to touch the root.  The sight of rows of little wilting plants disheartens me and then I start to lose interest.  Most of them will die of dehydration at this point but a few of the tougher ones will insist on growing up until I cannot bear the sight of mature plants bursting out of their 5 cm plastic pots any longer and will have to cave in and plant them out.

Eventually therefore some seedlings did grow into mature plants.  This is not that surprising by the laws of mathematics as I probably planted thousands of seeds.  Here's a confessional of some of these hardy plants that survived my gardening.

Cosmos bipiniatus 'Purity'.  Allegedly

These Cosmos seeds came free with a magazine, thus justifying the £3.99 price tag.  I didn't think I liked Cosmos and have no idea what made me plant them other than whatever primitive compulsion drove me to sow thousands of seeds.  I am quite pleased with them now as they have added this season's must-have height into the garden.  The packet said they were white but some of them are pink and are not the species it said it was on the packet.

Scabious Pin Cushion Mix only they weren't very mixed.

Only a few of these survived to adulthood.  The packet said they would flower in June but the cruelty they experienced in their youth has presumably delayed their development as they are in flower now.  The packet showed mixed pinks and white but only the white ones grew.  An impulse buy.

Cornflower Blue Boy

As seedlings, these were on their way to the compost heap when Le Photographe flung himself into my path in the manner of someone pleading for someone's life in front of the guillotine.  A bit of staking and they turned out ok.

Poppy Cherry Glow

Another packet free with a magazine.  My dad tried to weed up the seedlings until Le Photographe (perhaps aspiring to become the patron saint of little seedlings) stepped in again to point out the little label I had planted in the ground to stop myself weeding them.  These brilliant red flowers lasted precisely 24 hours before all the petals dropped off.   They have however left some attractive seedheads (below).

Poppy seedheads

Verbena bonariensis

These were left to die in these little biodegradable pots that I had bought in a freak moment of deciding to garden organically.  The seedlings appeared to refuse to grow and were devoured by slugs when I noticed that the roots had long since eaten their way out of the pots and were practically begging for their lives.

Sweet Pea Anniversary Mix.  A severe case of powdery mildew.

Another magazine freebie - from last year's Gardener's World.  Ironically I tried quite hard with these, planting the seeds in toilet roll tubes so their roots had room to grow.  Which just shows what fickle things plants are: those love the most will pay you back with a disease. 


  1. I am kind of ashamed of the fact that I don't grow things from seed. I feel like a wastrel spending good money on annuals that I could, in theory, grow from seed for a tiny fraction of the price of plants. My excuses are: I don't have an appropriate space (though I could build something in the basement, and 2) I am out of town a great deal February through May, a critical seedling period. This second I think is a pretty valid excuse, but I still feel morally inferior to those virtuous growers of plants from seed.

  2. Hi Jason, i don't think there is anything morally superior about a compulsive seed buying habit! Perhaps I should have posted more about all the stuff that died or shown you a picture of the tuperware boxes full of those seeds that never got planted on. I agree it takes up loads of space which I don't really have. I just stumble over seed trays for a few months of the year.

  3. I don't usually buy any seeds. If a flower produces seeds and even throws them to the flowerbed, so I let them develop to plants. That's my way to grow from seeds..

  4. Seeds? Do they actually sprout or is this just an elaborate and costly hoax?

  5. My husband always says if you don't care about it, it will be soon as you care it will seems you and he are correct. I plant seeds and then forget where I planted them in the garden and they never get watered as I am busy and work and well you know we just forget. I was laughing and shaking my head yes as I completely understand. I do have one exception...veg seeds are never neglected :)

  6. Ugh, don't talk to me about seeds. I have a day job, I am a Yorkshireman and I won't pay full price for a potted plant at the Garden Centre when I can grow it from seed. The result is over 10 seed trays, hundreds of seedlings, young plants that need potting on, pots that need to be planted and all of this lot needs watering and careful looking after, sheltering from cold nights and eventually overwintering and do I have the time to sort it all out - well, probably if I try hard enough and use a head torch for gardening in the evenings.

  7. You are right Donna, seeds are so fickle! I am also motivated by saving money but I wonder if it really works out that cheaply once you have bought the seed compost, the special potting on compost, the little trays (it doesn't help that I put them away somewhere over the winter and can't find them again), the individual small pots...and then it doesn't help to have a compulsive seed buying habit, Have we really saved money???

    1. Frugality is my excuse for putting myself through it. I think the quantity of plants you get if successful does justify it. If you have a relatively mature garden that doesn't have many gaps left then buying stuff when you see it is probably OK, but I've got loads of space to fill and given that my house is rented, I refuse to spend a fortune doing it.

      I actually quite enjoy the whole process if I've got time to do it, but child care duties mean that an hour or so of the zen like quiet that is pricking out seedlings is a rare treat. It seems to me (in my very short experience of it) that bringing on seedlings is one of those things that you get better at the more you do it - you know what to do to get different species going and what they need in the way of care.
      The other thing with growing from seed is that doing it with hardy annuals is REALLY easy. You just stick some compost in a flower bed, lob some seeds in a few drills and leave them to it!