The February “Blog Blizzard. continues!” Even though it is has been a mild winter here in the valley, I know many other parts of the country have had plenty of snow this month. So in solidarity with fellow flower lovers snowed in, we’ve “faux snowed” ourselves inside too in order to flood the blog with ton of tips and information to help you have a great growing season. This weekend our core team is gathering in person for a major brainstorming session, where we will be dreaming and scheming plans for the future of our little flower company. Expect more fun ideas and resources in the future. Stay tuned!
Yesterday on the blog, I shared an overview of seed starting resources we’ve developed, plus a few DO’s and DON’Ts of seed starting which highlighted a few lessons I’ve learned over the years. Today I thought I’d share a few recommended varieties you can start indoors early so you can get a jump start on your growing season.
Among the many other benefits of transplanting plants that you started from seed indoors (versus direct seeding in your garden or field) is that it enables you to transplant strong, healthy plants exactly where you want them. Plus, established plants generally experience less pressure from weeds and pests.
If you have access to a greenhouse or an indoor space where you can rig-up some simple grow lights, there are a number of flowers that you can start indoors. For many varieties, you won’t want to start seeds until 6-8 weeks prior to your frost-free date. (If you are not sure of your area’s frost-free dates, you can enter your zip on Dave’s Garden site which will provide you with an estimate).
There are a number of flowers, however, that you can start indoors even earlier than that, which is great for gardeners itching to get their hands back in the dirt this time of year. Most of the flowers I’m listing below are cold hardy varieties, which means young plants will usually tolerate a light frost and they can be transplanted as soon as the ground can be worked (yes, even before your last frost).
Whether you are ready to start seeding today, or simply looking for inspiration to round out your seed order, be sure to add a few of these favorites into your fields and cutting gardens. After the dark, gray days of winter, your harvest of pretty flowers you started from seed will be that much sweeter!
Iceland Poppies: The brilliant silk-like petals and citrusy scent of these beauties are intoxicating and they add a romantic element to any bouquet. There are lots of poppies to choose from, but some of my favorites include Temptress mix, the San Remo mix, Champagne Bubbles and our NEW Sherbet mix.
Bells of Ireland: Each and every Bells of Ireland plant churns out masses of beautiful, fragrant stems that make bouquets look lush and vibrant. To grow, we pre-chill the seed in the freezer or put freshly sowed trays outside for a few weeks before returning them to the heat. I know some growers that have great success starting their Bells of Ireland by first placing their seeds on moistened paper towel in a ziplock bag and then they stick the seeds in the refrigerator for a few weeks before sowing them in trays. Whichever method you choose, germination can sometimes be slow and erratic, so be patient.
Snapdragons: Every year we grow thousands of snapdragons and sell every useable stem in the patch! Chantilly snapdragons and Madame Butterfly mix are some of my latest obsessions. This gorgeous group of ruffled butterfly-type blooms is one of our most requested and best loved crops of the summer! Our buyers actually jump up and down clapping when the first bunches are delivered.
I have grown all of the available colors and our best sellers are pink (it’s actually coral), light pink, bronze and light salmon which are the basis for our Chantilly custom blend. Snapdragon seeds are pretty easy to germinate and grow, but be forewarned: the seeds are teeny tiny and can make you feel like you are going crosseyed. Sowing them takes a steady hand and a bit of patience, but it is totally worth it when you see the pretty blooms later in the season. Be sure to barely cover them and them bottom water until they are big enough to withstand an overhead drink.
Sweet Peas: These sweet little blooms hold a huge space in my heart and an even bigger space in our hoophouse and the field. A few of my favorites are ‘Nimbus,’ ‘Mollie Rilstone’ and ‘Erewhon.’ I recently posted a Sweet Pea Roundup post with tons of information on how to grow sweet peas, so be sure to read those posts to get the full scoop!
Digitalis/Foxglove: In our shop you’ll find my two favorite’s Camelot Cream and Dalmation Peach which are both first year flowering varieties, which and unlike the biennial types, will bloom without any cold so can be grown as an annual. Like snapdragons, foxglove seeds are tiny and can be easily washed away by blasts of water (see yesterday’s post for more about that) so be sure to plant in pre-moistened seed starting or potting mix or bottom water to protect this precious seed.
Dusty Miller: One of the most productive and unique foliage plants around, this special Dusty Miller features tall, thick stems with large, smooth-edged silver leaves. Seed is sometimes slow to start; bottom watering is recommended until plants emerge. Seedlings do not look silver when very young but color up as they mature.
Cynoglossum/Chinese forget-me-nots are a unique crop worth considering both because of their delicate flowers and the fact that they can be successfully grown as annuals. Be sure to get new seed every year since freshness is vital to good germination with this crop. Also, sow twice as many as you’ll need because germination can be quite irregular. Read my past Flower Focus post on this great flower.
Larkspur: One of the easiest early varieties to start from seed. I particularly love ‘Earl Gray’ and our new Summer Skies Mix, a custom blend I created. I generally direct seed it into the field in the fall and then follow with two rounds of plugs, one in late winter and then one in early spring.
Dianthus: This workhorse of the garden is such an import crop for us that while it isn’t a personal favorite (too bright!) I still plant and pick row after row all season long. The Dianthus ‘Amazon’ and the ‘Sweet’ series are both consistent performers with great stem length and nice sized blooms. Unlike biennial Dianthus, neither require cold temps to set flowers so they can be grown as annuals.
Stock: One stem in a bouquet provides a delicious spicy scent that will stop hurried customers dead in their tracks. Some of my favorite cultivars are those in the Miracle group, the Katz series and the Quartet blend.
Bachelor Buttons: I have a love hate relationship with these guys. I love their pretty wildflower blooms in early summer bouquets but I confess that I really hate picking them. I love them. I hate them. Then I love them again because they bloom when the field is still bare. The deep blue is always our biggest seller.
Cerinthe: Also known as Honeywort, cerinthe is another one of my favorite early season fillers. It is easy to grow and each plant produces a decent number of stems. I love the way the stems arch and nod; just a few stems of cerinthe can add a lot of volume and dimension to a bouquet.
To celebrate “seed starting season” and to continue the momentum of the #GrowFloret campaign, I’m giving away three more Floret goody bags. There are a couple ways to enter:
1) Share a photo of your seed packets, seed starts or baby plants on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, tagging it with #GrowFloret or #FloretSeeds
Haven’t purchased any of our seeds? Not a problem!
2) Leave a comment here on the blog. In your comment, just let us know what seeds you’re excited to sow.
#GrowFloret winners will be announced –and some of their photos featured here on the blog– next Monday. NOTE: This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada.
*One final little note– if you found this post or other information in our special February “Blog Blizzard” interesting or inspiring, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to vote for us. Floret is one of 10 finalists for Better Homes and Gardens’ Blogger Awards. From now through March 7, anyone can vote for their favorite blogs in each of four different categories.
The contest allows you to vote once per day. I’d be honored to have your vote!