Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Seed Starting -- 2018

Most years I start plants from seed, and I've been known to go overboard in the past. But this year, I kind of went totally, unbelievably insane.

What I've sowed so far:

Angelica sylvestris purpurea 'Vicar's Mead'
Coreopsis tinctoria 'Mahogany Midget'
Rumex sanguineus
Knautia macedonica 'Mars Midget'
Lysimachia atropurpurea 'Beaujolais'
Salvia lyrata 'Purple Volcano'
Lupinus polyphyllus 'My Castle'
Erysimum cheiri 'Sunset Red'
Erysimum cheiri 'Blood Red Covent Garden'
Dianthus barbatus 'Sooty'
Dianthus caryophyllus 'Grenadin Black King'
Dahlia 'Black Beauty'
Ricinus communis 'New Zealand Purple'
Dianthus barbatus 'Black Adder'
Agastache mexicana 'Sangria'
Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon)
Echinops ritro 'Blue'
Asclepias tuberosa
Eryngium maritumum
Agastache hybrida 'Astello Indigo'
Agastache 'Globetrotter'
Agastache 'Bolero'
Verbascum olympicum
Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead'
Salvia superba 'Rose Queen'
Salvia superba 'Merleau Blue'
Salvia superba 'Blue Queen'
Centranthus ruber 'Pretty Betsy'
Chrysanthemum maximum 'Crazy Daisy'
Agastache rupestris 'Apache Sunset'
Eryngium planum 'White Glitter'
Eryngium planum 'Blue Glitter'
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote Dwarf'
Penstemon eatonii 'Firecracker'
Verbascum phoenicium 'Shades of Summer'
Scabiosa atropurprea 'Black Knight'
Angelica gigas
Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty Millet'
Pennisetum glaucum 'Copper Prince Millet'
Salvia nemorosa 'Violet Blue'
Salpiglossis sinuata 'Black Trumpets'
Centaurea cyanus 'Black Ball'
Centaurea cyanus 'Black Gem'
Daucus carota 'Dara'
Atriplex hortensis 'Ruby Red Orach'
Swiss Chard 'Ruby Red'
Some of the seeds on that huge list were sowed inside the greenhouse, and have sprouted already, and been pricked out and potted up. But I ran out of room in the greenhouse a while ago. Most of my seeds are being started outside in translucent storage bins with transpiration holes drilled in the tops, which is my version of winter sowing (follow that link for more information). Or, if you want to think of it another way, I guess I'm starting them in makeshift plastic cold frames.

Lupine 'My Castle' -- I have more pots of this, still not pricked out, all with about 5 or 6 seedlings

More Lupines, Echinops and Dahlia seedlings

Shasta 'Crazy Daisy'

Centranthus ruber seedlings

Agastache 'Globetrotter' (top) and Agastache 'Bolero' (bottom)

Erysimum and Salvia seedlings -- I did manage to prick out some of those leggy Erysimum seedlings

Erysimum seedlings pricked out

The Erysimum have produced more true leaves since I pricked them out and, because I buried that leggy stalk in the soil right up to the seed leaves, are less leggy and becoming more robust. I've used this trick in the past with tomato seedlings and it has worked well. I didn't know if it would work with Erysimum, but it was worth a try. I'm kind of annoyed that they were leggy despite being started in the greenhouse. Maybe that's down to our weak PNW winter sun?

By the way, do you know the difference between seed leaves and true leaves? Seed leaves, also called cotyledons, are the embryonic first leaves produced when a seed sprouts, and seldom resemble the leaves of the mature plant. A lot of seed leaves look alike (at least to me). If you look closely at the photos of my Lupine seedlings, you'll see this most clearly. The lower two leaves are simple and round, the others are more recognizable as Lupine leaves, but smaller. I usually wait to prick out seedlings until they've produced a first true leaf. And when you lift a seedling out for transplant, always lift it by the leaves -- preferably one of the seed leaves -- never by the stalk, which is fragile and can break and kill the plant.

Echinops, 'Black Beauty' Dahlias and some of the Lupines pricked out into their own coir pots

More 'Black Beauty' Dahlias

My storage bins full of seeded 3 1/2-inch pots (yes, we are having periodic snow and freezing temperatures this week, but that won't hurt the seeds)
None of the pots in the storage bins have sprouted yet, they're not warm enough. The storage bins will act as small greenhouses on days when the sun does come out, and will warm up considerably, and they'll protect the seeds from wind, weather and animals. If it gets too hot inside the bins I can open the lids or take them off completely during the day, to be replaced at night.

I still have plenty more that I want to sow, mostly annuals, which I usually wait until March to sow outside in bins (I have three more empty ones in the garage). The Nasturtiums, Zinnias and Sweetpeas will all be sowed directly in place.

Seeds Still Waiting to be Sowed

Consolida ajacis 'Carmine King Larkspur'Papaver somniferum 'Cherry Glow'
Gomphrena haageana 'Carmine'
Linum grandiflorum var. rubrum
Lathyrus odoratus 'Windsor'
Tropaeolum majus 'Black Velvet'
Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Wine'
Papaver Paeoniflorum 'Seriously Scarlet'
Helianthus annuus 'Red Wave'
Papaver paeoniflorum 'Giant Double Black'
Papaver orientale 'Brilliant'
Celosia argentea plumoss
Cosmos 'Rubenza'
Nasturtium 'Mahogany'
Cosmos 'Double Click Cranberries'
Celosia 'Cramers Burgundy'
Zinnia angustifolia 'Profusion Red'
Amaranthus cruentus 'Hopi Red Dye'
Amaranthus  cruentus 'Red Spike'

You may have noticed a red and black/purple theme. I wasn't just buying seeds willy-nilly.  I have plans.

Crazy plans.


  1. Yup..that's a lot of seeds ! We'll have to do a starter swap at the Swap ?
    I've only got a few going under a two foot tube light . That's all that will fit. I did start a few things late last summer, which are in the green house : : Erysimum, Dianthus, Eryngium and Alstromeria .

  2. An impressive array (crazy big ass lot) of seeds you've started. Looking forward to seeing them in your garden and in Monday vases.

  3. Good Golly Miss Molly! You really went for it this year. I'm impressed with your dedication, and think maybe you are testing the water to start your own nursery...

  4. I've sown atriplex/orach (very fast!), cosmos, emilia, and linaria -- and was very proud of my efforts until I read your post! Wow, you don't do things by halves, do you?

  5. WOW, Alison!!! I can't wait to see what you do with your baby plants, all of which look incredibly healthy. I've been direct sowing all my seed but the birds and other critters have me reconsidering that practice.

  6. Looks like you have a small nursery going there!

  7. I'm very impressed, Alison, what a variety! There was one year I started a lot of flowers but this year it is all boring vegetables so far. They should look glorious this summer!

  8. “I kind of went totally, unbelievably insane.”... followed by... “I have plans, crazy plans”... I can’t wait for updates!

  9. Great Gaia, that's a lot of seeds! The legginess is partly due to our weak light, but also because there's no wind to encourage stronger, stockier growth. A fan aimed across your seedlings can help.

  10. Great lists! All those seedlings are delightful.

  11. Holy smokes....that is quite an endeavor and a wonderful use of your greenhouse. Can't wait to see them blooming!

  12. Holly Hellebore, Allison! How exciting! The make-shift cold frame plastic tubs—what a great idea.


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