For An Extraordinary 2020 Garden –
7 Flowers That Must Be
Planted In August 2019
Spring is definitely not the only season for planting flowers, vegetables and herbs. The months of August – November present numerous opportunities for planting flowers, vegetables and herbs, FROM SEED, that will mature throughout the fall or during
the spring and summer of the following year. In fact, I have consistently found that
mid-season and fall planting is easier, with higher rewards than spring planting.
In this newsletter we will discuss seven flowers that can and should be planted from seed in August or the months from September to November.
Hollyhock Indian Spring
Hollyhocks are a very, very old cultivated flower which probably originated in Turkey or parts of Asia and was introduced into Great Britain in 1573. The name is a curiosity because some believe it is derived from the term ‘holly hock’ because the leaves were used to soothe swollen horses heels. Others believe that the name derives from ‘holy hoc’. ‘Hoc’ is the saxon word for mallow, a term for hollyhock, and the plant may have been brought back to Europe bythe Crusaders who used the plant to treat tuberculosis and bladder problems.
In 1873, a rust disease, which had spread from South America to Australia and then to Europe, began to attack hollyhocks. The effects of the disease were so devastating that the cultivation of hollyhocks was all but abandoned by theend of the 19th century.
By the 1930’s, Hollyhocks were beginning to make a comeback. In 1939,Hollyhock Indian Spring was introduced and it remains the most popular single and semi-double mix of white and pink blooming hollyhocks available.
Hollyhocks, for many of us, are very difficult to grow from seed. The easiest way is to plant the seeds in mid-summer. Sprinkle them in an area and cover with less than 1/2 inch of soil. Then moisten the soil. The seeds will germinate and begin to grow during the late summer and fall. They will die back with the hard frosts, but they will re-emerge in the spring. Planted according to this schedule, the plants will usually blossom during the following summer. Hollyhocks are excellent self-seeders.
If you want to have a perpetual hollyhock garden, you must plant seeds for two consecutive years. Because hollyhocks are biennials, they die after blooming and the original plants do not come back. Seeds from the original plants will produce new plants that bloom 2 years later. By planting hollyhock seeds for two consecutive years, you avoid a year without hollyhocks.
Lupine, Russell’s Prize Mix
For about three weeks early in summer, the worlds of the Pacific Northwest,the rugged coast of Maine, the lakeside enclaves of Michigan and Wisconsin and throughout the Adirondacks, Catskills, Cascades and Rockies become a fairyland transformed by the jewel-toned floral spikes of the lovely lupine.
Anyone who has lived with lupines, I believe, will tell you that though the exquisite display of color is brief it is well, very well, worth waiting for each year.
The first cultivated lupines were an annual variety, 4 feet tall, which produced a snow white spire and was native to the southern Balkans and the Aegean. Known as The White Lupine or Wolfbane, it had been cultivated since the earliest Egyptian times as fodder for animals and the seeds were burned to repel gnats.
Seedsmen in early America offered four colors for sale: white, yellow, blue and rose. The lupine began to gain dramatically in popularity in the early 1800s when, a variety native to the Pacific Northwest, L. polyphyllus, was discovered and described during the Lewis and Clark Expedition and then introduced tothe American public in 1826. L. polyphyllus had luxurious spires filled with blue-purple flowers but would once in a while sport a spire of white, pale pinkor bi-colored flowers.
Americans planted these lupines in their gardens with some frequency, but it was not until the horticulturalist, George Russell, became inspired by a display of lupines at the coronation of King George V and began a 25 year breeding effort that the popularity of lupines exploded.
In 1937, Russell introduced an array of single colored lupines in shades of red, deep pink, yellow and orange and some exquisite bi-colors like a purple and gold flowering specimen.
Today lupines grace the fields, roadways, drainage ditches and coasts of the colder areas of America. Their extremely hard seed coats require a lot of scraping before they can be worn away to allow moisture to help with the germination process. That is why you often see drifts of lupines clustered around the rough gravelly beds of drainage ditches.
Most lupines struggle in the hardiness zones of 6 and higher. Only the Texas Bluebonnet, the state flower of Texas, a beautiful periwinkle blue to deep blue lupine that is native to the Lone Star State can withstand heat. It can thrive in hardiness zones 5-9.
Lupines can be grown in Zones 6-7 as annuals, but they must be planted in the fall – late October or throughout November and early December. You can scarify (scrape the seed) the seed before planting, but do not soak seed you are planting in the fall.
The lupines will germinate in the spring and bloom in early summer, but then the plants will die, and new seed will need to be planted in the fall again. In Zones 1-5, lupines will thrive as biennials and do best when seed is plantedin August or during the late fall.
