Selecting for Color

Photography by Ellie Meade

Photography by Ellie Meade

We usually consider the last half of May the peak of our spring display of spring annuals, some of which grow from self-sown seeds that fall when and where they ripen. Others grow from seed carefully selected by us in early June.  This is the time when we are most critical of the sections of the gardens where we have masses of nigella, larkspur, and poppies.  We search for the brightest colors—scarlet, red, purple, and raspberry.  

We look for larkspur with flowers that are white or in shades of pink, lavender, or blue. We constantly look for groups of blue or white nigella (love-in-a-mist).  Years ago we had pink as well, but lost our strain of that color.  When we find just the shades we prefer we mark them with strings or tape so we will know which seeds to collect.  

The perfect person would probably pull out the plants with discordant colors but that is very difficult for us to do, because, if the truth be known, we like them all.  Now we are thinking of next year while we enjoy the fruits of last year’s labor. There are two gardens where we finally have the preferred colors in masses—the south of the boxwood border, and the little garden at the back of the house.  All we have to do is make an early morning visit and pull out the freshly opened wrong-colored flowers before the bees get to them.  We will now dry, store the seeds as they ripen, clean them, and sow them in November with visions of next spring’s display in our imagination.

Montrose Garden