Friday, February 6, 2009

If At First You Don't Suc-seed...

Growing anything from seed can seem like a daunting venture when you think about it. I mean, honestly, just how can a teeny tiny seed ever hope to become a relatively gigantic plant with colorful flowers? Take the petunia for example.

A petunia seed is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. An ounce contains 245,000 to 285,000 seeds. They need light to germinate, but a seed that small can get lost in the cracks, even when you can't see any cracks. That's probably why a single seed pod on a petunia contains so many seeds. Chances of many of them reaching maturity is pretty small.

I enjoy growing things from seeds, because 1) it's a challenge, 2) it's an inexpensive way to try new things, and 3) I enjoy watching the tiny seedlings emerge and go through all the stages of growth. There are plants that I love that are not easily available at our local garden centers as an already grown plant. Seeds allow me to grow them.

But all is not ideal in Eden. As much as I would love to say that I have a 100% success rate with my seed planting ventures, I can't. There are those plants that elude me, some of them time and time again. I am a persistent sort and don't like the thought of a plant getting the better of me, so I try again.

Meconopsis betenicifolia

I've attempted to grow Meconopsis (Himalayan blue poppy) from seed and plant. Two years ago, I started them inside in peat pots and got a single seedling for my efforts and even that succumbed within a few weeks. Last year, I purchased plants from Michigan Bulb and while they were really healthy plants, I managed to kill every one of them. I also winter sowed the seeds and got nada.

Has anyone had good success with growing Bells of Ireland (Molucella laevis) from seed? I don't want to know, unless you have a tried and true secret for it. I've tried to grow them every single year for the last four years and only had one plant with bells on it two years ago. I love them and would be quite thrilled to see just a few plants looking good in my garden.

Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) are a favorite of mine, but I have yet to be able to grow a single one from seed. I'll be trying again this spring by planting some 'Lauren's Grape' oriental poppy seeds that I purchased from Botanical Interests. I bought two packets of seeds and will probably plant them all, hoping to get at least a couple of plants from them.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)are supposed to be easy to grow and self-seed, right? Well, there isn't going to be any self-seeding of these going on in my garden this year, because I only got one blooming plant out of the bunch I planted last year and it was so close to frost that it never made it to seed-pod stage. These are readily available at the garden centers so I might purchase some and then let them go to seed. Romie loves them and calls them "dragonsnaps."

Jodi's Livingstone Daisies (Dorotheansus bellidiformis) captivated me from the moment I saw them on her blog, so last year I decided I would try to grow them from seed. No luck, but I'm going to try again this year, because they're so gorgeous and I want them growing in my own garden.

And finally, what kind of gardener can't grow Johnny Jump-ups (Viola cornuta) from seed? Me. I've sown them several times and have yet to get even one blooming plant.

It's a sinister plot meant to discourage me from seed sowing, don't you think? But it's not working. I will always sow seeds, even those that are my own personal nemeses.

Who plants a seed beneath the sod
And waits to see, believes in God.
~ Unknown


Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Enjoyed your post, you're such a down to earth gardener, telling it like it is. Growing plants from seed isn't always easy. Sometimes it works very well at other times not at all. Been there, done that.

BTW I sow Snapdragons in trays and plant them out later.

BTW if you want to look at some fun kitty pics, you know the way, don't you? ;-)

Unknown said...

I love the fact that you post not only your success stories, but admit the failures you experience. To the casual observer they wonder what the big deal is. You take some seeds, toss them in the ground, add some water and plants grow. Right? Wrong. Growing things in soil is not easy, as those who do it year after year have learned. So thanks for pointing out that even very successful gardeners like yourself, who have beautiful gardens, have trouble with some things.

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

Oh, I've been there. I have had zero luck with Himalayan blue poppies, and while I had some success with wintersowing snapdragons, the tiny seedlings didn't do a darn thing once I planted them out in the garden.

