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Sunshine and Seeds

Two days in a row above 40! I can hardly believe it. Of course it will drop to the teens tonight with a high of barely 20 over the week-end. But that doesn’t change the facts. Two days in a row with temperatures above 40! With sunshine! Almost makes a person want to do the Happy Dance.

Rather instead, we got out in the Ravine Garden to do some pruning on everything from junipers to shrub roses to crabapples. It was still a bit on the cold side when kneeling in snow. And we had to be careful about walking up and down the steps as they are still snow and ice covered. All in all though, it was nice to be able to get outside and do some gardening. Not that I have all my “inside” work finished.

I have spent time finalizing my picks for the cutting garden this week. I grow a good many of the annuals myself. It’s just not feasible for our suppliers to grow one or two flats of some plant or another. And it would cost considerably more than our budget would allow even when times were good. And if I don’t plant them myself how will I learn the proper methods involved in starting the plants? I shouldn’t keep saying “my” and “I” so much. It’s usually a cooperative effort. But the cutting garden is mine and if we have crop failure it really is my responsibility to correct things. This year Geoff will have a wide range of vegetables he will be starting from seed for the Orchard. It will be good to have vegetables growing here again. We will talk about that more later.

I order most of my seed from wholesale sources which helps to keep the cost down. That also means I get fairly large quantities at times which isn’t a problem. It’s important to remember most seed can be held for 2 or 3 years without any serious loss of germination percentages. Yes, I know some are very short-lived and some are viable for a thousand years, but please, I’m talking in general terms here. Go get your own damn soapbox. Now where was I? Oh yea, seeds. When you have leftover seed just do your best to store them dry and cool. I don’t go so far as refrigeration. But I do think it is a good idea to put them in a container you can seal pretty tight. It can me glass, metal, or plastic. Keep it out of the sun and somewhere the temperatures don’t swing wildly. It’s really not complicated. Some seeds will always be good and some won’t. No big deal.

Black Beauty

I’m trying a new dahlia from seed this year called ‘Black Beauty’. I really like the very dark flowers. They look great with bright colors and especially, green flowers. I think an arrangement of ‘Black Beauty’ with yellow-green Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’ and the hot orange of the plumed cockscomb Celosia argentea ‘Fresh Look Orange’ would be great.


It would also look great with pinks like Celosia ‘Cramer’s Rose’.


Amaranths are another staple of my cutting garden here at the IMA. New this year will be Amaranthus ‘Cramer’s Amazon’ (Ralph Cramer has done a lot for cut flowers). This one has hot magenta flowers and just as important, purple/burgundy and green leaves. I never seem to have enough foliage for the arrangers and this looks like a good candidate. I can start using it even before it flowers. I’m a little concerned that the one image I found on the web isn’t quite as nice as the one in the catalogue. Imagine that.


The cutting garden is somewhat time-consuming. It takes awhile to get everything planted then there is all the usual weeding and watering and general maintenance plus the several hours a week spent cutting. But I love the experimenting with new species and cultivars (some move out of the cutting garden into the landscape). And it’s so rewarding when we can pick a whole Toro bed-full to take to the Lilly House.


Ah Summer, I miss you so in winter.

Filed under: Horticulture

5 Responses to “Sunshine and Seeds”

  • avatar
    Amber Says:

    What I love most about this blog, is that the Pee Wee video is in Spanish. Classic.

  • avatar
    KayO Says:

    Just love the photo of all the containers of cut flowers!

    Yep …. I miss Summer, too!

    Can you tell me what the beautiful airy-fairy lime green stuff is, please? (at the very back on the right).

    Looks wonderful!

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    Thanks for reading the blog KayO. The airy-fairy stuff is a goldenrod (Solidago). It gets about 6-7 feet tall. Seeded itself into our lower cutting garden. We use them from the first small green bud stage all the way to nearly full bloom. You’re right, they are beautiful. Great color and texture. Summer will be here before we know it – freezing in the mean time.

  • avatar
    Garrett Says:

    Really great info, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    Glad you liked it. Hope you have time to visit the blog often.

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