Echinacea, Purple Coneflower
Echinacea, also known as Purple Coneflower or the Sampson root, is a true American native and one of the hardiest perennials available.
The plant was used medicinally by the Native Americans of the Great Plains more than any other herb. It was the Native Americans that discovered that the roots contained valuable medicinal attributes. These cultures used the plant to treat snakebite and the bites of poisonous insects. The juice was used to bathe burns and was added to the waters sprinkled over coals during the traditional purification ceremonies known as “sweats”.
The plant was first identified and described during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806. It grew in great profusion in the prairie lands of the Midwest and in open woods. It ranged from southern Canada to Texas.
In 1885, a Dr. H.C.F. Meyer, who had learned from some Native Americans of the plant’s healing qualities, convinced the Cincinnati-based pharmaceutical manufacturer, Lloyd Brothers, to offer extracts of the plant as an anti-infective agent.
By 1920, Echinacea was the firm’s most popular plant drug and was known and used widely throughout the United States. The plant lost its popularity when in the 1930’s more effective anti-infectives were introduced into the marketplace.
Purple Coneflowers are some of the hardiest and most forgiving plants grown. They can tolerate almost any kind of soil, but they will thrive in soil amended with compost and phosphate in the spring. Because they are perennials, once you have started Echinacea it will return each year.
The plants can be started easily from seed if you wait until the soil is warm enough – at least 70 degrees. In Zones 6-10 seeds can be started in August through the end of October. In Zones 1-5, seeds need to be started in August.
Sprinkle the seeds on soil which has been turned and raked. Cover the seeds with 1/2 inch of soil and moisten. The seeds will germinate in less than 2 weeks. Thin seedlings to 18 inches.
Bee Balm, Monarda Dydyma
The Monardas are native, North American prairie flowers that have been a part of the Native American medicinal and culinary cultures since mankind began inhabiting the North American continent. The name, Monarda, comes from the name of the Spanish botanist, Nicolas Monardes, who described many of the qualities of American medicinal plants in a book he wrote in 1571. The Monardas are members of the mint family.
The common name, Bee Balm, refers to the plant’s unusual attraction for bees, and the name, bergamot, refers to that plant’s citrusy fragrance which is very much like the scent of bergamot oranges. Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot) was introduced into Britain in 1637 by John Tradescant the younger, but soon perished. In 1744, John Bartram sent seeds of the plant Monarda dydyma (Bee Balm) to Peter Collinson in Britain and plants from these seeds flourished. Monarda dydyma was used by the Native Americans to make the well-known Oswego tea.
In addition to attracting bees, this plant is also very attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. Monarda fistulosa produces lavender flowers. The original Monarda dydyma produces scarlet flowers, but many beautiful hybrids of the original have been developed, and these hybrids produce flowers in salmon pink, bright pink, purple, violet and white.
Monarda started from seed does not bloom the first year unless the seed is planted the prior autumn. Sometimes seed planted in autumn will produce blooms the following summer, but there is no guarantee. Monarda needs a compost rich soil and does best in full sun except in Zones 7-8 where it can tolerate partial shade. It is hardy from Zone 4-Zone 8. The plants will grow to 30 inches and should be spaced at least 2 feet apart. Once the plants have been established for 2-3 years, they can be dug up in the fall and separated.
Foxglove, also known as Digitalis, Fairy’s Gloves, Witches’ Fingers, and Fairy Thimbles is one of the most beloved of all garden flowers despite being poisonous, short lived and a brief bloomer.
The plant is a biennial native to Europe, North Africa and Central Asia. The common name, Foxglove, refers to the fact that the spire of blossoms resembles clusters of gloves. The areas where Foxgloves grew naturally were thought to be inhabited by fairies. Thus the individual blossoms were thought to be fairies’ gloves.
The Latin name, Digitalis, comes from digitabulum which means thimble and refers to the shape of the individual flowers.
The plant had been known as far back as 1000AD. It has been cultivated since the 1400’s in England, but was not grown in American gardens until the 1700’s.
Joseph Breck in his 1851 book, The Flower Garden, describes five varieties with the most popular being Digitalis purpurea, the purple foxglove. Breck wrote,
“The plant is a violent poison, but invaluable in medicine. It is suitable for the border, and may be introduced into the shrubbery with fine effect, as its tall, spire-like spikes, crowned with its large thimble or bell-shaped purple or white flower, will finely contrast with the green foliage of the shrubs.”
