Early Summer Blooms
Skipping to the good stuff here — skipping spring poppies, summer sweet peas and getting straight into the high summer/autumn beauties!
My BESTIE is getting married October 8th this year so I need to focus. She’s enlisted me to do her flowers and I couldn’t be more excited!
Autumn is when the bounty rolls in. Last year October was the month I felt like I hit my stride. The dahlias, zinnias and foliage were amazing!
The bride is that cafe au lait dahlia – demanding attention. The most perfect element.
The bridesmaids could be the bolder dahlias above. Their color brings contrast that helps the bride pop. Her beauty and form still hold the spotlight.
Or they can be as simple and unassuming as the neutral zinnias below. Echoing the subtle color of the bride while still allowing her to shine
The “uglies” are the foliage. To me they are lush, verdant and help everyone else pop. On their own they’re not much to look at. They have a vital role as filler, it’d take a LOT more flowers without them!
I really enjoyed growing them last season. I ordered mine from Minnesota. Most flower farmers rave about Kings Mums but I don’t have experience with them. My understanding is those require careful overwintering and I’m not into that.
Let’s start with what these are not. These are not “exhibition” type mums. They’re not the Seaton’s J’dore variety you see all over Instagram.
These “Mums from Minnesota” at fgimn.com are bred for brutal winters. Not exactly what I’m into but it’s what I’m stuck with. I’ll be sure to report on their hardiness as soon as the ground isn’t frozen solid =P
These mums are beautiful!!! There are all different types available. My absolute favorite variety is above and below, name is “Homecoming”. I was expecting “Pat Lehman” to be my favorite from the photos online but “Homecoming” was a pleasant surprise.
So if you’re convinced and have to grow some mums now, here was my process
So the sweet peas have been looking bad for a while now, just got around to pulling them this week. I suppose that means I owe the blog a post on my experience this year.
The secret for me to be able to grow sweet peas semi-successfully in Chicago is variety selection. I say semi because my little patch is much better than last year’s lonely stem, but not as luscious as those I see in the Pacific Northwest, New England or England. For Chicago I’ll take them.
Sweet Peas know when to flower based on how long the days are. A spencer variety, Mollie Rilestone or April in Paris for instance, have the BEST stem length, largest flowers, fragrant. But those are the varieties I’m lucky to get a stem or two out of. It’s just too hot by the time the plants allow flowers to form. Sweet Pea varieties that have been bred to flower sooner help us in Chicago.
Spring Sunshine was the variety I used, from selectseeds.com. Winter Elegance is another variety that can flower even earlier, but I didn’t see any compelling evidence that the stem length would be usable. Spring Sunshine is better if you’re interested in producing cut flowers.
These were sown in either root trainers or reused 1 gallon perennial type pots. You’ll need something with around 6″ growing depth for their early root development. A typical jiffy seed starting “greenhouse” system will not have sufficient depth for root development. I did notice substantial root development in the root trainers compared to the reused perennial pots at transplant time. Fun to try out but ultimately I didn’t notice any difference in flower production.
Pinch the central growing stem to promote basal branching and MORE FLOWERS!!
One thing that surprised me was the Spring Sunshine series have differences between colors. I figured since they were all in a “series” together they would have the same characteristics. Nope. Cerise, the bright pink in the photo above is what I lusted after. Color was dead on but unfortunately paled in comparison to the light blue/mauve variety with respect to stem length and fragrance.
All in all completely worth growing. The fragrance is worth the hassle of finding specific seed varieties to be successful in this climate.
I spent a lot of time planning my garden this winter. I really need to get some other winter hobbies!
The file below is my plan for when to sow seeds for my garden this winter. It’s separated into three categories, Start Indoors, IN GROUND (either transplant seedlings from inside or direct sow in the ground) and Fall Harvest. In my mind it is better for me to just put it out there for you and you figure it out rather than spend any more time explaining it —
Please do leave any questions in the comments section and I’ll be happy to clarify
Fragrance is my primary goal in the garden this year. Last year I’d show someone a flower and they would always try to smell it. With zinnias and dahlias, there is no scent. Unfortunately scent has been bred out of many flowers over the years. Plant breeders have decided the ability to ship long distances and last weeks in a vase are more important than scent. I disagree. Local, slow flowers allow for fragrance AND freshness. Not being shipped long distances mean we’ll still get a decent vase life.
