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Dawn Isaac

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Self seeders - the ideal addition to a family garden

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 14 Jul 2011 at 02:13 PM

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There are some months in which the days pass in a blur of joy and excitement.  I think we can safely say June was not that kind of a month for me.

Not to say that there were moments of blur, but mostly this was of the stress-flavoured, brain-aching variety. 

As a result I have been neglectful - of my children, my blog and, inevitably, my garden. Sadly, this is often the fate of a family garden.  As much as you may wish to be out there beautifying your patch, there is always something more pressing (often a child's hands, either side of your head, as they scream in your face "but you promised we could make cakes/get out the paddling pool/jump up and down on your head until you surrender!" - delete as appropriate).

I suppose there are different ways of coping with this lack of garden time.  Some go for minimalism with a lawn and almost nothing else.  Others decide to plant the sort of indestructible, low maintenance shrubs beloved of supermarket car parks. I have gone a different route.  I've delegated the planting to the plants.

Yes, walking around this week I have realised that there are huge number of plants that I have never placed - they simply arrived there one day. And to me this is the perfect way to plant a family garden. The plants are free and plentiful which means that you don't need to wince every time they get hit by a ball or tramped through by the kids.  They've already told you they suit the site and soil because they've chosen to grow there and, because they put down roots directly into the soil, you've no need to worry about settling or watering them in after planting.

So I thought I would share with you some of my favourite self seeders:

Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove) - yes, OK, so there's the whole 'isn't it poisonous?' thing but as this should really only be an issue if my children sit down to foxglove sandwiches I've decided this is an acceptable risk (although as Archie decided this week to snack on cat food, I might need to reassess)

Verbena bonariensis - a floating haze of purple that works just as well at the front as it does at the rear of a bed.     

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's mantle) - frothy yellow/green flowers and a magical way of holding water on its leaves (self sows best into a gravel garden)

Euphorbia characias 'Wulfenii' - this has milky white sap which is a skin irritant but I blithely ignore this fact because it also happens to be one of my favourte plants and I have to say the 'plants or children' question is vaguely reminiscent of the 'Daddy or chips' debate.

Viola labradorica 'Purpurea' (Dog Violet) - tiny blue flowers and sultry purple foliage in the spring.  Also, makes very useful groundcover for a shady border.

Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower) - looks great alongside other wildflowers but equally good in a blue border.

Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-mist) - wins the prize for weirdest looking seed-pods but also lovely cornflower-esque blooms in early summer.

Hesperis matronalis - supposedly this phlox-like flower also comes in purples and pinks but I only seem to get the white version.  Not that I'm complaining - it flowers for weeks and sets seed in a relatively contained way.

Aquilegia vulgaris - on the self-seeding front it border on the over-prolific, but there is nothing lovelier than a sea of aquilegia seedlings with their distinctive leaves - plus they provide a range of blue and pink blooms throughout spring which also work brilliantly as cut flowers.

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) - at least I think this is what I have (it's really very inconsiderate of plants to arrive in the garden without labelling themselves)

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) - This is supposed to be on the 'highly invasive' side but personally I have found it spreads in a terribly polite manner and its daisy like flowers are very popular with the "we like flowers to look like flowers' brigade (AKA the kids).

Papaver somniferum - these are as often catagorised as weeds as much as wildflowers but the children love them (let's not get into that whole poisoning the kids argument again right now) so we shake seedheads all over their gardens.


Having just reread this list I realise my garden looks like it was designed by Lucrezia Borgia.



Tigerlily said:

I loved this article - very funny and what you say is so true!

on 22 Jul 2011 at 06:42 PM

Tigerlily said:

I loved this article - very funny and what you say is so true!

on 22 Jul 2011 at 06:45 PM