Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thanks, Ann Arbor

Thanks to all who came out to Seva on Monday night for our fundraiser! We were thrilled with the showing of support from the community and enjoyed good food and the many people we talked to. We also want to extend a thank you to Seva for hosting the event and being patient with our auction items taking up their bar space as well as all the local area businesses and individuals who donated wonderful items for our silent auction.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sewing Schedules

from Melissa's Corner in the Spring 2007 Newsletter
by Melissa Kesterson
photo by Richard Thomas under Creative Commons License

This time of year, seasoned gardeners are busy planning how to get their crops or flowers in the ground at the optimal time. It’s easy for new gardeners to feel overwhelmed by the amount of available information about getting started—what to grow and when to plant!

Easy-to-read lists are always helpful, and I know I have certainly benefited from them over the years. A few examples from the book Just the Facts, published by Storey Books, may help you as you dream about your gardens this season.

Hardy Crops – plant when ground can be worked, 20-40 days before last frost
  • Broccoli: best started from transplants, seeds usually require 80-100 days to harvest
  • Brussels sprouts: best started from transplants, usually requires 100+ days from seed, pick off lower leaves after sprouts form
  • Cabbage: transplants are best, but, fall harvest cabbage is an option from seed
  • Kale: start from seed or transplant; will survive frost and snow
  • Kohlrabi: best results if seeds are planted directly in ground, and rapid growth is a must with this crop as slow growing plants are tough and the flesh is strong
  • Onion sets: onions prefer rich, fertile, reasonably well-drained soil, dry soil can cause onion bulbs to split forming two small bulbs instead of normal growth
  • Peas: sow early in spring, they don’t like hot weather
  • Radishes: plant with other seeds to mark rows—fast sprouting
  • Spinach: likes cool weather, goes to seed quickly in warm weather
  • Turnip: never cover turnip seeds with more than 1⁄4 inch of soil as they are very small and the tender young plants are easily killed when there is a thick layer of soil on top
Semi-Hardy Crops – plant 10-30 days before last frost
  • Beets: prefer a well drained soil but hot, dry weather can cause beet roots to become stringy and tough, beet greens removed during thinning can be cooked like other greens
  • Carrots: one ounce of carrot seeds will sow 100 feet, the seeds should be sown relatively thick, about a half-a-dozen seeds to the inch, darkest green foliage indicates the largest carrots
  • Cauliflower: start as transplants in spring, seed in early summer for fall crops
  • Lettuce: 3” spacing for leaf lettuce, 8” for head lettuce, cut don’t pull for second and third harvest
  • Swiss chard: can be grown in any good garden soil in which lettuce thrives, plants should be placed 12 inches apart and a 15-25 row is usually sufficient for a family of four and can supply greens from July through frost, cut and serve when plants are 8”-10” tall
Tender Vegetables - plant on the average last frost date
  • Snap Beans: from seed, pick young before individual beans are visible in the pod
  • Cantaloupe: plant 5-6 seeds per hill, later thin to best 3-4 plants
  • Sweet Corn: from seed; pick immediately before serving to prevent natural sugars from turning to starch
  • Cucumber: plant 5-6 seeds per hill later thinning to 3-4 best plants
  • Eggplant: transplants are a good idea
  • Peppers: transplants are a good idea, thrive in poor soil
  • Pumpkins: needs space to sprawl, grow as a barrier to keep raccoons out
  • Summer squash (including zucchini): for extra early crop start some indoors and transplant
  • Squash (winter): same as pumpkin
  • Tomato: transplant well after the danger of frost passes, late May in Michigan

Friday, March 7, 2008


Welcome to the Ann Arbor Project Grow blog! We plan to post gardening resources here---we've already included some from past newsletters---as well as events and announcements.

