This year's (bigger) Thompson and Morgan catalog which is enticing me with its full-color pictures:
It is a challenge to select the right seeds for direct sowing in a northern short-season climate like ours, though. Our frost-free season is about 95 days and thus the flowers have to get everything done in a limited window of time. Direct-sowing is one of the easiest ways to get nice drifts of flowers. Simply throw the seed on the ground in spring time, scratch around in the dirt to mix things up a bit, and let nature take its course!
My biggest successes with direct-seeding (and self-sowing, for that matter) annuals, have been with poppies and cornflowers. The good old breadseed poppy (P. somniferum) and the corn poppy (P. rhoeas) do great after throwing some seed in the raised beds in April. My cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) have self-seeded for a few years and their tall, brilliant blue flowers look amazing in contrast to the yellows and pinks. I have had sweetpeas grow okay and some Phacelia campanularia (California bluebell) grew well in a neglected and dry flowerbed. I am hesitant about distributing mass amounts of viola seeds, considering that Johnny-jump-ups are some of the most prolific "weeds" in my garden.
Mixed colors of Papver rhoeas (corn poppies) last year in my raised beds:
What's neat about direct-sown annuals is that the require so little effort, though the results often cannot be duplicated by putting a fortune into buying bedding plants. Some plants just don't transplant well and should only be direct sown. It's easy to be smug in July, standing next to your stunning flowerbed, knowing that you are reaping the results of your minimal efforts in the springtime.
So here are my ideas for direct-sown annuals to try in my short-season garden:
- California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) -- I like the new pink and pastel ones
- sunflowers -- have done these before with success
- sweet alyssum
- cleome -- I have started these early indoors before and am not sure they'd flower in time otherwise
- sweet peas
- corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) -- these worked very well last year