We’ve just gotten our big wallop of a snowstorm and it’s the first of the season. Among the other joys of snow: digging out your driveway, attempting to drive on uncleared streets, and other people’s frantic, over fast swerving around bends, “because it’s going to snow”, I have one more calm and quiet one. This is the weekend to start the seeds.
Every house has its micro climates and when it comes to plants I am rapidly learning the ones in this house. The mud room is my cold frame, excellent for the white miniature rose and herbs, the family room is fine for potted plants and forced bulbs. The front windows though may be ideal for starting seeds.
In my household there are always two sets, mine and the Hub’s. His will be vegetables including maybe some melons because every year he hopes to harvest a few of those in August and if he does, he’d better start them now. Mine are the old fragrant annuals that are hard to find at Garden Centers. That means Nicotiana alata, Heliotrope and Mignonette. That last one is now so difficult to find that in the end I had to resort to Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants just to locate it.
My reward is three elegant little packages and I will shortly be soaking some seeds and popping them into little peat bundles. I don’t have to do this. All three of them can be sown directly into the garden and in other years Heliotrope was scratched straight in to the soil. It has never been a successful strategy though. What I do now is to start them indoors and transfer them to pots outdoors. I’ll do the same with the Mignonette which has featured for years as an indoor plant in our houses.
The Nicotiana is new to me. My mother used to grow the big old Nicotiana sylvestris with its pipe stem droopy flowers in white. The plants are tall as Russian Wolfhounds and take a good deal of fertilizing. They are gross feeders and my mother shoveled quite a lot of compost around their roots as a rule. Did she she buy these in pots and transplant them or start them indoors? I cannot remember now.
In any case mine are not those big showy plants but the smaller white flowering tobacco you often see in gardens, with the difference that these are an older species which the Monticello people say was introduced into cultivation in 1829. They are the Night Scented Tobacco whose flowers open in the evening. They are also decidedly old fashioned and white.
When it comes right down to it most of the flowers I put into our garden are green, white, or possibly a very dark purple. They are usually the most scented ones and that explains the restrained color scheme. I suppose there could be incandescent oranges or dress ribbon pinks dotting the beds, but they seldom have the best perfumes. So I stick with white flowers and spike them with bits of silver leafed or dark foliaged plants that make them leap out into the landscape.
Perhaps to round out the scheme of fragrant whiteness I should include a Calamondin Orange that I can put outdoors in summer and make the season for our local bees? They love single roses and orange blossoms almost as much as they love lavender (which yes I also grow with abandon). But I am
afraid of unhealthy Calamondins. I’ve had three now which died of a blight shortly after they arrived and I’ve been wary ever since.
So am I the only one who is starting seeds this early? Is any one else getting on the Spring planting circuit now? If so what are you planting?