I had to laugh when you mentioned Bells of Ireland. I've tried wintersowing them every year for the last three years, and I have had precisely one seed germinate and bloom. And the really funny thing is that the one that did bloom did so in the compost pile, because I gave up on the container and tossed the soil in there. It was a big surprise a few weeks later to see that Bells of Ireland sprout. The plant was puny, but it did bloom!

Natalie said...

I can grow snapdragons from seed. I planted them the first year we bought our house and have had them every year since. The thing I can't grow are zucchini, and honestly, who can't grow zucchini in bushels?

Anonymous said...


I think all gardeners must have a plant or two that won't cooperate. For me it is those #@#$% 4 O' Clocks. Tried them for the past three years and I get nothing. They grow "wild" in an empty lot near my house but not in my garden.

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Hi Kylee

I reckon you should try all of those again!

For what it's worth I sowed an Oriental poppy, 'Coral Reef' from T & M last Autumn and kept it under a cold frame. I have 12 plants currently growing strong so worth a try. Mind you, average seed contents of 30 in this particular packet, where the heck have all the others gone? I couldn't tell you.

Good luck!

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Good Luck with your seeds this year!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have had seeds that I planted out in a certain flower bed never to be seen again. Then the rascals pop up in the cracks in our patio getting there by who knows what means??? Very frustrating indeed.

Helen/patientgardener said...

I am sympathise with you. I have plants that I struggle with. Last year I was delighted to final get Delphineums to grow but I think I planted them out too soon and I doubt they will reappear this year. Pelagonoims and Begenias alluded me last year as did Astrantia. I have recently sown some Meconopsis for the first time but have no illusions. Snapdragons I can do - not sure if there is a trick to them but they seem to work quite well for me. I suspect it all depends on our climate.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about certain things not cooperating!

Everybody talks about how easy poppies are, but every time I've tried to grow oriental poppies, either from seed, or even when I've purchased a plant, it doesn't work out. I'm trying again this spring, though I don't know why... maybe this time will be the charm?

I have really good luck with snapdragons in the garden. They are one of my favorite annuals, and they seem to like to reseed. However, when I've grown them from seed, they germinate, but then damp off!

I know that whenever I try things from seed, or things that might be "pushing it" for my conditions, that it could meet with failure, but if I didn't try, I wouldn't have a few of my favorite plants that -were- successful.

It is funny how what is easy to grow for one person is difficult for another and vice-versa. (delphiniums are another thing I just can't grow!)

F Cameron said...

You have so much luck with many other plants, so I think you have pretty darn good success!


Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I tried Bells of Ireland last year and got about 4 - 6" tall plants complete with mini flowers. Not quite what I was hoping for. No luck with snapdragons either. Good luck with them this year!

Dana S. Whitney said...

I can kill things off, too. It seems that the more I care (due to anticipated appearance, cost, or rarity, the less likely they are to thrive. A hardy hibiscus I planted on a whim, however, gets mammoth every summer. But you've given me permission to (in the words of our President) "screw up." Trays, peat and seeds this weekend!!

Jason said...

Hopefully I'll be seeing my cosmo's coming up this year. We got a packet of 'wildflower seeds' last year, and the only thing that came up was the Cosmos sulphureus. Every time one of the blooms went to seed, I'd make sure the seeds ended up back in the bed, as opposed to my lawn. As tall as they grow, that was a concern! Here in Texas, they grew throughout the summer, and I never deadheaded them. So there you go.

Kylee Baumle said...

Yolanda Elizabet ~ Isn't that the ultimate compliment - to be down to earth? Gotta get down and dirty to garden! ;-)
I've done snapdragons in trays, too. In fact, that's how I did it last year when I got that peachy one pictured.
Gotta get over there and see the kitties!!

Rick ~ Thanks! Oh, I'm got plenty of failures! I consider myself a novice gardener still. I've learned a great deal since I started gardening, but I've only gardened seriously since 2005, so there is soooooo much more to learn! There always will be. And if there weren't any failures, where would the fun in conquering the challenges be?

Colleen ~ That's exactly how things went for me, Colleen! Puny is a good descriptive word for what my snapdragons and Bells of Ireland were!

