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16 October 2014
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Autumn 2001

Top Seeds
by Brendan Little
15 Aug '02

Brendan LittleSome of my favourite plants are those that seed willy nilly around the garden, these self-seeders add a feel of natural chaos to the otherwise ordered planting. Of course some germinate where they are not wanted, have you ever noticed how many seedlings germinate happily in compacted gravel and yet fail to thrive in a carefully prepared seedbed? Those that grow where they are not wanted are either transplanted, donated to friends or are simply thrown on the compost heap.

My gardening friend Uel scatters coarse grit around his candelabra primulas, especially his Primula pulverulentas, and each spring the grit is home to a veritable forest of young plants ready for transplanting.

The perennial, ladies mantle, which I use to soften the edges of paths and to create a cottage garden feel, is a rampant seeder. To avoid an invasion of young plants I simply remove the flowers before seeding takes place. On the subject of ladies mantle do try it with the purple leafed shrub Physocarpus ‘Diabolo’ it makes a wonderful show, the lime green flowers contrasting so well with the dark foliage of the Physocarpus.

My sea hollies, Eryngium maritimum and the beautiful Eryngium bourgatii are regular if not prolific seeders, definitely no deadheading required here. Add to this list the stinking hellebore Helleborus foetidus, the verbascums and foxgloves. Any foxglove seedlings, which have a purple midrib to the leaves, are removed and composted, these seedlings will only produce purple flowers. Plants with clear green midribs remain untouched; this selection process ensures that we only have white flowered foxgloves at flowering time.

The very gentle grass Stipa tenuissima (= thinnest) one of the most beautiful and graceful ornamental grasses I know, and I am quite happy for it to seed through the garden, it can be a short lived perennial so it is good to have some young plants to fill the gaps which appear in the border.

Don’t forget when you are weeding to be on lookout for seedlings of your favourite annuals, I am always on guard for young plants of Nemophila, the one I like is ‘Penny Black’. Other welcome self-seeders include the Californian poppies and the beautiful biennial Echium fastuosum. So don’t despise plants that propagate themselves indeed I take it as a compliment, they are so happy in my garden that they simply want to start a family.


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