Here's one upcoming event to let you know about:

Eat Green for Grow, March 17th at Seva

Support Project Grow on St. Patrick's Day! Join us for an evening of friends, food and fund-raising. Eat a hearty meal, enjoy a glass of wine, and top off the evening with a delicious dessert. Seva Restaurant, serving fresh imaginative vegetarian food, will be donating 20% of the evenings sales to Project Grow. So come, join us at Seva, eat green for Project Grow. A silent auction will also be held from 5:00 to 8:00pm: items include artwork, gift certificates, and more.

To find out more, visit our events page.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tips for Starting Your Garden Right

From the Spring 2001 newsletter
photo by William Billium, used under Creative Commons license

Don’t plant everything on the same day. Cool season veggies like spinach, peas, and lettuce can be planted in May, but sun lovers like tomatoes and beans do better planted after Memorial Day (Southeast Michigan’s average last frost day fall on May 21).

Mulch is your friend. You might like weeding now, but in August it will be less fun. Apply a thick layer of hay, grass clippings etc. to your garden after the soil has warmed up to squash weeds before they get started. If you have questions about mulch, please contact the office at 996-3169

If you’ve grown your own seedlings, remember to “harden them off” before planting them out in the garden. Get your plants used to the great outdoors by gently introducing them to outside conditions—start with a few hours in the shade and gradually increase the amount of time and sunlight that the plants receive.

Transplant seedlings on a cool or cloudy day to reduce shock. Remember to water well after transplanting.

Spring Flowering Bulbs

the Fall 1997 newsletter
photo by Powi under Creative Commons license

Autumn is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs, those wonderful harbingers of the return of the warm weather. Bulbs are easy to grow, and with a little preparation and thought are a great addition to the garden. Before elaborating on the planting of bulbs, let’s take a moment to clear up a few misconceptions.

Many people use the term bulb to connote any plant that grows from bulbous underground material. Botanically speaking, some of those plants are tubers, corms, and rhizomes. A bulb is a miniature plant surrounded by scales containing needed nourishment. Examples of bulbs include tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths.

A corm is a solid mass of storage tissue with several growing tips on top. Roots grow out from the edge of a flat, plate-like bottom. Crocus and gladiolus start their lives as corm.

A tuber, like a corm, is a solid mass of storage tissue; however it lacks the plate-like bottom. Both roots and shoots sprout from the growing points called eyes. Potatoes and dahlias are tubers.

A rhizome is a thickened underground stem. Also a storage tissue type with eyes, roots grow from the lower surface, while leaves and flower stalks emerge from the upper side. Irises and cannas are examples of rhizomes.

With that explanation out of the way, let’s return to bulbs. Spring flowering bulbs are planted from September to November. They need about two months of low temperatures for their roots to grow and for proper bud development.

Bulbs are not very demanding, but do require good drainage. As in all gardening, it is a good idea to spend the time preparing the soil prior to planting. Deep digging and additions of copious quantities of organic matter will make for happy bulbs. Bulbs also require adequate amounts of phosphorous and potash for flower and future bulb development, so test your soil and add appropriate organic amendments.

Now that the bed is prepared we come to the hard part – which side goes up. The upper part is usually more pointed than the lower, and small roots are visible at the bottom part. An old rule of thumb says to plant bulbs at a depth of 3 times the height of the bulb. Crocuses are usually planted at a depth of 3” and 3” apart; tulips are planted at 4 to 6” depth and the same distance apart.

Place bulbs at the appropriate depth, nose end up and cover with topsoil. Gently tamp soil to assure good bulb-soil contact. Lay a thick mulch over the bed after the ground is frozen to prevent heaving.


from the July 1997 newsletter

Mexican Bean Beetles (Epilachna varivestis)

Identification: These beetles resemble lady-bugs but tend to be a bit larger, are copper in color, and have 16 dots on their backs. Look for yellow egg clusters under bean leaves and yellow-orange larvae.
Damage: Both beetle and larvae voraciously devour bean leaves and will nibble on beans as well. They can obliterate a bean crop.
Prevention: Interplant potatoes, garlic, cloves, turnips, marigolds, and radishes. If you have a bean beetle problem, avoid its reoccurance next year by removing all dead bean plant material from the garden at the end of the season. DO NOT compost this material.
Control: It’s always best to keep an eye on your plants and catch pests and diseases early. Hand pick beetles and larvae and crush them or put them in kerosene. Look under leaves for eggs and crush them as well. You can also use floating row covers and beneficial nematodes.
Other possibilities: garlic, onion, and pepper juice spray will slow feeding. Lime and soap spray will irritate the beetles; rotenone (organic but very toxic) will kill them. We do not recommend rotenone until all else has failed- use it sparingly and with caution.

