ROI (Return on Investment)

I'll admit it: In contrast to the admirable Ms. Country Mouse I am a reluctant propagator. While she faithfully attends her CNPS propagation group, I've been more likely to go to the native plant sale or nursery for that instant plant fix.

But last fall, after reading so many inspiring educational posts from my good friend, I finally decided to at least buy a few seeds and see what I could sow. I ordered from Larner's Seeds, with a focus on annuals that will be good pollinator, as described in this post. Of course, I ran into trouble right away, having planted too closely, and probably in the wrong kind of soil. But with help from my friend, I perservered -- well actually, the seedlings perservered.

And yes, sometimes the plants grew downward instead of upward. And the slugs won out after I transplanted the first set of baby plants into the ground. But actually, now that it's May, the ROI has been pretty incredible. Take the Phacelia tanacetifolia, which looked like this in February.

By Garden Tour Day (April 18), I had about 10 plants in the ground, and about half of them looked like this:

Two weeks later, the blossoms had opened up, attracting bees (and comments from the neighbors). And who wouldn't be impressed with an annual that grows to more than 4 feet?

And now, mid May, they're still going strong. Some plants no longer upright (note to self: stake next year), but still beautiful.

Collinsia heterophylla (Chinese houses) probably had the most challenges. With seedlings first growing in a tangle, and then turning out to be the slug's most favorite food, I almost gave up hope.

But starting around Garden Tour Day, I've miraculously found the beautiful purple and white blossoms throughout the garden, brightening the shade.

 I have them next to the iris (above) but also in the bed where the California Fuchsia will grow. The next photo shows why they are called Chinese Houses: The blossoms form small pagodas.

I quite like them with my buttery yellow monkey flower, or with this Heuchera hybrid.

And I find them enchanting in the shady area where the native ginger and the ferns grow, here in the morning sun.

 The Clarkia unguiculata is only now starting to come into its own and adding splashes of pink, salmon, and white in the sunny locations where I've planted it. Some plants are still mostly green, and over 3 feet. Others, in drier locations, are only a little over a foot. Most impressive a small pot, stuffed with an abundance of seedlings as I grew a little tired of transplanting them.

Don't you love the riot of colors?

Now, of course, I wonder whether they will all reseed, or whether I should start seedlings again in the fall. I actually got lucky with these Nemophilia maculata (five spot), which I planted last year, and which came back in a few unexpected places.

So, looking back, even with the minor aggravations in between, the slugs, the birds, and the Gilia (which did not make it, I'm sorry to report), the seedling experiment has been stunningly successful. It's been fun to see how such beauty can come from such a little seed, how patience might be rewarded, and how sometimes the best plant wins!


Hey, congratulations on all your cool successes! They look great, and it must feel great to have brought them into the world. Considering flowering plants have been reproducing by seed for millions of years, I'm often struck by how difficult some of the species are to propagate this way. Every plant is a great return on your initial investment.
Awesome! You're my hero! Maybe I'll try this next year, and maybe you can advise me on start dates, then.
Christine said…
What a show! That Phacelia wows at all stages- especially when it starts developing its seed heads. But seriously, what is up with the Gilia?! I've had absolutely no success either and the blip on the package that says "easy to grow" is taunting me!
That five spot is a winner in my book! I also love the pot stuffed full of left over seedlings that went on to bloom their hearts out.

I bet that whatever was happy in your garden will reseed itself happily, and you can move on to other species.

Propagation is such fun.
It's good to know that my Phacelia tanacetifolia will need staking. As for the Gilia, now I'm discouraged. I have 1/4lb of Gilia seed sitting here from Larner for fall planting. If I can get it to grow, I'll let you know.
Town Mouse said…
I think Gilia prefer to go into the ground, and they need to be protected from birds, and they don't like to grow in mulch. I saw fields of Gilia in the bee garden, it can be done!