Gardeners have spent much time and energy setting out flowers in beds and containers this month, most often with very good results. Thanks to a marvelous array of choices in garden centers, people can pick the color and styles that suit them and their situation.
But sometimes an empty space emerges where you did not expect it. Perhaps a spring flower played out before you expected or bulb foliage has disappeared.
It is a chance to see how you do at growing flowers from seeds. This is an inexpensive project that can reap great rewards. You will soon have young plants to fill those blank places in flower beds. And you will enjoy a lesson in producing a plant from the very beginning.
The choices on seed racks in garden centers and hardware stores are enough to delight the most particular flower gardener. You can choose colors you crave or experiment with new shades.
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While lots of choices exist, three kinds of annual flowers are especially good for a late-spring project like this: sunflowers, zinnias and marigolds, all for sunny gardens. These are reliable performers. They germinate rapidly in warm soil and air and grow quickly in these long days.
Sunflowers: This is a popular choice, especially when you involve children. They like to watch as a sunflower grows taller than they are and the bloom gets bigger than their face. Just one or two plants of tall Russian sunflowers, growing 6 to 7 feet tall or more, make a big impression. But other kinds of sunflowers are shorter and come in a range of colors from mahogany and red to pale tones such as lemon yellow. Consider color, but also consider the mature height. Some can stay as short as 2 feet, which might be just right for a certain spot in your flower beds.
Marigolds: Marigolds come in lovely shades of yellow, gold, orange and even mahogany. Depending on the variety, heights range from quite short, under 1 foot, to 2 feet or more. These are among the easiest plants to grow from seeds. Like sunflower and zinnia seeds, they are big enough to pick up with your fingers and place exactly where you want the plant to grow. Marigolds have a long season of flowering through the summer if you remove the spent flowers.
Zinnias. Very easy to grow from seeds, zinnias prosper in hot weather and the colors are typically vivid shades of red, pink, yellow, orange and more, all very summery. As with marigolds, you have a good choice of heights. Zinnias love heat but are susceptible to a leaf fungus that develops on wet foliage. Try not to wet the leaves any more than necessary and do your watering early in the day so the summer heat dries off the foliage. If spots on the foliage develop, remove the affected leaves.
Any of these three kinds of flowers can be sown directly where you intend them to grow. Pay attention to the depth recommendations on the seed package and keep the seed bed moist while you anticipate generation. Once you see the little plants emerge, keep them moist but not soggy. Look for the spacing recommendations on the package and thin accordingly if you planted the seeds too close for comfort.
Nancy Brachey: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. What should I do about the stems of daylilies once the bloom ends?
A. Cut off the stem, called a scape, near the base once all the buds have opened and finished. Left on the plant, the stem will form a seed pod, which is valuable to breeders but not to most gardeners. Do not cut off the foliage.