O.K., the forget-me-nots got away from me. Some would swear that IS the nature of forget-me-nots! But they captivate my heart as I anticipate their gorgeous river of sky blue winding through the mid-Spring gardens. And I am totally willing to rip out their plentiful little seed heads a few short weeks later!
I have a similar relationship with foxgloves. And, these past couple of years with kale. And, at some houses, with parsley! Is there a theme here? Well, maybe! I confess to a fascination with the life-cycle of biennials!
It all has to do with their life cycle; you know…..plant sex! Annuals are great; well they DO bloom a long time, right? But they also complete their life cycle every year. You start with a seed. It grows into a plant. It flowers. It sets fruit. And it makes the seed for future generation(s). All in a single growing season. You know the types: tomatoes and peppers, beans, lettuce and squash, petunias and zinnias and snapdragons and those others we’ve been planting in between the rain.
Then there are the perennials. They come up from their roots, larger and lush every year. They grow leaf and stems, they flower and, they may or may not set seed, depending on how hybridized they are. We gardeners may *deadhead* them to prevent their seeding all over the garden….. or we may not bother. After they flower, most perennials die back. Or we cut them back as their leaves brown.
By fall, or certainly the following spring, we generally cut them back and compost their refuse to manage the gardens and keep down over-wintering insect pests.
The following spring, there they are again, in more or less the same space, larger and vibrant as they had been before.
But biennials are a whole different story! They take two years to complete their life cycles. That first year, they are small, green things, easily mistaken for weeds. The second year, they return as larger green plants, but soon send up flowering stalks which, of course, fruit and set seed.
The exciting part is synchronising with this cycle so the biennials appear to bloom each year. I watch carefully as the flowers, in this case forget-me-nots, bloom. After a week or 10 days, the flower stalks lengthen and where each tiny flower has faded and fallen, there remains a small, seed-laden ovary. Within the next couple of weeks, as the seed pods darken and mature, I rip out multitudes of the most visible of the plants which, by now, getting in the way of other plants. But I leave a generous supply of ripening seeds towards the back of the bed.
In a few weeks when the forget-me-not seed pods are black, they are ripe. Running my fingers along the stalks, I scatter the seeds where I want next year’s gorgeous river of blue. And wait.
Come mid-summer, the area will be carpeted with tiny green forget-me-not seedlings. I try to remember what they are. But if I don’t, there are so many there’s no chance I could weed them all out!
Now the baby forget-me-nots have their first year of growth the same growing season as their mothers matured. And the following year I can look forward to that river of blue that runs along the south side of the gardens.
Several other favourite plants follow this same cycle. It works really easily with foxgloves, parsley, kale, or even carrots. Saving and distribute your own seed if fun and a great way to get closer to your garden..