Self-seeding plants

Posted: Friday 11 May 2012
by Kate Bradbury

One of my favourite things about gardening is the element of surprise. You can design and plan a garden to the finest detail, but you have no control over what will land in your plot.

Purple and white honesty flowers

I’ve just cut the lawn. I did it on my hands and knees, using shears, so I could see what I was cutting. I recently sowed some white clover into the sward and didn’t want to damage the seedlings, and there were other plants that had made their own way to the grass.

One of my favourite things about gardening is the element of surprise. You can design and plan a garden to the finest detail, but you have no control over what will land in your plot, be it a rogue ‘weed’ or something more ornamental. Some of these self-seeding plants land in the most fortuitous locations, combining with other plants to beautiful effect.

In the lawn I found poppy and honesty seedlings, two dandelions, lots of chickweed and some borage. The poppies, honesty and borage were transplanted into the border and I’m hoping the dandelions will multiply through the lawn, complementing the newly sowed clover. The chickweed got the snip (there’s plenty of that elsewhere).

The borders, too, are full of seedlings. Many of them chickweed, but some are more interesting, like the comfrey under the cherry tree and the knapweed I found growing in my potted blueberry. I’ve yet to identify most of them. Wanting to find out what these seedlings are is a great excuse for being lazy with the weeding. Last year some aquilegias self-seeded into the garden, and the year before my first foxglove arrived, which has now multiplied through the borders. Each year the garden looks different, growing and evolving with each passing season.

The best thing about self-seeded plants, is that they’re more than likely already suited to growing in your garden. If they’re native, like my dandelions, they’re also likely to be of local provenance, so will have evolved over milennia with the local bees and butterflies that rely on them.

One day I’ll create a space and dedicate it entirely to self seeders. I’ll prepare the soil, water it, and just leave it, to see what happens. I'll watch as it will first be colonised by moss and lichens, then low-growing plants, followed by shrubs and, eventually, trees. If left forever, it would become a forest.

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oldchippy 11/05/2012 at 17:59

Hi Kate,One side of my garden is blue forget me nots the other white honesty showing through all the other self sown grasses aquilegias fox gloves and weeds of all kind,every thing is growing well with all this drought that has been falling from the sky,


happymarion 12/05/2012 at 17:20

Kate of the vivid imagination!!! A forest in your garden will mean no building to live in as it will have subsidence. But you are right about self-seeding , They know best where to grow , I saw one of plantsthe most beautiful sights I have ever seen in the Canadian Rockies where an electrical storm had felled all the conifers and created a clearing. One of the first colonisers was the yellow potentilla shrub and I came across it when they were in flower - spectacular against the dark green firs. Wish me luck for my first Open Day tomorrow. The weather has decided to be kind to me and my self-seeded aquilegias are a picture.

happymarion 12/05/2012 at 17:50

PS I've just cut my long grass with the kitchen scissors and found masses of alpine strawberries covered in flowers.

Chromebaby 13/05/2012 at 11:19

While weeding and spreading manure under my Fatsia Japonica in early March I found two young red-stemmed Dogwoods! I left the larger one where it was and moved the smaller one nearer to it.

I can only think that bird poo is the likeliest delivery system.

oldchippy 13/05/2012 at 11:20

Hello Kate,I have just had Mrs Oldchippy giving me an ear bashing about the front of the house,We have a traffic island on the other side of our road Triangular about 300 feet by 80 feet it has 8 trees growing on it and the council haven't cut the grass for some time now so it is covered with wild flowers,The goldfinches have been having the time of there live's eating the dandelion seed,there must be a lot of other wild life living in there as it has attracted a lot of bird activity.


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