Tag Archives | Seeds

Seed Tips and Succesful Seeds

Sowing the Seeds of Success

All good gardeners know that seeds are on your side they want to grow and thrive. Apart for some weedy exceptions that I will save until the end of this article seeds can be coaxed into blooming excess with only a little know how.

Help From the Seeds.

Every seed tells a story and you can learn to read that story by considering the parent plant and the seed itself. To set seed most plants need to be pollinated male to female and many plants are self-fertile. Having taken a deal of trouble to attract pollinators or pollination most plants package up the seeds and plan how to distribute them.

Berries and fruit have a soft or pithy outer case to help. Birds ingest elderberries and deposit the seed where they will.

Poppies have a pepperpot shaker type seed head that allows some ripe seed to be sprinkled each day over several days or weeks.

Aquilegia seed pods contort and twist to ping out seeds in a squirting motion so they travel a distance.

Dandelion seeds have feathery tufts to allow the wind to blow them where you don’t want them (but I said I would save these comments to the end)

So from these examples you can see seed pods protect and help distribution of the seed.

Seed Size and Features

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Dahlia In Containers

garden 035

Dahlias are not the first flower you think about when looking for container plants. The large flowers from tuberous roots are very thirsty, very hungry and can grow 4-6 feet tall. So I would leave the dinner plate varieties alone unless you have an enormous pot or barrel.

Annual Dahlias may be the answer and there are many colourful mixes available to grow from seed. Mostly they are single flowered annuals and are less fussy than the larger varieties.

  • Bambino mix grow to 12-18″ tall miniature semi-double flowers that are recommended for bedding, pots and containers. Sow in February or March.
  • I like the idea of Bishops Children which are seeds to grow as offspring from the Bishop of llandaff and various cathedral cities which have red-purple dark leaves and red to orange flowers. They are mid sized dahlias from seed and you may grow a great flower.
  • Double Extreme is an attractive dwarf selection, producing a mass of high quality double and semi double flowers in an rich colour mixture.

If you want to try larger flowered varieties, preferrably in their own space with lots of compost and mulch the Thompson Morgan have a selection.

Enjoy growing Dahlias and let us know how you get on with containers. Read about Cactus flowering Dahlias.

Dark leaved Bishop’s children Dahlias are looking very good as Autumn comes to an end. Children will be surprised the leaves are not green and the flowers remain so colourful read more
See a mosaic of Pink Dahlias with top ten pointers


Primula & Polyanthus Seed Sowing Secrets


There should be no great secrets to sowing seeds of one of our favourite genus the Primula. However with in excess of 600 species and 30 different groups or sections you need to be on top of your seed sowing game.

Primula allionii

Secrets of Timing when Sowing Primula

  • Nature sows seeds soon after flowering. If it is good for mother nature it likely to be good for gardeners.
  • On the other hand most seed can remain viable for several years. Keep the seed in packets in a screw-topped jar and store in the cool & dark preferably in a fridge
  • If you sow before the end of May the plants have time to develop before winter.
  • Sowings can be made up to the end of July as long as you keep the seed compost cool and moist.
  • The later you leave it the more difficult it is for small plants unestablished Primulas through a winter season.
  • Primula seeds germinate best when they are fresh and ripe.
  • Alpine Species generally benefit from natural freezing and thawing to get them germinating so it’s important to sow as early as possible.

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Seed Suppliers and Specialties

Membership of a garden society can be a good source of good value seeds.
Not all seed companies are the same and many have distinctive specialties.
The big well known brands generally have a full range of annuals, perennials and odd selections. Most now offer higher value items including plugs and kinder or pot plants.

Many brands are now owned by the same company and the niche suppliers often offer more seed or better products in a narrower focused  range.

Choice Seed Companies

  • Thompson & Morgan wildflowers and  thousands of varieties of seeds with useful germination  guide available online.
  • Boston Seeds – Online seed shop offers grass seed mixtures for lawns, paddocks, sport, plus agricultural seed and wildflower seed. Volume orders
  • The Chilli Company – Sells a variety of hot chilli seeds including ‘Brain strain’ and collections to take advantage of a current trend for growing Hot Chillies
  • Chiltern seed  new web site but the old catalogue has flowery descriptions and an excellent range – no photos but great mail order catalogues
  • D. T. Brown and Co. Ltd. – Offers a range of flower and vegetable seeds, including organics. Order catalogue online.
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Growing Red Hot Pokers (Kniphofia)


Gardens look better for some variety in the height in the planting. I try to grow a variety of perennials including Red Hot Pokers to give some tall plants chance to shine. As part of the lily family these Kniphofia are sometimes called Torch Lily.

Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) have flowered well this year and they throw up their well known spire of blossom in shades from deep red, orange, yellow and white even to a new greenish form (Kniphofia Green Jade).

