Happy Spring everyone! Despite our run in with Stella I’ve got gardening on the brain. This time seed mixes have grabbed my attention. What’s not to love? A location or purpose specific selection of seeds available in a single pack? I’ve tried a few over the years (usually those generic ‘wildflower’ mixes that come in giant tubs at landscape stores) and I’ve never been impressed. Until last year when I picked up a few packets from Botanical Interests. My first successful seed mix garden was with their Bring Home the Butterflies Mix. Seed mixes can cover a lot of ground for a little cash so if you’ve got a chunk of land to sacrifice to the bees this is a good way to do it. (This post is not sponsored but does contain affiliate links, I’m talking about Botanical Interests because I like them, I bought all my seeds from them with my own money and everything grew beautifully)
I planted my butterfly mix in the soon-to-be herb garden after I cleared out some of the grass. I literally dug out the grass (sitting on my butt with a bucket as I was 900 months pregnant) tossed the seeds down, did a tiny bit of raking and hosed it down. We get pretty regular rain in the spring so I didn’t even need to do it that often. By fall it was at least 4 feet tall, a giant mass of bright colors with a flash of white. The stand out plants were the Mexican sunflowers, several colors of cosmos (the white ones are so pretty!) and the balasam which I’ve never grown before but it’s really pretty and a little strange so I should have!
I plan on turning that section into legit herb garden this year so I won’t get a chance to see the biennials or perennials in all their glory but I will be giving this particular seed mix another shot in another location. I spent a late night cutting back the remaining flowers for bouquets before the first hard frost of the season. I didn’t want to say good bye!
Don’t be like me and plant too densely. You’ll have to thin things out and it will make you sad. I ended up too busy to pay much attention to my butterfly garden early in the season. I had a baby June 1st and she just didn’t care when I said I had to thin my flowers. Because of the the more boisterous species took over and crowded out some of the other guys. I saw lupine and calendula come up but I don’t think they made it once the cosmos took off. I’ll be checking for the lupine before I replant that area though. I can’t get enough of those flower spires.
I always recommend studying your local weeds. It’s never fun to rip out something you planted because you don’t recognize it and think it’s a weed. Around here the biggest competitor with new seedlings is lamb’s quarter but nut sedge gives it a run for it’s money. Luckily both are easy to pull out. It’s the creeping charlie that will drive you nuts with it’s roots and runners going every which way. Keep them out of the way at least until the flowers start to take off then you can relax a bit.
Other growing tips, I seriously recommend keeping your chickens out. Unfortunately the little buggers circumvented my fencing and my Grandmother’s Cutflower Garden Mix was destroyed before it even sprouted. I won’t lie, there was much swearing, especially since I had planted the whole packet and couldn’t try again. I was really looking forward to that one, I love having flowers in the house and having a whole bed I could cut from without feeling like I was making my garden ugly would have been awesome. Would. Have. Been. Awesome.
Moving on.. Deep breath.. Why Botanical Interests? I first found the company via another blogger, I don’t really remember but likely Chiot’s Run (which I’ve read forever and you should too. Susie is way better at this blogging thing than I am and she’s also an incredible gardener). All of their seed packets are hand illustrated with beautiful pictures. Each packet opens up and contains an encyclopedias worth of information inside. I bought most of my flower and herb seeds from them last year and I didn’t get a single dud.
Picking a Seed Mix:
Obviously there are a lot of flowers out there, and a lot of mixes to choose from. There are a few different things to look at before you grab the one with the prettiest picture, and yes, I know how hard that can be! Luckily the lovely people at Botanical Interests are fans of informed decision making. Or so I assume from the wealth of information on their site. For example:
This is the page for the Precious Pollinators Seed mix. It’s got everything you need to know from an informative description of its purpose(A), when to plant (B), how much ground it will cover (C) and a species list (D). I love that little box on the side the most (E). It’s got the full story for where to plant. what type of plants, how tall and deep you need to plant. It’s not just the mixes that have all this info either, even the individual seeds do.
Where are you putting it?
