|Lunaria "Corfu Blue"|
|Miniature Bearded Iris from SIGNA seeds|
|Aquilegia flabellata from NARGS seeds|
The Lunaria "Corfu Blue" is flowering from small seedlings I started the previous year. The seed came from Derry Watkin's "Special Plants" seed list. As is so often the case with new plant introductions, the UK folks are ahead of the Americans, so a careful perusal of UK seed lists from often reveals new gems worth trying on this side of the pond. I like this plant, it makes a mound of blue violet flowers in early spring, followed by the characteristic "coins" (flattened oval seed pods) later on. It must be a new species, as it does not look like L. annua to me, and Derry states in her excellent seed list that it behaves as a perennial at times. She also states that it reaches 36 inches, but my plants are half that, perhaps because they were not large when I planted them out the year before. Should they prove to be perennial (unlike L annua, a true biennial) I will be able to find out next year if they can in fact reach 3 feet tall.
The miniature bearded iris shown above were grown from mixed hybrid seeds I got from SIGNA, the Species Iris Group of North America. Specialist groups like this cost a pittance to join, provide very informative publications to the members (in the case of SIGNA now in electronic form for those who don't need more paper in their house) and have excellent lists of seeds donated by members. Many of these seeds are difficult to find or simply unavailable elsewhere. And they are available at a very nominal cost as well. It is possible to get some wonderful miniature bearded cultivars from any of several excellent online iris nurseries, but I find great joy in growing my own from seed. The element of surprise is an essential part of gardening for me, and growing iris from seed will produce all manner of interesting variations to keep one excited about the potential beauty of next flower to open.
From the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) seed lists, so many treasures can be grown. If you are also a member of one of the local chapters, as I am (Hudson Valley Chapter) in some years seeds left over from the annual winter distribution are available to members of these chapters as surplus seeds which are divided up and sent out to the local chapters to dispose of as they wish. One year I got quite a few seeds, actually they were going to end up in the trash so I felt obliged to take as many as I could. It also was an opportunity to try things I might not have selected when I put in my seed list order to the national society, since there was no quota and no reason not to expand my horticultural preference boundaries a bit. In fact, whenever I get an opportunity like this I often, just for the hell of it, will take the very few unlabelled packets that would otherwise surely be thrown away, and I have gotten some nice things from those mystery packets. I pull a few packets from my seed stash out from the fridge to start each year, and one of them was labelled Aquilegia saximontana x jonesii, a cross of two very desirable and sometimes difficult to grow western American species. What I got is not that, but instead the much more common and easily grown A. flabellata nana. But I am not complaining, not at all, how could I when viewing those exquisite blue flowers on such a compact plant? In my school garden they grow among moss phloxes and other low growing plants, and I look forward to them seeding around as A. flabellata is want to do.
I also grew the yellow Rosa foetida from seeds. I lost the label ages ago, so I was pleasantly surprised when two plants bloomed this spring. This is a tough species rose that flowers on smalls young plants only about three years old. It does bloom only in spring, so the flowers are to be enjoyed only once each year, but they are quite lovely and way ahead of other roses.