Flea Beetles (Phyllotreta striolata)

Identification: These beetles are small (1/4 inch or less), glossy, dark, and they jump. You may notice tiny holes in your plant leaves before you notice the beetles.
Damage: Flea beetles munch on cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, potato, turnip, and most other garden crops. They eat tiny holes in young leaves and can cause severe damage to young plants. Larvae eat seeds and roots.
Prevention & Control: Weed and cultivate frequently and remove crop remnants from area. Interplant mint (but for other gardeners’ sake don’t let them spread). Plant susceptible crops near shade giving crops as flea beetles are sometimes deterred by shade. The use of floating row covers is also quite effective. If the problem is acute: Use garlic, onion and pepper spray to repel beetles. Dust wet plants and wet ground around them with lime, lime spray or soap (like Dr. Bronners liquid peppermint diluted with water) with lime as a spray.

Caring for Amaryllis Bulbs

by Ralph Powell
from the Winter 1999 newsletter

After flowering in the spring the plants are allowed to continue growing with as much sunlight as possible either in pots or in the garden. Potted plants and extra bulbs can be planted in the garden when frost danger has passed. The bulbs should be covered with any foliage above ground.

In late summer or early fall when the leaves begin to yellow and frost becomes likely it is time to allow them to become dormant. Stop watering the plants in the pots. You can cut back the foliage, removing the dead leaves, and store them in a cool, dry place. Those in the garden can be dug up. Remove any side bulbs and allow them to dry out later, removing dead leaves and shriveled roots. Store in a cool, dry place until you are ready to repot them. Bulbs can be repotted in containers with good drainage, preferably using a rich, porous potting mixture. Bulbs not potted can be planted outside later.

In potting, at least one third of the bulb should be above the soil level in pots one to two inches larger than the bulb. New growth can be stimulated by “light” watering and a warmer environment. Do not overwater. Watering can be increased when the new flower stalk is growing vigorously.

After blooming the leaves should be encouraged to grow with plenty of sunlight. They and smaller bulbs saved from the previous year can be planted in the garden after frost damage is unlikely. You may want to fertilize the plants depending on the soil.


by Bronwen Gates
Winter 1999 Newsletter

There was a yard I passed every day on my way to school where Calendula grew in profusion, even peeping out from under the gate and growing from cracks in the driveway. The name Calendula, is used both as a common name and as the Latin name. Calendula officinalis is supposedly derived from the fact that it is to be found in bloom on the calends or first day of each month, and it was true that even in the midst of winter there were usually one or two blooms to cheer my heart and warm my journey to or from school. Dried Calendula flowers were sold extensively in seventeenth century Europe to “comfort the heart and spirits,” and Calendula also has a reputation for strengthening the heart and circulatory system at a physical level. Formerly used mainly in broths and soups, Calendula flowers may be used raw in salads or dried in herb teas with other flowers, such as linden and red clover, as a mild tonic for the circulatory system.

But it is the external uses of the pot marigold, Calendula, on which I want to focus in this article. Calendula is one of the best bath herbs because of its mucilaginous qualities and its skin healing powers. You can make an infusion of dried Calendula blossoms (about a handful in a quart or so of boiling wwater), add the orange liquid to your tub, and imagine you’re bathing in liquid sunshine or Mary’s Gold (another of its common names). Calendula is particularly wonderful for the care of the delicate skin of babies; you can add a few drops of Calendula oil or tincture if you don’t have time or opportunity to make an infusion.

