Monday, January 3, 2011

Native Annual Seeds that I tested in 2010

As I get ready to order seeds for 2011, I’m looking back on the native annuals and biennials that I tried out last year.  Some were successful and bear repeating while others went nowhere.  Some of the failures were not surprising while others just wouldn’t germinate and I’m not sure why.  So here’s a review of last years seeds.

Native to Massachusetts:

Adlumia fungosa (Allegheny vine, biennial) I got a few more plants from seed I collected in 2009.  Even better, I saw several plants coming up on their own from the previous season’s plants! 

Aureolaria pedicularia (Fernleaf yellow false foxglove, annual)  None of these germinated.  Since these plants are partially parasitic on oaks, my seed starting mix may not have been right, or they may not have been conditioned properly.

Bidens coronata (Crowned beggar’s ticks, annual)  Very few of these seeds germinated and those few that did failed to mature.  This was a surprise to me since other Bidens species tend to run wild in the garden.  I’ll give this one another try, directly in the garden.

Corydalis sempervirens (Rock harlequin, short-lived perennial)  These had good germination and transplanted well. I really love this plant.  I’ll need to find more places with thin rocky soil for this plant.

Hedeoma pulegiodes (American pennyroyal, annual) sprouted freely in the garden near where I had planted seedlings in 2009 – even under the Norway Maple.  While I couldn’t see them all, I could detect their aromatic aroma whenever I stepped on or mowed over them in the lawn.  It is reported that these plants act as an insect repellant when rubbed on the skin.  I hope to give that a try this year. 

Neither the Hypoxis hirsuta (Eastern yellow star grass, perennial) nor the Polygala sanguinia (Purple milkwort, annual) seeds germinated for me this year.  I will give up on these two for now, also I have run out of seed. 

Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium (Sweet everlasting, annual)  These seeds germinate well, but the transplants do not mature well in the yard or in pots.  Its native habitat is in depleted soils with little competition from other plants. However, I was surprised to find one out of the lawn, near the one successful plant from 2009.  I’ll try these again with direct seeding in a prepared area. 

Native to New England:

Monarda punctata (Spotted bee balm, biennial) germinated and transplanted well.  It also bloomed quickly and was a big hit with the bees and some very interesting wasps in the garden.  Since this Monarda prefers drier conditions, I have a roadside spot that would benefit from this plant that I would like to try it in this year.

Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-eyed Susan, biennial) failed to germinate for me.  The germination conditions on the packet were fairly complex, especially when compared to relative Rubeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) which germinates freely after a month of cold moist stratification.  A small population of R. triloba is getting established at the Wildflower Meadow at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.

For plants Native to other parts of North America I found the following:

Salvia, Spotted Beebalm, Agastache and Gallardia
all mixed together in my South-facing bed.
Agastache aurantiaca ‘Navaho Sunset’ (Golden hyssop, perennial)  This cultivar germinated reasonably well and while it was a little slow to get started growing in the garden, it was up to full size and blooming by mid-July, producing a cloud of orangy-pink flowers.  The foliage also smells really good when disturbed. We’ll see how well these overwinter/reseed.  I’ll be growing more of these this year!

Cleome serrulata (Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, annual) again failed to sprout for me, either indoors or out. I can get the seeds to germinate, but not develop into seedlings.  Again, there may be something wrong with my starter mix or the newly germinated seed may be too delicate to sow into the growing mix.  In either case, I think I need to move on. 

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy, annual/tender perennial) germinates well in the garden, but my site is a bit too cool to allow many of them to reach maturity.  I usually get only a handful of blooms each year. This plant also shuts down when it gets too hot.  While I loved this plant in my native California, I think it is time to move on from this one too.

Euphorbia marginata ‘Summer Icicle’ (Snow-on-the-Mountain, annual) is a tap rotted annual and is reported not to transplant well.  So after soaking the seeds in warm water for a few hours these were planted directly in the ground in early June.  When mature they provided foot-tall mounds of white foliage and flowers.  This cultivar is shorter than the species (1-3’). 

Gallardia pulchella (Annual blanket flower, annual)  These seeds came from the Wildflower Center in Austin, TX.  These germinated and transplanted well after 30 days of cold stratification (may not have been necessary).  This species has a laxer form than the commercial cultivars, but it bloomed well both in pots and in the garden where it intermingled with the Spotted Beebalm and the Agastache.  This plant was very popular with the bees. I allowed the flowers to go to seed so we’ll see if they are still viable in the spring. 

Helianthus debilis ‘Pan’ (Beach sunflower, annual) reseeded itself into the same pot from last year.  This is not too surprising since there are naturalized populations of this Texas native scattered along the Eastern seaboard up to the Northeast.  This second generation had the same upright branching form of its parent.

Phacelia tanacetifolia (Lacy phacelia, annual) germinated very well and grew well in potting soil, but did not take well to being transplanted.  It has been recommended as a cover crop, with the warning not to let it go to seed in agricultural fields.  I may try this again as a direct sow plant.

Phlox drummundii (Drummond phlox – straight species, annual) also came from the Wildflower Center. These seeds germinated and transplanted well.  The flowers were true to the species scarlet red, but there was some variation in flower shape.  While I am not too hopeful that about the seeds overwintering outside, I did get a second generation late in the summer.  Relative to other flowers in my Massachusetts garden, these flowers were not very attractive to the pollinating insects.

This petal shape, with the white edging,
was unique from the other plants I had this year

Salvia coccinea (Texas sage, annual/tender perennial) is another Texas native.  Seeds for this plant germinated and transplanted well.  It grew equally well in a pots and in the garden bed and was very attractive to the bees.  Based on the native range of this species I don’t expect that any of the seeds would overwinter in my garden.

If you have any advice for growing the plants I listed here, I love to hear it.  What new native plants are you thinking about trying for next year?


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

This is the first year I'm really getting much into starting native wildflowers from seed. It seems a number of them here have at least some preference for cold stratification prior to sowing seed. There are certainly a fair few that are fussy about having their roots bothered too, and resent being transplanted. Last year I planted our native Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus) both sown in flats, and direct sown in native soil. I had exactly the same number of plants germinate each way, but the direct sown seeds thrived better than those I transplanted. I think the trick with most natives at least, seems to be mimicking their ideal natural conditions as much as possible (poor soils, fall sowing rather than spring, and disturbing them as little as possible). I'd certainly retry some of those that failed though, as some may just do better some years than others depending on weather. Good luck!

joene said...

I was going to try asclepias last year but never did so this is on my list for 2011.
I'm intrigued by your experience with the beebalm. I'd love to find one deer shy away from.

Curtis said...

I just ordered some Asclepias tuberosa seeds yesterday, but I will try to find some plants as well.

The Spotted Beebalm is listed as 'Deer Resistant', however there are rarely any deer in my community so I don't have first-hand experience.

Anonymous said...

Salvia coccinea has been a real star in my NJ garden. Deer proof and a hummingbird magnet, it germinates easily even sown directly in the garden. I planted it in between my Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline' so the hummers would have a continual nectar resource. It bloomed right through until hard frost, long after the hummingbirds had migrated south.

I tried Monarda citriodora (Lemon horsemint) as well. It wasn't as tough as the salvia, but is such a unique flower and big hit with the bees. It may be less attractive to deer due to its lemony fragrance than other monardas.

Curtis said...

That is an encouraging note about the Salvia. We are just a bit colder than NJ, so maybe some of the seed will be back. I know the plants were producing viable seed since I was getting a secnond generation of plants in the late summer from plants blooming in July. I'll be wawtching the pots from last year and the garden beds for signs of a 2011 crop.