Sunday, September 24, 2006

And Baby Makes 10

The news reported a shocking discovery! The second graders they interviewed didn't know where milk comes from!

Why would they?

These kids are from New York. To be fair, she should have also asked little monsters in Des Moines where the Bronx Zoo is located. My point is... if it's not part of your everyday world, you can be stumped on an answer that's bleeding obvious.

Now, it's your turn. Where do perennials come from?

If you answered Lowes, Home Depot or the local nursery you're 100% right and also dead wrong, so it's back to the second grade for you.

Perennials, of course, come from seeds. Most gardeners (me included,) pull nursery-grown perennials out of black pots, stick 'em in the ground and hope for the best. Nurturing a plant to produce offspring adds an exciting dimension to weekend chores.

In the fall, it's off with their heads.
Cut back most plants* and toss them into a bare section of the garden. Dead flower heads are filled with thousands of tiny seeds.
Over winter, they join forces with Mother Nature and start lots of little babies, come spring.*

These new seedlings are typically bigger, stronger and longer blooming than the parent plant you picked up off the sale table. That's because they were raised in soil, from birth, and they're not root bound.

Daisies, Poppies, Flax, Blanket Flower, Bachelor Buttons, Columbine, Catmint... there are hundreds of easy-growing perennials who will happily start from seed, given half a chance.

Mad Science: Columbines are great fun because they cross-breed easily, creating new colors you've never seen before.

Plants grown from seed are like brownies made from scratch. Better by far, though it's just not done anymore. Buck the system. Give it a try.

Of note, some cultivated hybrid plants are designed for maximum flower power and, because of that, don't set seed. Create an experimental seed garden to discover which of your plants will reproduce.

* Transplant seedlings to the garden spot of your choice when the time is right.
** The 10 catmint bushes flourishing in my garden were all born from one $4.00 perennial. (Now that's what I call a screamin' deal.)
*** Check plant instructions. Some perennials do better with a spring haircut vs. fall. In my garden, I leave Salvia, Agastache and Lavender alone until early spring.

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