August 18, 2013

Hello Dahlia's, Anemonopsis and Sowing Pansies

August marks the start of Dahlia season, which will continue in our garden until frost, Sturdy stakes and lots
of water ensure tall stems for cutting.

As high summer rounds the bend, we suddenly become inundated with zucchini, pickling cukes, string beans and tomatoes ( although, our tomatoes seem to be late this year), but nothing puts on a show in August quite like Dahlias do. I only have a few this year, with 8 plants in the vegetable garden, but when will I learn that every year I should plant more and more Dahlias?  As perennial borders that once where lively with daylillies, true lilies and early flowering perennials, which we all tend to load up on, we often neglect the late flowering plants. At least Dahlias are not only making a comeback, as they were once so hip in our grandmothers' gardens, but they are also economical - forming tubers not unlike sweet potatoes each year, multiplying ones collection in just a single year tenfold.

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When the corn is tall, and the phlox in full bloom, the garden certainly feels like summer. Crickets buzz in the evening,
cicadas buzz at mid day, and a thunderstorm rumbles in the distance. Barefoot, muddy and shirtless, one never
feels as alive, as one does during an August, while it is in full glory.
Dahlia's fill the house with their giant, dinner plate sized blooms. We pick them in the evening, as ear wigs, which seem
to like these larger blossoms, seem to be less prevalent than in those flowers picked in the morning.

August is when I sow pansy's for next spring and summer, as well as greenhouse blooming primula such as Primula
malacoides. In the vegetable garden, succession crops include rutabaga, kale and collards, which have already
germinated outdoors.

Sowing Garden Pansies, English Daisies and Greenhouse Primroses

Sowing ones own pansies may seem crazy, as it seems that every garden center and nursery has six packs of pansies each spring, but as I proved last year, all commercially grown pansies have been treated to not only be in bloom while still in their sixpacks, but they have been drenched in so many hormones, ( some to reduce stem length, others to stimulate early flowers at the expense of garden blooms, and other hormones to stimulate root growth) that few of us have ever seem pansy's the way they are supposed to grow. Need proof? Try starting your own right now. I start mine in the very same way that my parents and grandparents did - in late July and August - in flats set out in bright shade, and kept watered.

Seedlings will emerge quickly, forming small rosettes by mid-September, when the seedlings can be bedded out into rows, either in your flower beds, or as I do, in rows in my raised beds. Garden grown pansy's will change how you think about pansy's ( mine from last year just finished blooming, and plants formed 24 inch wide plants that were covered in flowers. Something we never see anymore. I sowed four varieties, an antique heirloom exhibition selection from Chiltern Seeds in England, and my fav - Tiger Eye, a gold and brown viola. I also sowed seed for English Daisies ( Bellis perennis), Primula obconica, and P. malacoides, for late winter flowering pot plants under glass.

Perennials that are hard to find, such as these seedling Rogersia's, which were sown last January in the greenhouse, are
now ready to be transplanted into a garden bed, where it will take another year before they are transplanted to their final location in the shady, perennial border. 
Anemonopsis macrophylla, a rare Japanese woodland treasure that you may find a a good nursery.
Their nodding bells enliven the shady border in August, a time when few other perennials are in bloom in the shade.

I think Anemonopsis looks best when planted in large clumps, as their wiry stems can form a cloud of blossoms, driving the bumblebees crazy. The only species in its genus, Anemonopsis is a terrific, long-lived garden perennial.


  1. hopflower9:41 AM

    Sowing your own pansies or any other flowers is much preferred to buying starts, unless of course one is late getting the plants in! And there is so much more choice.

  2. Come this time of the year I also think I should get more dahlia. Most of the time I grow them in pots and they require a lot more attention than in the ground. Next year, I will also grow them in the vegetable garden and they should succeed better. It is good to know that earwigs seem less prevalent in the evening.

  3. Anonymous6:22 AM

    where do you get your pansy seeds?

  4. This year I followed the advice on one of my blog followers, and ordered seed from England. Chiltern Seeds ( Google them, they ship to the US), had the antique florist variety that I have been looking for, and the Tiger Eye'd form, I had to order from the commercial side of Harris Seeds in New York. A little pricey, but I could not find another source, and that variety has such nice gold and brown tints, that I can't pass it up.


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