Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
August, 2009
Regional Report

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A tiny seed found its way into a smalll crack in the concrete, resulting in this beautiful flowering viola -- proof of the power of seeds.

The Power of a Tiny Seed: Self-Sowing Annual Flowers

Like splashes of watercolors on the landscape palate, some flowers re-seed themselves to paint our gardens with tantalizing colors while adding textures that are often unexpected in the summer garden.

I've marveled at the power of these self-sowing annuals and biennials because they can pop up in some of the most unusual of places. One that caught my eye since the early spring is a viola that appeared through the crack in a concrete step. Like the old folk song that describes "the flower that shattered the stone," this tiny plant continues to amaze me with its toughness as it grows and spreads even in the heat of summer. The only moisture it receives is an occasional rain and maybe some runoff of drainage water from containers sitting up on the front porch.

There are many annuals that self-sow, returning return year after year by re-seeding themselves throughout the garden and adding color when the perennial flowers are fading from the picture. Rose, pink, and white cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) is a dependable self-sower with its daisy-like blooms. Cosmos adds height and the fern-like foliage adds a wispy texture in the garden. This annual will bloom from July to frost.

Even in the driest of conditions, moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora) will reappear every year along the gravel driveway and beside the garden pathway. The flowers resemble tiny double roses with succulent leaves spreading over the ground to suppress weed growth. Combine this drought-enduring succulent with the dainty, sweet scented white alyssum (Lobularia maritima) that readily escapes from the container gardens or a neighbor's annual flower bed. You won't be disappointed as nature paints the canvas in the garden in an often unexpected way.

In my experience, there are many annuals that are sure to return year after year so be creative in experimenting with re-seeding flowers. For some interesting combinations, try seeing orange and red California poppies (Eschscholzi californica), desert bluebell (Phacelia campanulata) with royal blue blooms, dwarf blue bachelor's buttons (Centaurea cyanea 'Baby Blue'), and some desert tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria). Sow seeds along a dry stream bed in your landscape in the early spring and you will be drawn to the gold and blue flow of blooms in the heat of summer until frost. And leave it to nature to make this happen year after year.

Re-seeding annuals are not for every gardener as some of us like a more groomed look in our garden. But for me, I appreciate the power of the tough annuals that will self-sow in the landscape, saving me time and energy. It is a true testament of the power of nature and how the smallest of seeds are programmed by a higher power to grow in the most unexpected places.

Don't be surprised when the faces of cheery violas or Johnny-jump-ups pop up between the crevices of a flagstone pathway or in the tiniest cracks of a concrete step.

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