An indispensible annual

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Weiser
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-04

Lori
Layia platyglossa is a beauty. I have seen slopes in southern California that were a glory of yellow and white in the spring. The displays rivaled the golden fields of Eschscholzia californica for shear brilliance

Cleomella hillmanii
Lupinus brevicaulis
Lupinus malacophyllus
Nama aretioides
Nemophila maculata
Phacelia adenophora

From the High Desert Steppe
of the Great Basin and the Eastern
Escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Range
Located in Reno/Sparks,NV  zone 6-7
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sierrarainshadow/
John P Weiser

Hendrix
Hendrix's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-12-24

Regarding Felicia bergeriana in my high-altitude Colorado garden, I don't know why the seeds shed by my many plants will not germinate outdoors.  Sowing instructions that came with the first batch of purchased seeds recommended stratification, which I did in the refrigerator.  Germination of those seeds was less than 30%.  The following year, I germinated seeds produced by those original plants with and without stratification.  The rate of germination between the two treatments was better without stratification -- about 95%.  With stratification, those home-produced seeds had about a 70% germination rate.  All seeds matured into flowering plants with identical cold-hardiness and produced an abundant crop of viable seed.

Maybe its South African origin has something to do with its unwillingness to germinate.  However, this situation is not unique in my garden.  Most of my 1,000 perennial species DO NOT produce self-sown seedlings.  Some species that I produced from wild-collected seeds originating at similar elevations in a similar ecosystem will flower but will not produce seed. 

I have experimented with dozens of annual and biennial species in past years.  Few of them self-sowed and, of those that did, only a few scattered seedlings arose.  On the bright side, I have almost no weed problem.  I can leave the gardens to their own devices for weeks in summer and have to look hard for an "unauthorized resident", also known as "weed" when I return.

Jane Hendrix
Mountain View Experimental Gardens
Peak 7-Breckenridge, Colorado USA.
Elev: 10,000 feet
Zone 4
http://www.picturetrail.com/hendrix & http://www.picturetrail.com/snowtrekker7

 

Hendrix
Hendrix's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-12-24

Another easy-to-grow, exceptional annual is Matthiola incana 'Dwarf 10-Week', or Dwarf Stock.  (I wonder how such a beautiful, fragrant species got such an unattractive common name.)  Until I germinated my garden-produced Felicia bergeriana seeds, this dwarf Matthiola incana held the record for the fastest germination -- 4 days after sowing, no stratification needed.  Within 10 weeks, it begins to bloom.  The fragrance is reminiscent of cloves.  Just one open blossom will fill a room with its heavenly scent.  Stock is in the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae) and, like so many other members, is extraordinarily cold hardy.  About 20 years, as a novice high-altitude gardener, a bought a few 4-packs of Dwarf Stock, already in full bloom, from a greenhouse in Denver, Colorado (5,280 feet), 4,320 feet lower in elevation than the condominium garden in Breckenridge (9,600 feet) where I planted them.  I planted them on a pleasant Saturday morning in mid-May.  On Sunday, we had to return to Denver.  Sunday night, the temperature in Breckenridge dropped to +15 degrees F.  I was sure all those beautiful, blooming plants would be dead when we returned the following weekend.  Much to my surprise, there was not even a hint of frost damage on the foliage!  The blossoms were in perfect condition.  The plants continued to produce flowers until a very, very hard frost in mid-October.

As with Felicia, Matthiola incana will not germinate in my open garden.  Even if it did, my soil is so cold for long in spring, that the flowering of this lovely species would be truncated by about 2 months.  So I start them indoors in late February.  By early May, all the plants are in bloom, but the gardens are still mostly covered in snow.  In the small, melted-out areas at the edges of the garden, I am able to set in the plants, even though the nighttime temperatures will fall below freezing until after June 15.  The Dwarf Stocks are unaffected and add splashes of color to a rather drab, early spring garden.  Although I'm 400 feet higher in elevation than Breckenridge, my Dwarf Stocks continue to bloom until mid-October.

The longevity of stored seed is another bonus.  Last spring I sowed seed I purchased in 1993, 17 years ago.  I still got about 80% germination!

Here are a couple of photos of Dwarf Stocks in bloom in my garden.  They stand about 6 to 8 inches tall.  Like most Brassicaceae members, they do best in a nearly-neutral to slightly-alkaline pH soil.  Full sun in a cool climate like mine is a good location.  In a hot-summer climate, Dwarf Stocks will not be as hardy or bloom as long as they do for me.  I have noticed that they are planted in winter in hot-summer climates, such as southern Nevada and Arizona.  Because their fragrance is so delightful to experience, I always place them where they are handy to visitors' noses.

