Seeds you want and seeds you don't

Tiffany Daneff / 09 July 2014

Sheep Garden blogger and Saga gardening editor, Tiffany Daneff, on the joys of self-seeding poppies vs the woes of the indefatigable forget-me-not.

It’s the first week of July and my asters are blooming merrily. Which is, of course, a delight but not one I had expect quite this early.  The first flowers opened in the last week of June. However, on checking this out, I see that A. Frikartii Monch is usually the earliest to flower (and often in July) so it’s not that surprising after all.  

Of all the flowers in the two south-facing borders, my favourite has to be the Thalictrum delavayi. It is such a performer and it just keeps on and on.

The self-seeded poppies have been pretty astounding too. These glorious red Papaver somniferum have provided lots of colour and filled up all the spaces between the young perennials, which has helped with the weeding. Even so, I have to get down on my hands and knees every fortnight to pull out the forget-me-nots and other assorted troublemakers before they flower and set seed. I am gobsmacked by just how much of a pain the former are. They are just everywhere. Everywhere. Some areas of the garden are just carpeted with hundreds of mini rosettes. Thousands maybe. And, when you see how they seed, producing long branches of sticky, grippy seeds that cling to gardening gloves, tea shirts, dogs, you name it, it’s no wonder.  Never ever, ever again am I going to look on myosotis with unalloyed pleasure. And curses on whoever it was who first planted them here.  

I am not sure, however, how many poppies to let self-seed.  There must be getting on for a hundred in the two borders – and that’s after pulling up and thinning out quite a lot. According to my colleague Val Bourne (see p106 of her invaluable book The Ten Minute Gardener) a single field poppy can produce 60,000, consequently I am thinking not so many.  

There is one plant, however, which I am definitely making sure I keep and that is a pretty lipstick pink P. somniferum Paeoniflorum.  (I’ve tried to find how many seeds an opium poppy produces, but no joy.  Does anyone know?  Ps Interesting factoid: at Chelsea Flower Show I bumped into a charming American who told me somniferum seeds are banned in the States. So now you know.)

The self-seeded poppies are stout as the Queen’s guardsmen but, with all this rain, many of the other border plants are flopping. (I didn’t much bother with supports this spring as the plants are in their first year, so – I wrongly thought - unlikely to grow huge.) The worst offenders are the asters and the gaura lindheimeri.  Though the latter, I suspect, are being bashed by the cat when she jumps onto the windowledge to miouwl for breakfast.

Notes to self

  • Next spring I am going to put it hazel twigs to support the asters, gaura, and thalictrum
  • I will not let a single forget-me-not bloom
  • I will order twice as much mulch so that I can suffocate the weed seeds after hoeing them off rather than watching generation after generation germinate.

Tiffany Daneff is also the editor of the award-winning intoGardens app - the world's first magazine app for gardens. Visit the appstore to download a free sample or go to the website for more information. Gardening has never looked better or been more exciting. Visit for more info. 

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