Foxgloves are difficult to grow from seed and do not transplant well. It often takes years to establish a healthy grouping of the plants. It is recommended that seed be planted in August or during the fall, but it can also be planted in the early spring. Planting in the fall, August (especially), but September, October and November plantings can also be done, has a much, much higher success rate. During the first year, if the seed germinates, it will form a rosette or low mound sometimes 10 inches in diameter. Seed can remain dormant in the ground for years so do not be surprised if little or no germination results from the initial seeding.
FOXGLOVE SEEDS MUST BE EXPOSED TO LIGHT TO GERMINATE so just press the seed into the moist soil, but do not cover it. Seedlings should be thinned to 10-12 inches.
Foxgloves love heavy feeding with manure or a tea made from comfrey leaves. Blooms only last for a week to 10 days, but they are so spectacular they are worth the trouble. The plants bloom in July.
Canterbury Bells make exceptional container plants. They do best when planted in a 14 inch diameter pot – 4 plants to a pot. This flower is a biennial, sometimes a tender perennial. If it is planted from seed in August, the seedlings will produce some modest green growth and then die back in the fall.
The following spring the plants will bloom, producing 2-3 foot tall spikes of purple or white or pink bell-shaped flowers. Usually, when the Canterbury Bell seed is germinated the summer before it blooms, the plants are stronger and their blooms are larger and more prolific.
Whether in a pot or in your backyard garden, just remember where you plant the Canterbury Bells. Because Canterbury Bells do not bloom right away, many people forget that they have planted them and pull them up mistaking them for weeds. I know this to be true, because I am one of those people.
The Shasta Daisy
In the excitement of returning to school for a new year, often the school garden or class garden (if there is one) is forgotten. That is why planting some seed early in the school year is such a great learning experience and opportunity to teach children about one of the great American horticultural stories. The story of Shasta Daisy, Alaska like so much of what is vital, inspiring and true about American horticultural legends is a story of American perseverance and great international contributions.
The Shasta Daisy is the creation of the great American horticuluralist, Luther Burbank. It was developed at his farm in Sebastopol, California after a 15 year breeding project and introduced in 1901. The variety, Alaska, was introduced in 1904.
In 1884, after purchasing a 4 acre farm in Sebastopol, Luther Burbank beganhis daisy development project more as a labor of love than a commercial development effort.
As a young boy growing up in Massachusetts he had loved the wild English daisies that had escaped from the gardens of the earliest English colonists and naturalized into the New England landscape.
Burbank set as a goal for his project to create a daisy with large flowers, dazzling whiteness, smooth straight stems and blossoms that would last along time in the garden or as cut flowers.
He started with the Oxeye Daisy (leucanthemum vulgare), but after several years had made little progress towards his goals. He then decided to dust the blossoms of his most promising Oxeyes with the pollen from the English field daisies (leucanthemum maximum).
This cross pollination produced hybrids with great promise because the plants flowered in their first year unlike the Oxeyes. The flowers were born on strong, straight stems, but they were small and they were not dazzlingly white.
Burbank then introduced the pollen from a Portuguese field daisy (leucanthemum lacustre) and the resulting plants produced very large, elegant and graceful flowers.
All that was lacking for Burbank to achieve all his objectives was to produce a dazzlingly white blossom. This he achieved by introducing pollen from the Japanese field daisy (nippononthemum nipponicum).
By the late 1890s, Luther Burbank had his daisy. He named the plant the Shasta Daisy to honor the dazzlingly white snowy slopes of Mount Shasta in Northern California and introduced it to the American public in 1901.
It was an instant and incredible success. Burbank continued his work with the Shasta Daisy and in 1904 introduced three varieties, one of which was the Shasta Daisy, Alaska.
Shasta Daisies are very easy to grow. If planted in late summer, they will bloom the following summer. In Zones 8-10 they do best in partial shade. In Zones 1-7, they do best in full sun.
Plant seeds in August-October by broadcasting seed in the area where you wish the plant to grow. Cover with a dusting of soil and gently moisten the soil. Keep the soil moist, but not soaked, until germination has occurred. The seeds will take from 10-20 days to germinate.
Thin the seedlings to 6-8 inches. The seedlings transplant easily.
Many people consider Burbank’s development of the Shasta Daisy as one of his greatest achievements. Given his other incredible contributions to the field of horticulture, this is an amazing statement, but probably true.
Burbank’s Shasta Daisy has the longest history of continuous popularity of any American garden flower. It is grown everywhere in the US including Alaska and Hawaii.
For most children it is the first flower they are allowed to pick. It is a true American heirloom and one of our greatest garden treasures.