Seeds of Discovery

In a month or two’s time or so, the seed-sowing season begins. Here at the Scottish Country Garden, we wait until the sun’s rays provide a decent heat in the greenhouse, which usually means getting going mid-March to early April.

This year’s seed-order comprises a mixture of the instant (hardy annuals, flowering this year) and the longer-term – hardy perennials. We try to grow all our perennials from seed, if we can. This year, some of the things we’re going to have a shot at include:

Aquilegia x hybrida ‘Firecracker’: we grew Aquilegias a couple of years ago from seed and they provided a long-lasting and very colourful show. A real cottage-garden favourite, I wouldn’t be without them. Even their early spring foliage emerging from the ground cheers me up!  This one should inject some oomph into the borders!

Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Mixed’: the marvellous little autumn flowering Cyclamen File:Cyclamen hederifolium Flowers BotGardBln0906a.jpgwhich you can naturalise. We might try some of these at the foot of our free-standing apple trees.

File:Dierama pulcherrimum 1.JPGDierama pulcherrima ‘Slieve Donard Hybrids’, the “Angel’s Fishing Rods”, this variety originating from the marvellous Irish Garden of the same name. I’m not sure how easy these will be to grow, but even if we can germinate a few, that will be well worth it.

Echinops ritro subsp. RuthenicusEchinops_t&m use only : you might have worked out that we’re quite a fan of thistles here! This is the blue, spikey thistle, a herbaceous classic which I grew up with but which we don’t have here, yet!

File:Meconopsis grandis1.jpgMeconopsis grandis: the iconic Himalayan Blue Poppy which does very well in the wetter, milder west of Scotland. We’re going to see if we can grow this in our shade border but Meconopsis does have a reputation for being temperamental and short-lived! But it’s a real topper and we’re going to have a go!

We’re also going to try Astilbe arendsii ‘Showstar’with its wonderful ferny spring foliage, and more Candelabra primulasFile:Fairhaven Water Gardens 2 - - 251605.jpg in the shade border too. We tried to grow the latter last year but it had a poor germination rate, so I’m going to start them off sooner to see if this helps.

Phormium ‘Rainbow Striped Hybrids’: no, I didn’t know you could get seed for them either, but you can (Thompson and Morgan are our suppliers). I really like the tall strappy leaves which grow to 5 to 8 feet. They have a real jungley feel, augmented by the exotic-looking flowers come out on long poles in the spring.

I used to think that Agapanthus only grew in the warmer south of England but, perhaps helped by a combination of global warming and plant breeding, they can now be grown up here in Scotland, so we’re having a shot at ‘Headbourne Hybrids’ from seed. Fond memories of these growing in the Walled Garden at Alnwick, Northumberland, one of my favourite gardens, and by the side of the roads growing wild on the island of Madeira.

Talking of Madeira, and this is being a bit ambitious, we thought we’d have a go at the “Pride of Madeira”, Echium fastuosum.File:Close-up of a "Pride of Madeira".jpg This will be a challenge as the south east of Scotland has a slightly different climate from the garden island in the Atlantic! Echium is a half-hardy biennial so we will need to plant it in a warm, south-facing alcove and give it some frost protection in the winter. If we succeed, our prize will be towers of purple-blue flowers reaching 12 feet! Dust of dreams indeed…

(Special thanks to Thompson & Morgan Ltd. for their permission to use certain images in this post)

26 thoughts on “Seeds of Discovery

    • Yes it’s a bit of work, Carolyn, but we do quite a lot of seed- sowing on the annuals side too so used to it! To get decent quantities of plants, it’s very cost-effective, but not easy to get good quality if you don’t have a greenhouse. We’re very lucky to have ours!


  1. My what a great selection of plants species. I must admit I am not much of a seed grower, it is a bit too tedious for me. I really love the blue poppy and the echinops, yep I like blue. I hope these plants all grow and flourish wonderfully for you.


  2. All beauties indeed! The blue poppy is so intriguing, I wish you great success with it. I tried several times, but our summers are too warm. I even actually put ice cubes around the seedlings to keep them cool. I haven’t been able to grow them. Good luck with all. Sandi


  3. A nice selection indeed, like many others I have always struggled with Meconopsis and as most varieties are monocarpic it is quite a challenge. Dierama , like Helen stated, got them through the seedling stage but that was it. I have to say that greenhouse of your is stunning ! Good luck with all your sowing.


  4. Wow! some exotic choices there! I do find seed catalogues so tempting, but sometimes I believe it is cheaper to buy one plant, then divide it, or collect fresh seed from it than to buy seeds which so often aren’t a success. Christina


  5. Aquilegia is among my favorites and (I must admit) easy to grow from seed sown directly into the garden here (South Carolina). My landscape is shady and some is moist enough for primulas, but no one grows the candelabra types. I’ll have to look into it and figure out why. It would be something to grow those!

    Your list leads me to believe you could probably grow a kitchen sink if you tried. You obviously have the passion and patience for challenging propigation. Good luck! Keep us posted.


  6. Wow! You’re going to have quite a display with all of those! I love the way you’ve shown the images along with your list. The blue poppies are gorgeous. Really unusual. Looking forward to watching your garden grow : )


  7. I grew direma from seed about 5years ago, excellent germination, grew them on and that was that they never really got going and never flowered, probably wrong growing conditions. Primula germinate better if the seed is fresh and I tend to find that some cold helps so I don’t germinate mine in the greenhouse. Meconopsis is notoriously hard to grow, I am trying again this year but with little expectation of success!


  8. Good luck with your seed growing. I love foxgloves and so do the bees, so last year grew a shorter variety. Can’t wait to see how they turn out. Two or three years ago we bought a plant of Dierama p. at a garden show, after seeing a wonderful wild one in Cornwall. It has done very well here and survived the very hard winter a couple of years ago. Last year ordered three varieties from the RHS which have not yet flowered but survived so looking forward to seeing how they do. I too love the blue of agapanthus and mine are surviving against a southish facing wall.


  9. I admire your patience! I don’t have the patience to grow agapanthus or dierama from seed, life is too short, especially at my age!! I do hope you succeed with your Meconopsis, it is possible to grow them down here in the SW of the UK and I have been growing them for a number of years now. I sowed my seed in January, having kept it in the fridge since collecting it, and now they are outside in the garden to get frosted. We have had quite a few frosts so they could come into the greenhouse any time now and should sprout in about 3 weeks.


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