Even on beautiful late September days like these, the combination of a low sun and a tall house manages to deprive the garden of any real direct sunlight for more than an hour or so a day. It’s difficult to get excited about the weekend when I’m gardening in the gloom.
So in order to remain upbeat about things and having just purchased a hundred small plastic plant pots, I am turning my attention to all things seedy.
Now I have to confess I am not a natural propagator. I tell myself that things could be different if I had more space. Space to store pots and labels and seed compost, space for cold frames and propagators. But I don’t, so the whole process is a little hit and miss.
My first foray into this was a couple of years ago when I gathered Phlomis Russeliana seed from Clissold Park and popped it into seed trays which I nurtured for about six months. Not a single leaf or shoot broke the surface of the compost, so I abandoned the project and discarded the seed tray in a corner of the garden. Clearly Phlomis does not like to be pampered, because after six months of neglect, I noticed significant signs of life breaking the surface in a flush of green. A further six months of on-and-off care and nurture rewarded me with about twenty small plants which I planted out in the rear bed just before the wall was built. Of course I then had to remove the lot shortly after, and return them to their pots during construction. On completion of the walł, they went back in the earth. But the following nine full uninterrupted months of growth was clearly not sufficient for them to actually flower. They sulked their way through Summer and Autumn until they perished in the January frosts.
This year, however, they revived themselves and performed impressively. Perfectly suited to dry earth and baking summer sun, they flourished. Their stacked stem-hugging flowers rose slowly above the leaves, transforming as the months passed from tight green pompoms to pale yellow florets, then, as the petals fell, back to green again.
Now their beautiful spires of pompom seed-heads are browning in the September sun and I shall leave them to provide some much needed interest through the winter.
So, encouraged by this success, I am propagating again on a very small scale. I have scoured the garden for suitable candidates for reproduction, and settled upon some of my favorites this summer. I have gathered the seeds of Digitalis ‘Dalmation Cream’, Sanguisorba and Cephalaria Gigantea, and these have been joined in the tray by some Centaurea Atropurpurea seeds bought from Kings Seeds.
Now the good thing about using these plug trays is that in an ideal world, each new plant is given its own space. The digitalis, however, which has seed as fine as talcum powder, has filled each of its allotted compartments and some of the others with literally hundreds of seedlings, which will have to be thinned laboriously at some point when I have the time or inclination.
The Centaurea was the first to germinate, followed by the Digitalis. There is no sign of life yet in the Cephalaria or Sanguisorba sections, but I knew I’d have a wait on my hands with these two. I suspect they will respond similarly to the Phlomis.