Natalie ~ Everyone has their problems, don't they? One of these days you will have one good zucchini vine and that will be all you'll need. LOL

MrBrownThumb ~ Isn't that how it is? I planted Cleomes two years ago and got the puniest, shortest plants. This past year, a couple of plants came up volunteer and were tall and robust. Go figure.

Rob ~ I'm not one to give up! Sounds like you aren't either. :-) I wish you luck as well!

Tatyana ~ Thank you!

Lisa ~ I know exactly what you mean! Some things are like that.

Racquel ~ Your delphiniums might surprise you. Mine did. There are several kinds and I think it's a matter of finding the one that does well in your garden. That's the case with most plants, I guess.

LJ ~ I know why you try again, because I keep trying, too. I planted an oriental poppy plant last spring, so we'll see if it reappears this year. I at least want to see it bloom once! It's a peachy one. I hope we both get lucky this year!

Cameron ~ Thanks. You're right. There are so many plants out there that I shouldn't whine about those that I can't grow. I'll keep trying to grow them though!

Catherine ~ I got just one plant when I grew Bells of Ireland two years ago and it was pretty puny. We'll see what happens this year!

Knitting Painter Woman ~ That is so true! And yes, we can screw up. That's how we learn what doesn't work, right? ;-) Have fun with your seeds!

Kylee Baumle said...

Hi, Sapper! Here, the Cosmos sulphureus don't grow that tall, but the Cosmos bipinnatus sure does! Those can get taller than I am! They're all pretty easy growers and definitely will self-seed. Good thing we love them, right?

Donna at Suburban Sanctum said...

Bells of Ireland have been disappointing for me too. The first year I tried them only a few came up. However, they have reseeded every year since--though still straggly and sparse.

Cleomes have been an up-and-down plant for me. One year they come in nice and thick, the next there's only one plant. When they are in their full glory, though, they attract more attention than anything else in my garden! (Stinky smell notwithstanding...)

Rusty in Miami said...

I am learning, when at first you don’t succeed try again. It is very satisfying to grow a garden from seeds

Shady Gardener said...

Kylee, I've never tried Bells of Ireland, ever. They look so great, though. I'm sorry they didn't re-seed for you. Please try snapdragons again!! Usually I've had fairly good luck with their re-seeding. I have four milk jug seed starters outdoors! Hope something grows!!! :-)

Unknown said...

I too love to watch seeds develop, but since I am working this year, I am just going to sew directly to my garden. I have bought so many packet this year, that I have to make a list to keep track. I just love the idea of having more plants for less money. If you have any suggestions for direct sew in spring for good results, I'd love to have them. I will keep reading, I am enjoying your blog very much. -Brooke

Kerri said...

It's interesting to read of your failures. Yes, we all have them. I haven't tried meconopsis or bells of Ireland, and am now thinking it's probably not a good idea :) I've started snaps and had them self sow too, but they don't bloom well. I've decided it's better to buy the started plants.
Now JJ ups I can grow! Well, they just grow themselves actually. I pull scores of them out because they act just like weeds. Mind you, I hate doing it :) Want me to send you some? :)
I hope you're enjoying soaking up the Fl sunshine, and hear you're meeting up with Meems. Have fun!

Wayne Stratz said...

I can hear the sigh across my classroom when a seed packet is opened and those seeds of tiny tiny tiny specks are seen.

we fail at something, well some things every year.

saw seedlings of creeping thyme today!

enjoy the southern warmth

Anonymous said...

I was just reading and thinking - been there. Snapdragons I had to buy as plants, can't do Poppies, - can't do any seeds for that matter. But the other day the sun was shining, a bit of spring fever hit, I stopped by a nursery to see if they had any Sedums that I didn't and there off to the side were some seeds packets calling my name. How they even know my name is beyond me. So, like you, I will try again.
You have a great site!

Chris and his Petunia said...

Hello there! I hope you can help me out. It's a silly question really.

I'm not sure what a Petunia seed pod looks like and I have no idea what the seed looks like too.

Would you happen to have pictures? I've been trying to propagate my petunias to no avail.

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