Red Hot Poker

Growing Red Hot Pokers

  • Red Hot Pokers have long sword like narrow leaves and the flowers can last in a vase for up to two weeks.
  • The Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker or Torch Lily) needs abundant moisture during its growing period so good draining  soil rich in organic matter, is ideal.
  • Red Hot Pokers need full sun to flower upto 4 feet tall in mid summer. Prune the spikes  after blooming.
  • To propagate remove young plants from the edge of a clump  in spring or they can be grown from mixed seeds from Thompson & Morgan.
  • Provide adequate spacing to encourage clumping up as they may spread up to three feet.
  • Although Red Hot Pokers are drought tolerant they will do better if they are given plenty of water during hot weather.

Growing White Hot Pokers

  • Kniphofia known as Red Hot Pokers come in a range of colours and I like the cream or white.
  • This variety K. citrina is a stately lemon coloured spire of flower about 3 foot tall. They are good clump forming perennials with narrow strappy evergreen leaves.
  •  For other yellow flowers try Candelight, Little Maid (AGM) or Atlanta.
  • The sword like, strappy leaves, clump together well.
  • The plants look good when massed together in clumps.
  • Pokers are generally hardy herbaceous perennials -try Kniphofia Citrina a 3 foot lemon colour or giant 6 foot Royal Castle.
  • If space is limited Kniphofia hirsuta is 18 inches high and forms dense, tidy clumps. The flowers are good for cutting.
  • If the leaves are untidy in Autumn cut them down to half their height.
  • Kniphofia combine well with many shrubs, grasses and Yuccas. They like well drained soil in a sunny position.
  • White Hot Pokers can also look good in a Mediterranean gravel or paved area.

AGM varieties to grow

  • Kniphofia ‘Brimstone’ Slender spikes of golden-yellow from green buds.
  • Kniphofia caulescens Coral-red, fading pale-yellow.
  • Kniphofia galpinii Dainty spikes of very intense, rich orange
  • Kniphofia ‘Royal Standard’ Deciduous. Bright yellow, scarlet in bud
  • Kniphofia ‘Toffee Nosed’ Creamy-white tipped toffee-brown.
  • Kniphofia ‘Bee’s Sunset’ Deciduous. Soft yellowish-orange
  • Kniphofia triangularis Free flowering. Reddish-orange

Other Resources

Royal Horticultural Society RHS ‘Gardening for All’
National Council for Conservation of Plants and Gardens ‘Conservation through Cultivation.’
Garden Organic National Charity for Organic Gardening.
BBC Gardening

Red hot poker


My Seed Purchase for Cloud Pruning

I have just updated my 50 Top Seed Companies published in 2010.

A new entrant in my list, RP Seeds, offered Ilex crenata that I want to try for small topiary projects. As usual I am not content with buying just one packet of seeds so I ordered the following.

Expensive topiary ...


Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly)

Evergreen small tree / shrub, native to Japan, China and Korea with very small, dark green, glossy leaves and white flowers and black fruits on mature trees.  Famous for its use as Topiary Cloud Trees and widely seen in Japanese gardens.  Makes a good alternative to box for topiary and an excellent species for Bonsai.  Note: Patience needed as seeds can take many months to germinate.

  • Hardy Tree
  • Height: 3-5m
  • Position: Sun or semi-shade

Packet of 10 seeds

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree)

Fantastic tree for any garden which is one of the world’s oldest species dating back 180 million years to prehistoric times.  Has very ornate, fan shaped, lime green leaves which turn clear yellow in autumn.  Grows rapidly from seed, is very hardy and extremely tolerant of pollution. A favourite for Bonsai.

  • Hardy Tree
  • Height: to 25m but can be pruned to any size
  • Position: Semi-shade

Standard packet  –  5 seeds

Zelkova serrata (Japanese Grey Bark Elm)

Fantastic tree for autumn colour with sharply-toothed, finely-pointed foliage turning many shades of yellow and orange in autumn. A Bonsai classic (see photo), remarkable for how well it mimics its full grown shape in miniature. Easy to grow from seed and fully hardy when mature. Will need frost protection for the first couple of winters.
Winner of the RHS Award of Garden Merit

  • Hardy Tree
  • Height: 5m if not pruned
  • Position: Sun

Standard packet  –  20 seeds

Koelreuteria paniculata (Golden Rain Tree)

Unusual and interesting tree with pinnate foliage which emerges green in spring and turns bright yellow in autumn.  Bears lovely panicles of yellow flowers in summer followed by strange, yet attractive lantern-like, inflated, bronze-pink fruits.  Easy to grow from seed.

Winner of the Award of Garden Merit.

  • Hardy Tree (to -5C) Protect when young and in extreme winters until mature
  • Height: up to 10m
  • Position: Sun and well drained soil

Standard packet  –  25 seeds

Lupinus cruikshankii Sunrise (Lupin)

Striking annual Lupin with blue-green foliage and rising tiers of azure-blue, white and gold flowers.  Very different to the usual Lupin and excellent for cutting.  Easy to grow and can be direct sown outdoors.