Calendula also prevents infection and is one of the first aid herbs I would not be without. Its action is not antibacterial per se, but provides an environment which is inhospitable to bacteria. It can be applied as a salve or in liquid form, either as an infusion or using the diluted tincture. It’s important to dilute the tincture before applying it to a wound, else the alcohol in the tincture will sting horribly. My favorite way of using Calendula for the scrapes and cuts of my children is to put a few drops of the tincture in the bath tub and let them soak in this. Even dirty scrapes heal quickly and without infection with this treatment. Calendula in the bath is also wonderfully soothing and healing for women after childbirth, and it’s good for newborn babies too. It is also very effective in the treatment of burns, reducing the pain and promoting rapid healing with reduced or no scarring. The British physician, Dorothy Shepard, used Calendula extensively in the emergency room and cites its use in cases of severe bleeding; she claimed that a few drops of undiluted tincture stopped the gushing of arterial bleeding instantaneously. I’ve thankfully never had to test this.

You can buy dried Calendula flowers and also high quality tincture and oil at Whole Foods, but it also one of the easiest plants to grow. Scatter its seeds among your veggies, and you will be rewarded with its cheerful profusion, and if you don’t harvest them all, they will seed themselves happily in your yard for ever after. The orange contrasts nicely with the kale and the lettuce too!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Long-Lived Perennials

By Kirk Jones
Community Gardener, Spring 2001

When I first started growing perennials, I thought of them as a sort of garden aristocrat, somehow more solid, important and serious than regular old zinnias and petunias. I was not very knowledgeable at the time and foolishly thought that a perennial, by definition, reappeared season after season, essentially forever. It didn’t take long for me to realize how mistaken I was. The dictionary has several definitions for perennial, and I can see now that in those early days I only knew about the first: “Lasting through the year or many years”, or maybe the second “Lasting an indefinitely long time.” Unfortunately, it is the third, botanical definition that contains the sad reality – “Having a life span of more than two years.”

Perhaps because of my earlier romantic notions about perennials, I am always a little angry and offended when a perennial dies after just a couple years. I mean, they’re supposed to be perennial, right? In my garden, the worst offenders are delphiniums, columbines, and baby’s breath. I have had considerable success with all three, but generally the second season is best. They may stick it out for a third summer, but a fourth year is almost unheard of. If one does survive that long it is often in such a weakened state that I usually just put it out of its misery and start over with a new plant.

It is a further garden irony that many true annuals like poppies, cosmos, and larkspur are such reliable self-sowers that they are essentially perennial. I have had larkspurs and several kinds of poppies and cosmos reappearing at my Country Farm garden now for nearly ten years. If anything, they reappear altogether too reliably, usually in between strawberry plants or irises or any kind of little delicate thing I’m trying to grow. However, as indestructible as they are, I guess I agree with Sarah when she says that field poppies, with their flashy beauty and proflific ways are “the floozies of the garden.” Somehow, annuals like these are just a little cheap, a little common.

Given my frustration with perennials that die out after a couple of years and my mild disdain for annuals that are all too willing to reappear (everywhere) year after year, it’s no surprise that I’m especially attracted to long-lived perennials. These are plants that really do behave like those ideal perennials I imagined when I first started gardening. The clump up steadily, don’t require division, and reappear faithfully year after year after year, no matter how cold the winter or how hot the summer. There are actually quite a number of these long-lived, no fuss perennials, but there are only two I know of, peonies and gas plants, that can settle in and be left undisturbed for decades.

The most well-known, long-lived perennial is the peony ( Paeonae spp). Peony flowers can be single, semi-double or double and come in white, pink, red, and all shades in between. An individual plant will only be in bloom around one week, but by planting early, midseason and late varieties, peony season can begin in May and last for several weeks. Even without the flowers, though, peony foliage remains attractive throughout the season, from the time the burgundy red shoots first appear in spring until the leaves finally yellow in autumn.

