In the Garden:
Middle South
October, 2001
Regional Report

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Planted from seed in the fall, bachelor buttons bloom for several weeks in mid-spring.

Hardy Annuals from Seed

Our region is kind to thousands of beautiful plants, including several fine flowers that like to sprout in the fall, wait patiently through winter, and then bloom like gangbusters in the spring. Now that the soil is cool, the time has come to sow these winter wonders, including bachelor buttons, corn poppies and larkspur.

Great Beginnings

If you've never grown these half-wild flowers before, start with a packet or two of bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus), which bloom blue, white, pink, purple or maroon, with many shades in between. Plant the medium-sized seeds one-half inch deep in any sunny spot, and within weeks you will see gray-green rosettes of foliage. Bachelor buttons aren't picky about soil, have no pest enemies, and after the flowers fade in early summer, goldfinches and other birds eagerly harvest the seeds.

Prime Poppies

Corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) need fertile, well-drained soil to grow well. Insects leave them alone, but hungry rabbits often nibble the foliage in winter. Because the seeds are tiny, plant them by scattering the seeds atop cultivated soil and then patting gently to settle them in place. The seeds sprout sporadically through late fall, but even infant seedlings will survive the worst weather of winter. Just don't try to transplant the seedlings. This is one flower that must be sown where it is to grow and bloom.

Lovely Larkspur

Deeply dug soil with excellent drainage is needed to grow larkspur (Consolida ambigua), but the tall spires of purple, pink or white blossoms are well worth the trouble. Because the plants have an upright growth habit, larkspur is a wonderful backdrop plant for poppies, pansies, or other petite bloomers. However, like corn poppies, larkspur plants refuse to be transplanted. Sow seeds one-half inch deep where you want a beautiful show late next spring.


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