Self-seeding plants

by Adam Pasco

It's a wise gardener that makes room for the unexpected, and the rewards this can bring. Leave an area of soil bare and something will grow...

Aquilegia flowersNot everything in my garden is carefully planned, and I make no excuses for having it this way. It's a wise gardener that makes room for the unexpected, and the rewards this can bring. Leave an area of soil bare and something will grow, and while this may often be a weed, you never know what might pop up.

And this is where self-seeders - flowers you love, and deliberately let go to seed - come into their own. By resisting the temptation to snip off every faded flower in sight you give some flowers a chance to show their real worth. Every May and June I enjoy displays of aquilegia, or columbine, a short-lived perennial. After the petals fall I leave the seed-pods to develop and ripen. Later in summer they'll dry and split open, releasing hundreds of seeds onto the surrounding soil.

Of course I could collect the seeds, and sow them in pots to raise young plants, but self-seeding cuts out the legwork. I just let them 'do their thing'. Plants have a marvellous ability to flourish without us, much as they've done for millions of years without the helping hand of gardeners.

Seed falls, and sows itself, and before you know it there are seedlings. Often you'll end up with too many, but any that aren't required can be forked out, or even transplanted to plug gaps elsewhere.

Favourite self-seeders in my garden include foxgloves, hellebores, honesty, scabious, Alchemilla mollis, calendula, nigella, nasturtiums, and even crops like rocket and chives. I wonder which flowers others find self-seeding in their gardens?

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Gardeners' World Web User 01/06/2009 at 18:44

I Never plant aquilegia just let them self sow and its so nice to guess what colours they will be

Gardeners' World Web User 01/06/2009 at 19:54

Snapdragons were always good in our old garden. And foxgloves.. they're the only ones I've noticed.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/06/2009 at 20:13

Wilting Rhododendrons I bought a couple of rhododendrons that had blossomed at the local garden centre and planted them in ericaceous compost a fortnight ago. The're in partial shade and for the first week I was watering them each morning. I noticed yesterday that the heads have wilted. Is there anthing I can do to rescue them this year? I've tried watering them at night and mircale grow.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/06/2009 at 20:47

Reply to CHOR7ON: It's hard to tell the problem without seeing the plants. Are you certain the flowering isn't simply over, and their flowers have now faded? Rhodo flowers don't last long, you know. You say their heads have wilted, so not sure if this is just their flowers or also shoot tips. Plants wilt for several reasons. Usually it's because they're short of water (drought), but overwatering can cause root death, leading to wilting. Root diseases can also cause wilting, blocking the vascular channels of the plant. If you feel you have done everything correctly, planted properly and kept the rhodod watered, then I would consider taking them back to the garden centre for a refund or replacement. Most good garden centres guarantee their plants, so you should have no problem with this.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/06/2009 at 21:15

It isn't only colour with aquilegia, it is also the flower shape. The length of the spurs varies considerably on self-seeders. I have a purple one with very short spurs that bears no resemblance to anything that has been in my garden. As an aside - does anyone else find short tongued bees like chewing into long spurred examples?

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