Monday, February 1, 2016


In mid-November, I requested some seeds during Nan Ondra's generous seed giveaway.

I began reading Nan's garden blog-- Hayefield-- earlier this year, when I began putting more of my energy into my own garden (and this new blog).  If I understand correctly, she's made her seed giveaway an annual event at her blog for at least a few years, now.  She harvests the seeds from her own (huge, very impressive) garden-- a wide variety of plants.  Everything from annuals and vegetables to grasses, perennials, and even some trees.  All she asks is postage, maybe an eventual update on the seeds'/plants' performance, and that you consider harvesting and sharing seeds, too, once the plants grow to maturity.  Her mission is to spread these plants (many of which are somewhat rare or unusual) as far and wide as possible.  A project so time-consuming, requiring such a great deal of planning and organization, must be a labor of love.

My seeds arrived just before the end of November, and I excitedly set about gathering information and trying to decide when to plant them.  Of course, with seeds, there's no guarantee, but I'm hopeful of some success.  I tried to choose plants that would stand a fair chance in this hot, humid 8b climate.

Lunaria annua 'Corfu Blue'
honesty, money plant, silver dollar plant
Biennial, but if allowed to self-sow, there are usually flowers every year.  2-3' tall, 1-2' wide.  Blue-purple blooms (spring/early summer).  Purplish stems and seedpods.  Sun or light shade.  (I suspect light shade is better in the South.)  Consistently moist soil is best (doesn't like to dry out completely).  In zone 8 and above, lunaria can be sown in autumn for blooms and seeds the following year.

Lunaria annua 'Pennies in Bronze'
honesty, money plant, silver dollar plant
Biennial, but if allowed to colonize, there are usually blooms every year.  About 3' tall.  Purple/violet flowers (spring/early summer).  Seedpods are advertised as being of an array of colors-- pink, orange, purple, etc. (but Nan reports that in her garden, they are mostly purplish.  Not as showy as advertised, but attractive and better-growing than other types of lunaria).  Sun to part shade.  (I suspect light shade is better in the South.)  Consistently moist soil is best (doesn't like to dry out completely).
In zone 8 and above, lunaria can be sown in autumn for blooms and seeds the following year.

Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee'
hummingbird mint, anise hyssop, licorice mint
Perennial.  1-3' tall and wide.  Full sun.  (May benefit from some light shade in afternoon, in the hot South.)  Dry to medium moisture.  Tolerates high heat and humidity.  Lavender blooms (summer to fall) and chartreuse foliage.  Licorice-scented flowers/foliage?
Sow in autumn.

Clematis addisonii
leather-flower, Addison's clematis
Bushy subshrub. 2-3' tall.  Sun to part sun.  Purple to reddish-purple and cream bell-shaped blooms in spring to early summer.  May re-bloom in fall.  Blooms followed by starry seed-heads.  In nature, grows at the edges of dry woods.  Drought-tolerant.  Can do well in a container.  Dies to ground every winter and re-emerges in spring.  Prune hard in early spring.
Sow in autumn.

Heliopsis helianthoides ex variegated
variegated false sunflower
(Variegated false sunflower is another version of the so-called "Alabama ox-eye daisy" that I purchased from the fall plant sale earlier this year.  I'll be very interested to compare the plants, if I manage to get mature plants from these seeds.  Apparently these started out as 'Loraine Sunshine', which produced the plant that produced these seeds.)
Perennial.  About 2' tall.  Yellow, daisy-like flowers summer through fall.  Variegated foliage may green up as season progresses.  Full sun.  Average water needs.  ('Loraine Sunshine' doesn't like to dry out completely, so don't put them in the very driest spots.)  Deadhead to extend blooming season.
Sow in autumn.

Eryngium yuccifolium
rattlesnake master
(I'm already growing Eryngium planum [blue sea holly], but have yet to see it bloom.)
Perennial.  4-5' tall, 2-3' wide.  Full sun.  Very well-drained, even dry-ish, sandy soil.  Tap-rooted and doesn't transplant well (but may be possible in early spring, with care).  Greenish-white, spiky, globular blooms in summer.  Silver-grey foliage.
Sow in autumn.

Eucomis comosa ex 'Oakhurst' and 'Sparkling Burgundy'
pineapple lily
(There's no knowing exactly what these particular plants will look like, but 'Oakhurst' has maroon-purple foliage, while 'Sparlking Burgundy' transforms from dark burgundy to olive green and back again.  It seems likely that their "babies" could have some sort of interestingly dark foliage, but they could also have all-green leaves.)
Perennial. 1-2 or 3' tall, clumping.  Full sun.  (Can tolerate some shade in South, but may make the foliage more green than purple/burgundy.)  Blooms in late summer.  Medium moisture.  Does best if watered when actively growing/blooming and kept drier in the dormant winter period.  Winter mulch is helpful.

