It has been a long hot summer. During the scorching humid months of July and August we take time to let ourselves, and our fields rest. Covercrops of buckwheat, sorghum, cowpeas, and millet are broadcast across our fields to help suppress weeds, prevent erosion, and create biomass that will be turned back into the soil before we prepare our beds for fall planting. There isn't much going on in terms of production, but all of our planning is taking place for the upcoming season. It's hard to believe we'll be sowing seeds for spring shortly! Right now I'm making sure I have all my seeds stocked to ensure we have an early flush of spring blooms.
Here's my list of must have fall-sown favorites:
Stock: This is one of my absolute favorites. The clove-like scent of these little blooms is to die for. They come in a lovely range of colors, including white, cream, apricot, pink, and purple. We sow successive rounds every 2-3 weeks beginning in September and October. Transplants are spaced out about 2 inches apart, promoting nice long stems, and helping them out-compete weeds. It's one of our earliest flowers to bloom, and always brings a smile to my face. Some of my favorite varieties are the Katz and the Cheerful series, both available from Gloeckner seeds.
Snapdragons: What's not to love about these cheerful, bright beauties?! The seeds are extremely tiny and require patience to sow, but are well worth the effort. We start ours in 128 count flats, but I'm considering trying 288s this season. To extend the bloom window you can select varieties from each of the flowering groups. Group 1 is the earliest and Group 4 is the latest. We've had great success with the Animation (Group 2) series. We harvest spikes when the bottom 3 to 4 blooms have opened and consistently get 7 to 10 days vase life.
Ammi: Ammi visagna, ‘Green Mist,’ and Ammi majus, ‘Casablanca,’ are early season bouquet staples for us. This season I fell in love with 'Daucus Black Knight', a purple flowering False Queen Anne's Lace. This phenomenal plant was a vigorous producer yielding 7-15 stems per plant. I love the delicate lacy texture they add to mixed bouquets.
Bupleurum: This was our first successful season with this knockout, and I wish I would have planted more! The shimmery golden stems add so much volume and movement to bouquets. It is a phenomenal must-have filler.
Statice: This classic is a workhorse in the garden. We start our first plants in the greenhouse in September and October for beautiful long stemmed early spring blooms. It comes in a range of colors and is great for fresh or dried arrangements.
Nigella: Love-in-a-mist is a charming addition to early spring bouquets. We direct seeded these for the first time this year with much greater success than we've had with our transplants in the past. My favorite part about these jewels is the fantastic seed pod they produce once the petals have shattered. The variety pictured above was sources from Johnny's seeds. Next season I am going to try some new varieties, including ‘Delft Blue’ and ‘African Bride'.
Calendula: These guys were not a favorite of mine until this season. In the past, varieties were tried flowered on short stems that were difficult to include in bouquet work. This year we found an incredible variety from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds called 'Orange King' and they are fantastic! These gems produced huge blooms on long stems and kept on giving. I highly recommend giving them a try.
Agrostemma: While not my favorite to harvest, Ocean Pearls Agrostemma was great to have blooming in early March for wedding design work. They are simple, elegant, 1-2" blooms on willowy-gray stems that really dance in bouquets!
Bells of Ireland: These majestic blooms add interest and a unique fragrance (they belong to the mint family!) to early spring bouquets. We had great success with seed from Baker Creek this season.
Larkspur: These are one of the easiest to grow early spring bloomers. We direct sow them about every 3 weeks beginning in October for a steady stream of tall colorful spikes. We grow the Giant Imperial Series for standard tall spikes, but I've also enjoyed growing the Cloud Series from Gloeckner. These produced delightful small blue or white single blooms on 40 inch stems, perfect for bouquet filler. I put my seeds in the freezer for 2 weeks before sowing to increase germination.
Even though spring may feel like a distant dream right now, timing your plantings early will reward you with a garden of bountiful blooms!