  • Hardy annual
  • Height: 90-100cm
  • Flowers: Summer
  • Position: Sun or semi shade

The lupins I ordered to make up the cost to £10 to avoid paying any postage.

I am still waiting for my biennial and hardy perennial seeds to arrive from Wallis seeds who seem a bit slower than usual after I ordered on the internet for the first time.

Acknowledgments Photo Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) by wallygrom

    Expensive topiary …

    An Ilex crenata topiary creation – costing £3999 … imagine forgetting to water it one day … This was at Wisley Gardens, in the garden center.

    Ilex crenata is also known as Japanese Holly. It is a small-leaved evergreen Holly of slow growth, eventually reaching 4-6 metres. It is ideal for topiary, or as a tightly clipped low hedge. The fruits are small, shiny black berries. There are a number of cultivars from this species.

    Native to Japan, Korea, and the Sakhalin Islands. Introduced to the UK in about 1864.’

I need a deal of patience and a lot of gardeners luck to succeed with theses trees but I am an eternal optimist when it comes to gardening.


Wild Flower Bed with Companion Plants


An effective way to use wild flowers  is to mix in some trusted garden plants. Using some  trusted garden stand-bys will provide extra colour and structure to a wild area.

Plants to Support Wild Flower Beds

  • After the Aconites, Snowdrops and Marsh Marigolds the first blooms may be from Primroses or Day Lilies followed by Dianthus to give a mix of vibrant colour.
  • Evening Primrose has yellow bell shaped flowers. Oenothera tetragona flowers in spring on reddish green stems, Oenothera missouriensis  later in the year
  • Campanula the blue white or sometimes pink Bellflower can also look good.
  • Foxgloves give height and structure and you could add some Delphiniums.
  • For some white flowers choose Sneezewort ‘Acillea ptarmica’, Candytuft , Ox-eye daisy or Anthemis punctata
  • Heliopsis, Rudbeckia and Achillea are good looking yellows.
  • Cranesbill geraniums and Columbines can also complement wild flowers.

Wild Flowers

  • You can buy seed mixtures aimed at different locations such as Cornfield mix and others from Thompson & Morgan
  • Many individual plants appeal as wild flowers particularly the daisy and buttercups. Still more wild flowers are scented.
  • The red Poppy is potentially one of the most popular varieties and I would opt for Papaver rhoeas.
  • Wild Orchids are harder to grow but if you have the patience they can be rewarding
  • See also Wild Seed Suppliers
  • Do not forget the humble Dandelion in various leaf forms.

Tips on Wild Seed Sowing

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Growing Helianthemum Rock Roses

Rock Rose

This alpine species are hardy, colourful and trouble-free. Growing in rock crevices or alpine meadows Helianthemum have been given a common name of Rock Rose but they will grow in many garden situations.

They are part of the Cistacea family which contains over 100 species see Growing Cistus.


  • Plants from seeds can produce some very interesting forms due to cross pollination but germination rates tend to be low .
  • The majority of Helianthemum’s are propagated from cuttings as this is the quickest, easiest and method.
  • In summer take your 2-3″ cutting from young growth just below a leaf for optimum rooting.
  • Cuttings may take 6 months before being ready to pot on or plant out


  • Prune straight after flowering to keep in shape and possibly get a second flush of flowers.
  • Helianthemum normal growing conditions are on chalk land so add a small amount of lime to the soil mixture.
  • Water young potted plants regularly in dry weather for optimal growth.
  • Rock roses are neat little plants with upright foliage and are easy to grow on banks, rockeries, the edge of borders and containers.

Selection from 200 Cultivars of Helianthemum nummularium


Growing Yellow Iceland Poppies from Seed


The Iceland Poppy ‘Papaver nudicaule’ is  also known as the Arctic Poppy. They produce single petaled flowers with strong clear colouring. Despite the names they like normal climates but can dry up in a very hot sun.

Description of Papaver nudicaule

  • Iceland poppies are hardy, short-lived perennials generally grown as biennials.
  • The papery, bowl-shaped, lightly fragrant flowers are supported by hairy, stems among feathery blue-green foliage.
  • Iceland poppies grow about 12″ tall and produce a series of 3″ wide flowers from early summer.
  • The wild species bloom in white or yellow but a colour range is available.
  • All parts of this poppy are likely to be poisonous.


Tips for Growing Papaver nudicaule

  • Iceland poppies create exceedingly minute seeds and long taproots that resent disturbance.
  • Sow seeds outdoors in autumn or early spring in a reasonably well-drained soil.
  • The strongest plants are autumn-sown.
  • Iceland poppies can live 2-3 seasons and self sow prolifically.
  • Iceland poppies last several days in the vase if they are cut just before the buds open and the stem-ends are seared.

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