Sow seeds in spring or autumn.
Takes years (2 or 3 to 5) to reach flowering size, so we'll see how this goes...
Useful link for growing from seed.
I've read (and seen photographic proof) that once you have a plant, you can also easily propagate it by cutting one of the strap-like leaves into 1" segments and potting them with part of the cutting poking out of the soil.  In eight months, that gardener had new little plants from each cutting!  Very easy way to make more plants-- especially at the end of the season, when the leaves are going to die back, anyway.

Iris domestica
blackberry lily, leopard lily
Perennial.  2-3' tall, 1-2' wide.  Full sun.  Orange, red-dotted blooms in summer.  Medium water, but tolerates drought.  Poorly drained soil in winter will kill it.  Somewhat short-lived, but reseeding can keep a clump going through the years.  Seed clusters resemble blackberries.
(Seeds need stratification.)

Amsonia hubrichtii
Arkansas blue star, threadleaf bluestar
Perennial.  2-3' tall and wide.  Full sun to part shade.  Medium water.  Well-drained soil.  Powder blue flowers in spring/early summer.  Delicate foliage turns from green to golden in autumn.  (Not sure how much the color changes this far south.)  Autumn color strongest when plant's in full sun, but flowers may last longer with some afternoon shade.  Stems open up and flop in too much shade.  Can be pruned by half a foot after flowering to reduce flopping.  May take a while to establish and grow to full size.
Sow in autumn.

Celosia spicata 'Mega Punk'
spike celosia
This is a hybrid/variety(/whatever the correct term is) distinct to Hayefield, originally a cross between 'Punky Red' and 'Wine Sparkler'.  Recommended to collect seed from plants with the darkest foliage.
Grown as an annual in this zone.  (Must remember to collect seed each year, just in case it doesn't reseed on its own, though it does so reliably in PA.)  30-36" tall.  Full sun is best.  Well-drained soil.  Deep purple leaves.  Magenta multi-pronged spikes of bloom in summer.
Sow in spring.

Symphyotrichum laeve
smooth aster
Perennial.  2-4' tall, 1-2' wide.  Full sun.  Dry to medium water w/ well-drained soil.  Daisy-like flowers with violet to light purple petals and yellow centers.  Blooms September to October.  Easily self-seeds.  Good for naturalizing in wilder areas of the garden.
Sow in autumn.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
aromatic aster, fall aster
Perennial.  1-3' tall and wide.  Full sun.  Dry to medium water w/ well-drained soil.  Tolerates clay or sand; also drought.  Daisy-like flowers with violet/pale purple petals and yellow centers.  Blooms August to September.  Leaves are aromatic when crushed.  Benefits from some support (cages?) when the stems are weighed down with flowers.
Sow in autumn.

At the bottom of this post, Nan provides some useful links to information/tips on germination.

We'll see how they do!

I also ordered a packet of "trombone squash" seeds online, after looking for them locally without success.  (Maybe I just wasn't searching in the right places.)  I'm excited to see how these will do and how they taste.  They're a "moschata" type of squash, which are supposed to be hardier in this climate-- more resistant to squash vine borers. 

Tromboncino (aka Tromba d'Albenga) is an Italian heirloom squash that is reported to taste like zucchini.  They can be eaten at maturity (yellow) or when younger (green)-- and some people even eat them raw.  (I doubt I'll be one of those people.  I prefer most vegetables to be cooked.)  Some say that the very young, green squash taste sweeter than zucchini, while the mature, yellow squash taste more like a butternut squash.  I don't know that I've ever had butternut squash, but the zucchini we grew last year (such of it as there was) tasted great to me, so there's every reason to expect that we'll like the green squash, at least.

(Also, if the plant produces fruit all the way into fall, the yellow skin may be tough enough that you'll want to peel it.  I've never grown or prepared winter squash, so right now I'm mostly interested in growing it for the softer, summer-style squash.  I'm not sure how likely it is that tromboncini would still be fruiting that late in the season for us... If the early-season plants petered out over the brutal summer, we could always try planting a special, late-season crop, if it seemed worthwhile.)

Apparently, the seeds all collect in the "bottom", bulb-shaped part of the squash.  The long "neck" is seedless.  That's interesting.  I've never been bothered by seeds in yellow crookneck squash, but maybe these are tougher.  In any case, it certainly doesn't hurt that they're concentrated in one part of the fruit.

If possible, I'd like to let at least one fruit mature on the vine so that we can harvest seeds.  If I'm not mistaken, this is an heirloom plant that "comes true" from seed, and it would be great to have some to share and save for future use.  From what I've read, leaving the fruit to ripen might not deter the plant from producing more squash.  (Good to know, if true.)  However, it may take months (3 or 4?) for a fruit to fully mature, which sounds like an awfully long time, to me!

We're planning to put up some type of rough support for the trombone squash to grow up, to keep them off the ground, though apparently they do fine either way.  (Growing vertically seems better for our set-up, with the slightly raised beds and grass that needs regular mowing/trimming.)  If these do well and suit our palates, they may permanently replace the old-fashioned yellow crookneck squash in our little vegetable patch.