My 3 Favorite Self-Seeding Perennials

Balloon Flower

Balloon Flowers – Mature Flower and Bud

I love perennials in a flower garden. There are so many to choose from and they come back year after year. Some are as tough as old boots and live a very long time. In the southern part of America, you can walk through forested areas and come across a stand of beautiful flowers. The house may be gone but the perennials are still flourishing where they were planted 100 years ago or longer.

One type of perennial that I especially like are self-seeding perennials. The name says it all. They love to seed themselves around the garden. Sounds like trouble, but not really. The original clump of plant that you planted comes back the next year and brings some friends along. Sometimes the plant just keeps getting bigger and wider. And sometimes you find that the flower has seeded itself on the other side of the garden entirely. Because of this I try to be careful when I weed and let some seedlings grow-up if I recognize what perennial they are. Sometimes I don’t want them there and I just easily pull them out.

My 3 favorite self-seeding, flowering perennials are Balloon Flowers, Lamb’s Ears, and Sweet William. These 3 have given me so much joy in the garden. Every year that they come back, it’s like seeing an old friend drop by to pay a visit.

Balloon Flower PatchBalloon Flowers (Platycodon Grandiflorus) are some of the most unusual perennials. I just love how they look as they prepare to bloom. A large stalk reaches skyward and then tiny pea-like flower buds form. The upper most “pea” on the stalk will start to swell and resemble a tiny expanding balloon. When the balloon pops, you have a beautiful, open, star-shaped flower. When this flower fades the next “pea” in line starts to swell. Balloon flowers come in shades of pink, white, purple and blue. This wonderful plant has one down side, it can be top-heavy. To combat this problem, I either stake them or most often shear them shorter early in spring and this creates a shorter plant that tends to not fall over.

Lamb's EarsLamb's Ears StalkLamb’s Ears (Stachys Byzantina) are a soft, fuzzy, gray flowering perennial. This plant also has a look that cannot be compared to anything else. It is unique. The base of the plant looks exactly like ears on a lamb. It is incredibly soft to the touch and its color doesn’t clash with anything else in the garden. The blooms are also unique looking in that they are tall, fuzzy spikes of tiny pink flowers. This plant is considered to be a perennial and a herb. I love this plant in bloom and without blooms. When the flower spikes have faded, I’m just as happy clipping them off and just having the “ears” left.

Sweet WilliamSweet WilliamSweet William (Dianthus Barbatus) is a member of that wonderful, sweet-smelling family that includes delicious, sweet-smelling Pinks. It ranges in colors from white to pink to lavender to red. This is a classic, cottage garden flower. Mixed together in various hues, and planted under rose bushes, you’ve planted a dynamite, cottage combination. This is described as a short-lived perennial, but I disagree. It should be described as a prolific self-seeder. It spreads its sweet-smelling self into large patches in the garden. And I’m so happy it does. I picked up a package of Sweet William seed at Jefferson’s Monticello because it was named after my lovable hubby. Over the years, it has turned into one of my favorite flowers.

Even though these prolific seeders do a great job, I help them out. I love to cut down the spent flower stalks that have gone to seed, dump the seed in my hand, and then sprinkle the seed in a bare spot that needs flowers. One year, as I “dead-headed” a large patch of Sweet William, I whacked the seed laden flower heads around inside a paper bag. At the end of my gardening session, I ended up with quite a lot of seed to scoop out into a new flower bed.

I love pictures in gardening magazines that show a large swathe of flowers all the same kind and color. This is the way to achieve those results. And on a budget, too. Happy gardening to all!

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My English Garden

Okay, first I would like to apologize for not posting as often as I should. If you’re going to have a blog and not post very much – that’s kinda stupid. Sorry. I got lost in motherhood and to be honest, I love to garden much more than I love to write about gardening. I’ve spent a lot of time writing comedy lately and really enjoying it. I hope in the near future to start a blog for my comedy writing.

So often I would work in the garden and tell myself I Inside the Garden Gateshould write a post about what I’m doing but then I would go in and realize I need to start dinner or homework needs to be graded. I’ve had a lot of emails from friends, followers, and family telling me to get off my bohonkous and write. They have suggested I get more personal and less clinical. Put in lots more photos and talk about what I’m doing. Okay. Okay.

Well. I’m a forty-something lady, with two sons, a wonderful hubby and a beautiful, never to be finished garden. When I’m not in the garden, my nose is pressed against the window looking into the garden. If it’s sunny outside and I’m not in the garden I feel a little guilty. I somehow think it can’t live without me. I really do think gardening is a form of an obsessive compulsive disorder. I really do love it, though.

Garden - North SideThe style of my garden is an English cottage garden. Yes, that’s right an English garden built in a suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been studying lately the connection between Southern gardens and English gardens and they are very similar. You could take a picture of a Savannah or Charleston garden and swear you were in England. Boxwoods, ivy, roses. A lot of the same plant types are used in both.

My garden has lots of ivy, roses, hydrangeas, viburnums, itea, ornamental grasses, etc. I love Lamb’s ears; they add a wonderful silver color to the garden. I’m in love with flowering shrubs and plants that reseed themselves like Sweet William, and Balloon flowers. I love herbs like lemon balm, catnip and chives. I have planted lots of chives around my roses to help deter pests. My lemon balm photographs are in an Asian cookbook. If anyone has any great recipes for lemon balm then please e-mail them to me. I have a lot of lemon balm!

Viburnum - Summer SnowflakeOne of my most favorite plants is my viburnum cultivar “Summer Snowflake.” It is so wonderful when it is in bloom and in my region they can get to be 12 feet tall. More like a small tree than a shrub. I have planted many around my fence to add height to the fence. In our neighborhood we can only have 6 foot tall fences. The viburnum gives a sense of privacy.

I try during the spring and summer to cut flowers to bring into the house. I love the old “still life” paintings of flowers One of my rosesand fruit and tabletop scapes. What do you think of my “still life” photo of flowers? I’m very happy with it. Flowers make me happy. I sometimes think I would like to take pictures of my summer flowers and frame them for my walls. Then I could see them all year.

Still Life with RosesRoses Close UpI’m trying to grow fruit in the garden, too. I have a small amount of strawberries. I also have 3 small blueberry bushes which turn a lovely red color in the fall. Last year I didn’t get many blueberries as they were still too young to have much fruit. I think this year I will have to fight the birds, chipmunks, and rabbits for those blueberries! I also have a fig tree in a large pot. It came from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. No, I did not steal a cutting from his tree. They sell plants at a nursery on the grounds of Monticello. My understanding is that it was propagated from a cutting from one of his Brown Turkey fig trees. According to an arborist there, he was quite the fig farmer! Baby StrawberriesI’m not sure if that is true, but I still think of it as Jefferson’s fig. I leave it in a large decorative pot so that harvesting is easier and I can prune it to keep it small. The figs I harvest (2-3 dozen a year) taste spectacular. I am anxious to grow more fruit and veggies. I would love raised veggies beds on the south side of our garden. There is always something to wish and plan for. Bye for now. Happy gardening!

Garden - South Side

Angel with the RosesBay Window GardenSweet William