I must say at the outset that I am no expert on peonies, but I’ve grown them long enough to have developed some opinions. In particular, I favor older varieties. One advantage of older varieties is price. There are hundreds of peony varieties available, and like most plants, the newer hybrids cost more. However, unlike daylilies and irises, where new varities often possess a wider range of color, higher bud count, or longer bloom season, most peonies are still white, pink, or red and remain in bloom for about a week. To my not very discerning eye, there is little difference between fifty or even hundred year old varieties available from Gilbert Wild & Sons for $7-10, and newer cultivars available from specialty growers like Klehm for five or ten times that price. In addition to price, though, to me there is something romantic about growing varieties that could have been planted by my grandparents or great grandparents. I especially like to imagine that if my grand parents did plant a couple peonies, back before the first World War when they got married, those same plants might still be there. Properly planted and carefully sited, a peony can easily outlive the person who plants it.

Planting Peonies
Peonies are best planted in the fall. If you mail order the plants (see sources), they will arrive as dormant roots in October. Peonies prefer full sun and resent root competition from trees and bushes. As I learned the hard way, they also don’t like being moved, so choose the site carefully. Peonies get large so you need to allow about a three foot diameter per plant. Again, the plant is going to be there a long time, so prepare a big hole, a couple feet across and eighteen inches deep, and enrich it with added compost, well-aged manure, and bone meal. Correct planting depth is critical. The dormant peony root will have little pink nodules or eyes that are the buds for next year’s shoots. These need to be covered with 1 ½ to 2 inches of soil, no more. This should be measured, not estimated, because peonies planted too deep with not bloom.

Peony Care
While the planting instructions my seem kind of fussy, once established, peonies will return year after year with essentially no help at all other than keeping the weeds at bay. If you want to grow the double varieties, peonies do require staking or the flowers will be head first in the mud after the first rain storm. There are special wire hoops made for peonies, or you can just hammer a few sturdy stakes in around the plant and hold it up with twine. The peony foliage will grow through the twine and mostly disguise the stakes. In the fall, the dead stems should be cut down slightly below ground level, taking care not to disturb the eyes.

Moving Peonies – A Cautionary Tale
I had read that peonies resent being moved, but I had hear this about other plants, moved them anyway and gotten away with it. So, when I decided that my five-year-old clump of “Sarah Bernhardt” was in the wrong place, I figured if I took a really big dirt ball, and did it really early in the spring before the plant had even sprouted, old Sarah would never know any better. When the peony sprouted on schedule in the spring and bloomed normally, I preened a bit and thought, “all those garden writers just don’t know how to do it.” However, the following year, the peony didn’t bloom and only grew to half size, and it did the same thing the next year, and the year after htat. I’ve now sold the house so I don’t know if it will recover this year – or ever. So, take it from me, this is one case where those garden writers who say that peonies moved improperly may, “sulk for years,” are telling the truth. The right way to move peonies is to lift the clump in the fall after the foliage has died back. Shake the soil from the clump and then divide the plant into divisions with between 3-5 eyes. Each division then should be planted separately as a new plant.

Gas Plant
Gas plant (Dictamnus) is not nearly as well-known or varied in form and color as the peony. They produce pink or white spikes of flowers in early June. Gas plants have thick, leathery leaves that smell like citrus when rubbed. Dictamnus gets the name gas plant because the flowers exude a volotile oil which will ignite if a match is held near the bloom. I can’t imagine how anyone initially discovered this, and it has never worked for me, but reliable garden writers say it is true, so I will probably keep trying. Gas plants clump up very slowly, and like a peony, are said to survive decades. They have big, fleshy tap roots and, like peonies, are also said to resent being moved. I did successfully move a gas plant, which is part of what made me think I could move that Sarah Bernhardt peony, but don’t blame me if you try it and it doesn’t work.