My goal this year is to have at least one type of flower with noticeable scent blooming throughout the season.
My passion for gardening started with a wild idea that I could grow flowers for my wedding. Zinnias were a mainstay of this fantasy. I love that they were cheap to start from seed, would be blooming when I needed them and sounded fairly easy.
The Benary Salmon Zinnia pictured above was the one I fell in love with online. I loved the soft salmon rose color. The touch of coral.
I sowed seed a little late, mid May. They were just starting by my wedding date of August 1st. There weren’t a ton, maybe a dozen from my 10 plants. I had already known I would need to supplement so it wasn’t a huge disappointment. They kept going into November. Their show was amazing, I particularly loved the little yellow stamens that would peak out from the center, you can see what I’m talking about in the photo above. The ones I left to produce seed for next year developed beautiful variation in their petals.
For reference, I don’t know how to edit photos. This is a raw image taken with a fancy borrowed camera (thanks Mom!).
In the photo above you can see some BRIGHT orange zinnias peaking out. All of the seed for this area came out of the same packet. These were the first ones to flower. So imagine me, checking the flowers every morning, poking around for buds. Waiting for that first bloom and BAM — orange. Halloween orange. At the time it was not at all funny. I gave up on thinking I could ever use my flowers for the big day.
When I was planning my garden and first started looking at zinnias, the dahlia types with a multitude of tightly packed petals were what appealed most to me. Some of the ones I loved the most didn’t look like that one bit. The one above would never end up on a seed suppliers website trying to sell you Benary zinnia seeds. But here it is — light, airy with a certain carefree quality to it. Perhaps even more beautiful than the “perfect” ones I had envisioned as I was sowing seed in the spring.
My garden is done for the 2014 season. I dug up the dahlias that I loved this year, and photos of them in bloom and the tubers produced are below.
The first two photos are of a purple dahlia that was grown from seed. These were grown in an area that was amended with sand and compost in my heavy clay garden. They bloomed profusely, but did not bud until a few weeks after the dahlias grown from purchased tubers. Big, fluffy cloud like booms. I’m curious to know what dahlia form these are considered. Are they similar to any named varieties?
These were interesting in that the purple was a typical dahlia clump, while the yellow had distinct stems with different clumps that were already divided — score!
I was hesitant to grow dahlias from seed because I was unsure of the blooms that would result, but I am so happy I did! The pompon dahlias were some of the earliest to start budding and blooming. The larger cloud like purple and yellow plants started blooming later, I still had blooms into November!
After their leaves browned I dug the roots of the yellow and purple variety to save them. I was very impressed with the tuber quality that resulted from these seed grown dahlias and I’m excited to have more known tubers for next year.
The smaller dahlias I left in the ground to overwinter. I doubt they will come back in my zone 5b Chicago garden and I kind of hope they don’t. I’m excited to start another row from seed next year! Hopefully I’ll be in for a few more nice surprises.
Up next is the only purchased tuber I planted — Wittem. I chose this variety to use for my wedding. I’m sure I’ll have a much more in depth post in the future.
I started with 6 clumps in the spring and I’m not sure how many I have for next year, but wow did they multiply! I’m going to clean them up best I can and store them in a cool spot in the basement. Will divide in the spring and report back.
Not sure I’ll put dahlias I intend to dig up in they clay again as it was a chore to dig them out. Very nice tubers for next year.
It was a great first year of growing dahlias and I’ll continue, but I don’t think they’ll get as large of a chunk in my garden in the future. I will give away a few of the clumps to friends and family. I do hope to invest in a lotus flowering variety for next year and perhaps some consistent bedding varieties. My number one priority next year is fragrance, which dahlia’s unfortunately are completely void of. Their foliage has a distinctive scent I don’t dislike, but it’s not floral.