I have found it quite beneficial to read blogs from other gardeners and flower farmers around the world regarding their favorite flowers to grow, so I thought I would take a stab at writing about a few of my favorites – some of the more unusual flowers that might not get as much attention – and share my successes and failures, so that others might be able to learn from my experiences. Each year I select a new flower to test – only growing a few as I have limited real estate – and will incorporate these into my list. Most of my seeds are purchased from either Johnny’s Seeds, which I love because it is company owned and has phenomenal instructions on the seed packet, or Floret Flower Farm, which is a little more expensive given the quantity of seeds per packet, but provides an abundant selection of unusual flower seeds, and I’ve also purchased from Hudson Valley Seed Company and Seed Savers.
BELLS OF IRELAND (moluccella laevis) – These beautiful, light green flowers have an incredible scent reminiscent of mint and apples (which is not surprising given they are in the mint family). I have found the seeds to be a bit finicky with regards to germination, but once they take, they seem to be pretty hardy. A trick I learned was to place the seeds between a moist paper towel inside a ziplock bag and kept in the refrigerator for a week to ten days before planting. Make sure the seeds receive light to germinate. These flowers act as a great filler in my bouquets, although they do not grow as tall as I have seen in other photos, my understanding is that they can gain height if they are allowed to grow year after year. I don’t have this luxury, so my flowers will continue to be about 12” tall.
CLARKIA (clarkia unguiculata elegans) – A member of the Godetia family, this was going to be my ”flower of 2020”, so I took special care to grow as many as possible, but for reasons that are still unclear to me, only a few made it to the yards. Tray after tray of my Clarkia either failed to germinate, or died after early blooming, and I can only conclude, after much research, that perhaps I was overwatering. Listed as a cut-and-come again flower, I did not see any further growth after the first cutting of stems, and I found it difficult to determine the proper harvest time, which was listed as when the lower set of blooms is just beginning to open. While I was, for the most part, able to do this, many of the lower blooms quickly turned brown and shriveled up, leaving very little of the beautiful color that attracted me to this flower in the first place. I did find that the closed blooms would eventually open, although not to full capacity, and the tendril like stems created a beautiful added dimension to the bouquet. These stems also lasted much longer than most flowers – similar to a closed ranunculus. I have not given up on this flower just yet, but may limit how much real estate I devote to it in the coming years.
LANGSDORFFII (nicotiana langsdorffii) – Also known as Flowering Tobacco, this specimen is being grown as one of my test flowers, and I am loving it! This variety has small, pale green flowers with rather tall stems (around 36”). I have planted different varieties in the past and have found that they really add an unusual element to bouquets. I have yet to harvest the first stems on this year’s crop, but my understanding is that these will produce several stems from one plant. Stay tuned for more on this flower as the season progresses.
CHINA ASTER (callistephis chinensis)- What’s up with the China Aster?! I have tried growing this flower during all three seasons, and each year it gives me trouble. Either the seeds barely germinate, or when they do the flowers that grow from the plant are either too short or all the blooms seem to be on one stem. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but I started to wonder whether I should bother at all. I finally read someone else’s post that also admitted to having difficulty growing these beauties. But China Asters are a hot commodity, and often they go for a higher selling price, so if you can get these to grow, you have a bigger profit margin. This year, I managed to germinate more than I have in the past and, while they have yet to bloom (China Asters have approximately 110-120 days to maturity), I am hoping it will be worth the wait.
Zinnia Queen Red Lime (zinnia elegans) – I love all zinnia really, but this one is extra special, even if it is becoming extremely popular. The colors are a almost a deep salmon pink edge with a key-lime pie center – the combination is a great accent to a variety of other flowers. These are fantastic for cut-and-come again growers, and a great succession flower as the days to maturity are around 75. A must have in my garden.