Dictamnus plants are kind of hard to find. If you are lucky and patient with starting seeds, you can try it, but books say it can take up to a year for the seed to germinate. I know I would never manage to look after a pot holding ungerminated seed for a year, so I’ve never even attempted it. After hunting around for several years, I finally found a tiny and expensive 3-inch plant with about 5 leaves at the Matthaei sale about 7 years ago. The next year it had 7 leaves and was 5 inches tall, and the year after that it maybe had fifteen leaves. At that point I decided it must be in too much shade and moved it to a sunnier spot. Two summers later it finally flowered. Dictamnus are not always so hard to get going however. A couple of years ago Flower Scent Gardens was offering gas plants, and I ordered another one which bloomed the year after I got it.

Start this Year
Ed Resmussen, the owner of The Fragrant Path, has a great line in his catalogue – “One cultural detail is certain – if not planted, they will not grow.” Rasmussen is referring to starting trees and shrubs from seed, but the same can be said for peonies and gas plants. It is sometimes hard to think that it may take a few years to grow a peony or gas plant to maturity when annuals and other perennials offer more immediate gratification. But, try to set aside a spot or two for these slow-starting but long-lived perennials. Like an old friend, they will stay with you forever, and you only come to value them more with each passing year.

Plant Sources
I have always bought peonies by mail order. You can also get them in pots at nurseries and the Farmer’s Market, but after my experience moving a mature plant, I will always want to start with a 3 to 5 eye root planted in the fall. Gilbert Wild & Sons (1-888-553-3715) or Reath’s (906-563-9777).

A couple years ago, Glenn Varner at Flower Scent Gardens (330) 658-5946 was selling gas plants. After moving I don’t have the catalog this year, but send for it anyway, it’s a great catalog. This year I also see that June’s catalog is selling gas plants.

Annuals for Cutting

by Kirk Jones
Community Gardener, Winter 1999

When I first started gardening with Project Grow, I grew mostly vegetables. Then after a couple of years I started to throw in a few flowers. Some, like sunflowers, I grew for fun, and others, like cosmos, I grew for cutting. As years went by, I became more and more interested in flowers, and I gradually ended up devoting most of the garden to flowers, with only a little room left over for a few tomato plants, herbs, and snow peas.

It is a lot easier to grow flowers for cutting than it is to grow them in a border by the house. When growing flowers in a border, you need to plan which flowers look good together, relative heights, and consider how the plant looks when it is not in flower.

I can endlessly fuss about these problems in my borders at home and so it is a relief to be able to forget about all this stuff when choosing and planting flowers for cutting at Country Farm. After all, with cut flowers the only thing that matters is how it looks when arranged in a vase. Within reason, I can adjust height with shears. If the colors clash, I can just pull out the offender and put it in a different vase with better companions.

There are plenty of great perennials for cutting, but since many Project Grow gardens are tilled each season, I’m going to focus on annual flowers. A true annual plant grows, flowers, sets seed and dies all in one year. Some plants that are sold as annuals are actually perennials, but for the purposes of this article, an annual is anything you can bring into bloom the same year you start it.

Annuals can be classified by their cold hardiness. The very first frost tolerant ones are called hardy annuals. Many of these will actually sprout in late fall, live through the winter as tiny plants an inch or two high, and then grow into robust plants with the first warm weather. Half-hardy annuals can tolerate light frosts. Tender annuals cannot tolerate cold at all, and the slightest frost will kill them.

How and When to Start
Most annuals can be seeded directly into the ground, but I almost never do that for several reasons. First, the weeds always come up first, and by the time I distinguish my seedlings from the weeds, they are growing in a turf-like mesh of weedlings. Second, if the seeds don’t go in until May or June, I may not have anything in bloom until August or later, whereas if I start things inside I start getting flowers as early as mid-June. Lastly, it allows me to start “gardening” under lights while it is still winter outside. Except where noted below, I usually start the hardy and half-hardy annuals 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. In southeast Michigan, that is March 25th to April 8th.

Once an annual sets seed, its will is finished, so it is very important to either cut the flowers for the house, or remove the spent flowers before they go to seed. Treated this way, many annuals will keep producing flowers until killed by frost.