Your sun, soil and geographic location can cut out a whole lot of options. Botanical Interests does a great job making a seed mix for everyone. For example, I’m in the process of convincing my husband that we need to make a path though the small woodlot to the orchard, and it should be pretty. Obviously it’s a shady location, and the fastest way to make it pretty is with a seed mix. I’ve got my eye on the Made in the Shade Flower Mix which only needs 4 hours of sun a day. It’s a mix of annuals, biennials and perennials.
After sun it’s good to look at the moisture requirements and tolerance. Here in central New York we’re known for our wet, humid, wet and humid summers. But if you happen to be somewhere water isn’t quite so plentiful you should check out the Water Wise Seed Mix. It’s a combination of drought tolerant flowers that take care of themselves after germination.
What if you’re short on vertical space? Fear not, Botanical Interests has got you covered! Nothing in the Fairy Meadow seed mix will grow taller than 24 inches. Making it great for a giant fairy garden (maybe a new location for those DIY fairy houses?). Or for planting in front of a pretty hedge or low window.
As a self-identified lazy gardener and a fan of systems ecology I like to grow things where they want to be. It’s rarely worth fighting a plant. Botanical Interests has several mixes of seeds native to specific areas. The Prairie Splendor mix is made up of Midwest prairie natives like plains coreopsis and standing cypress. If you’re ever curious about wildflowers I can’t recommend the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center enough, there is a TON of information on native wild flower species.
How long should it last?
Normally I have very little patience for annuals. I like my plants to keep coming back with as little effort as possible from me. But I have recently conceded that they do serve a purpose. They’re pretty for one. And they do a great job filling in when you’re waiting for other
better plants. The Fabulous Fireworks mix is all annuals. It’s a great option if you’re in a rush to plant something that’s going to fill in quickly now but not come back next year when you will actually, really, truly have time to do what you want. I can’t be the only one who makes promises to myself like that, right?
On the other hand the Perennial Blooms Mix is 100% perennials. This is where I would turn if I had a pain in the butt area that I wanted to plant once and more or less forget about. The 19 different species in this mix were selected to flower from spring through fall year after year. As a bonus these plants are also great for the birds and the bees.
Who are you planting for?
I have a slight obsession with bugs, beetles, butterflies and birds. I even like things that don’t start with a ‘b’ 😉 I always look for as many ways as possible to keep them happy on our property. If you haven’t noticed the bees need all the help they can get these days. Not just the honey bees, we’ve got a bunch of native species that aren’t doing so well either. The Precious Pollinators mix is made up of 14 different seeds to attract and nourish bees, butterflies and moths including lemon bee balm, marigold and dill. They have a mix specifically targeted bees, appropriately named the Save the Bees Seeds mix. That mix has 19 plants including sunflowers, goldenrod and lavender hyssop. Both of those contain borage, something I grew from botanical interest seeds last year in my herb garden. The plants got huge and were covered in bees every day. A few flowers made it into my ice water but I left most for the bees since they seemed so happy.If you’re more into butterflies check out the Bring Home the Butterflies mix I mentioned in the beginning. That mix contains 27 (!) different species. It’s one of the large packets that covers a smaller area so make sure you’re double checking that info when you’re planning your garden. If birds are more your thing look into the Hummingbird Haven seed mix. Hummingbird Haven is a loud mix of bright reds and pinks with lots of tube shaped flowers to attract and feed the speedy guys. There is also a Songbird Delight Mix which follows up a flashy show of annuals and perennials with seed heads to attract all sorts of song birds like finches, blue jays and nuthatches.
Of course there is nothing wrong with planting for yourself. I have an empty garden bed that will likely find itself playing host to the Edible Beauties Seed Mix just because I enjoy eating flowers. Is that weird? Chive flowers are so pretty and taste really good too! We can’t forget my failure with the cutflower garden seeds… Thanks chickens, they’re lucky they lay such nice eggs… 2017 will be my year!
So that turned into a book, sorry about that! I guess I’ve been quiet too long on here. That and I can’t contain my seed enthusiasm! Are you planting any seed mixes this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments or we can get a discussion going on Facebook. Happy Spring!