Jane Hendrix
Mountain View Experimental Gardens
Peak 7-Breckenridge, Colorado USA.
Elev: 10,000 feet
Zone 4
http://www.picturetrail.com/hendrix & http://www.picturetrail.com/snowtrekker7

 

Weiser
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-04

Jane
No weeds is a plus indeed! :)
Do you feel you have a large population and variety of pollinators at your high elevation? I ask since temperature plays such a pivotal role in the numbers I see in my garden. Last spring they came out of hibernation late and affected the seed set on my early bloomers adversely.

I used to grow stocks and as you say they have a heavenly scent. Now that you mention it, I do remember them blooming through the first fall frosts.

Here are the last shots of the annuals I currently grow.

Phacelia curvipes
Phacelia linearis
Abronia villosa var. villosa
Orthocarpus cuspidatus ssp. copelandii
Mimulus mephiticus
Gilia tricolor

From the High Desert Steppe
of the Great Basin and the Eastern
Escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Range
Located in Reno/Sparks,NV  zone 6-7
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sierrarainshadow/
John P Weiser

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Thanks, Jane, for such detailed and informative posts!  I ate it all up.  This is one thing I like especially about this forum compared to some (not all) others.  So actually, this is a complement sent out to all participants here...

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Hendrix
Hendrix's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-12-24

The story of my pollinators is a sad one, indeed.  About 5 years ago, an epidemic of mountain pine beetles began infesting and killing our mature lodgepole pines.  In a panic to save as many trees as possible, we all began spraying our trees with permethrin.  The professional tree-sprayers had to apply the insecticide to at least 30 feet of trunk height but most of them sprayed up as high as their equipment would disperse the liquid.  This treatment had to be repeated every year during the epidemic.  We sprayed our trees two years in a row.  I knew there would be a lot of overspray so I covered my gardens with plastic sheeting to catch and dispose of the excess permethrin, preventing it from soaking into my soil and killing my soil fauna.  In spite of my heroic efforts, I noticed a decrease in my earthworm population.

The third and fourth years we switched to Beetle-Block, a repelling pheromone packet that is tacked to each individual tree.  We tried to convince our surrounding neighbors to follow our lead.  A couple of them took our advice.  Unfortunately, my neighbor across the road has continued to spray his 75 trees.

Large and small insects have disappeared.  Mosquitos have been rare during this period (of which I am glad but I'm sure our birds are not happy).  I haven't seen a spider of any size for several years.  No aphids and no yellowjackets (wasps), either.  But also almost no butterflies, honeybees or bumblebees.  I don't see any flies or moths.  The large variety of bird species we used to enjoy has greatly diminished.  The lesson here is, in nature, you can't pick a winner without creating innocent losers. 

This year has seen a drop in new mountain pine beetle infestations.  Even the U. S. Forest Service agrees.  We are not planning to attach new Beetle-Block packets next summer.  (They cost us about $10 each, and the large-diameter trees need at least two packets.)  The pheromone packets don't adversely affect non-targeted species so not putting them up won't make any difference.  Until my neighbor with the 75 trees feels it's "safe" to curtail annual spraying, I can't see how my pollinators will be able to make a comeback.

I'm sure part of my problem of few or no seeds being produced by some species can be traced to the decimation of a host of potential pollinators.  However, even before the spraying started, I had empty seed capsules on several species.  It's also possible that certain species need a specific pollinator that may actually be native to my area but may not be active when the species, which originated from a different part of of the western United States, has ripe pollen.  Or our cold summer nights (between about 38 and 48 degrees F.) possibly may damage the pollen of those species.

Jane Hendrix
Mountain View Experimental Gardens
Peak 7-Breckenridge, Colorado USA.
Elev: 10,000 feet
Zone 4
http://www.picturetrail.com/hendrix & http://www.picturetrail.com/snowtrekker7

 

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Lots of interesting plants and information here!
I am always looking for new annuals to strew on the few square feet of available soil at my summerhouse.
I often plant stocks as they are one of my wife's favorites but they are shortlived, flowering for a couple of weeks and then running to seed.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Better photos of a good annual in the rock garden or the regular flower garden:

    Nigella hispanica

       

Some group shots.  Unlike other family generation photos, everyone seems to to be smiling, from baby to grandparents!

       

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Super photos Rick!  What a totally cool plant, love the twisty stigma segments (if that's what they are), a great looking plant all around!

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

RickR wrote:

Better photos of a good annual in the rock garden or the regular flower garden:

     Nigella hispanica

This is one of the species I have thought of growing. Now you have made the decision easy: Next year I'll grow it!

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

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