Over the last six years, I have tried quite a few different annuals for cutting, with results ranging from complete disaster to smashing success. The following are some of the plants I’ve like the best.

Bachelor Button (Centaurea cyanus)
I dote on blue flowers, so I always grow the blue ones, but Centaurea also come in garnet, pink, and white blends. I’ve read that if you remove the side buds you can get huge, long-stemmed flowers, but I never remember to do that. Centaurea frequently self-seeds.

Fragrant Pinks (Dianthus suerbus)
Most dianthus make great cut flowers because they last a long time in a vase and are fragrant. There are lots of pinks to choose from, but my favorite is a strain called “Rainbow Loveliness.” The petals are deeply fringed and look almost like clusters of feathers. They are extremely fragrant. The books say they smell of jasmine, but I always say they smell clean and fresh, like fabric softener. These plants are actually perennial and can be started as much as 10 weeks before last frost.

Cosmos (Cosmos)
I’ve tried tow kinds of cosmos. The first, C. bipinnatus, is the cosmos most commonly grown. It comes in shades of red, pink, and white. I have had the best luck direct seeding these plants. The second variety I like is Klondike Cosmos, C. sulphureus. I grow the Sunset strain, which is about 3 feet tall and bright yellow orange. I love these in combination with blue and purple flowers.

Panicle larkspur (Consolidia regalis)
Panicle larkspur has thing, almost invisible, leaves and loose, open sprays of flowers. The effect is like a blue baby’s breath. These do not transplant well, so direct seed or start early and expect losses. Once you get them, however, you have them forever because this plant reliably self seeds.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula are double or single daisies that come in shades ranging from cream, yellow, and orange. Calendula prefer cool weather, and if you keep them picked, they will often produce flowers until late in the fall.

Candytuft (Iberis amara)
This is another plant that has reliably self-seeded in my Project Grow plot ever since I first planted it. It produces white hyacinth-like umbrellas of flowers. The stems are short, but it blooms early and lasts a long time after cutting.

Phlox (Phlox drummondi)
Half Hardy
I never had heard of annual phlox until one fall when I picked up a sale packet of seed for a nickel. This has turned out to be one of my favorite cut flowers. The flowers are a smaller version of perennial phlox and come in shades of red, pink, salmon, white, and some bicolors. They will need support if you want long stems.

Scabiosa (Scabiosa atropurpurea)
The common name for scabiosa is pincushion flower. Each flower is a two-inch wide mound of tiny florets. While still in bud the blooms look like a tiny beaded button. These plants usually need to be staked. They don’t spread much, and the stems are very long and thin so the plants can be spaced closely.

Sunflowers (Helianthus annus)
While the big sunflowers grown for seeds don’t look too great in a vase, there are several good strains bred especially for cutting. I really like a smaller pale cream one with a black center called an Italian White.

Sweet Pea (Lathryus odoratus)
Sweet peas are supposed to be easy, but I have had mixed success with them. Nevertheless, they smell so wonderful I will always keep growing them. They don’t like hot weather, and in hot summers they can burn out quickly and stop blooming. In cool summers, they will bloom all summer if you keep them picked. Sweet peas must be picked or deadhead to prolong bloom.

Sweet peas are very cold tolerant, and you can plant them out as early as you would garden peas. The year I did this, they took a long time to germinate and had not put on much growth before hot weather hit. I have had better luck starting them in peat pots early inside. No matter how you plant them, sweet peas will germinate much faster if you score the seeds with a file and soak them overnight. They should swell up after this treatment. I’ve read that the ones that don’t swell won’t germinate but I can’t validate that from experience.

I have had the best luck growing an old strain called Cupani, a blue-violet bicolor with very strong scent.

If you don’t usually grow flowers, I hope you try a few of these this year, plus any others that sound interesting. Half the fun of catalog browsing in the winter is considering new plants. Every year I try one or two new things. This year I will be growing Clarkia and Venidium for the first time.