There is no doubt about it — summer is here and our winter and spring-planted winter annual flowers are concluding their bloom season. It’s time to think about saving seeds from those you like.
Annual plants generally don’t live for even one year. They live only one season: winter or summer. Those adapted to cool or cold weather are referred to as winter annuals or hardy annuals and are planted in very late summer to fall or in early spring when temperatures are cooling off and soil is moist. These plants bloom in winter to early summer depending on the plant species.
Each plant species has a specific bloom time. For instance, violas and pansies are some of the earliest and longest blooming cool season annuals — often flowering from January through May following a September or October planting. Others like Shirley poppies flower in April and May from a fall planting, finishing bloom in early June as temperatures warm.
Many of the cool season annuals are not heat tolerant. All need regular water. Heat stimulates them to conclude their bloom season and set seed. Other familiar winter and spring blooming plants are flowers like cerinthe, Iceland poppies, love-in a mist (nigella), larkspur, flax, breadseed or hybrid poppies and sweet peas. Many of our native wildflowers are in this category also and bloom in succession from February through May and June depending on the species. These winter annual flowers are invaluable for color in the winter and spring months when not much else is blooming. Along with spring bulbs, they usher in the new growing season each year with a variety of gorgeous and uplifting blooms.
It is hard to say goodbye to some of the sumptuous annual flowers. The best way to perpetuate their beauty is to save seed from the plants you enjoy the most. Two years ago I planted a hybrid breadseed poppy called Papaver hybridum ‘Lavender Feathers.’ The plants are very upright and about 3 feet tall, with distinctive broad gray leaves with fringed edges. The huge lilac blooms are double, and the petals ruffled and fringed. Each forms an incredible picture. I let the seed pods dry and scattered the seed in my vegetable garden.
This year, I am enjoying a feast of these flowers. In another garden we have been saving seed each year from a bright pink version of the same type of poppy to perpetuate its glory. A few other special annuals worthy of seed-saving are the double, deep-burgundy Shirley poppy, a dark navy blue love-in-a-mist (Nigella) and a low growing Phacelia — Phacelia ciliata. You may have a special flower such as these, or enjoy a mixture of colors. Either way, now is the time to identify what plants you like and want to perpetuate before the blooms fade completely.
Ways to go about this vary, but I like to tie flagging tape on the plants, written with the name or a brief description of the flower I want to save. You can also put in a flag or name tag. Note that if you have a mixture of flower colors, and bees are visiting them, you will end up with a mixture of colors — not just the flower type you want to keep. If you can isolate a special variety, it will help ensure the purity of the flower characteristics. Otherwise, you will have only a percentage of the flower type you desire from seed you collect.
What: 19th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival
When: May 20-22
Where: Various wineries