Garden 2021 Review: Flowers

This past year I successfully grew seventy (70) new-to-me varieties of flowers from seed, not including the dahlias seed mixes. (Typing it all up now, it seems ridiculous.) The plan was to try out as many different species and varieties as I could so that I could figure out which ones I liked so I didn’t waste my time next year. In this, I was pretty successful. However, I don’t recommend it–it’s a lot of work, and it’s hard to troubleshoot any pest or disease issues when they come up.

That said, I’m pretty thorough when it comes to documenting what I’m growing, so hopefully all of the angst of keeping everything alive in during our severe drought last summer was worth it. Here is my exhaustive list of non-dahlia flowers I grew in 2021. I grew everything on this list at my home garden from either seed or bulb.

Acidanthera Murielae (bulb)–These were very slender and delicate, but about 90% of them died due to some kind of “rust” issue–it looked similar to what people in the UK were dealing with regarding their leek crop this year. I’m not sure if I’ll try it again as I don’t know how to troubleshoot the issue.
Aster, Giant Perfection Mix–Despite being annuals, asters take forever to grow. Once they do, though, the blooms are strong and last forever. This blend was a mix of white, pink, and purples–I thought they would look dated because their colors are somewhat washed-out looking, but they were actually quite pretty.
Bachelor’s Button, Blue Boy–These were gorgeous and one of the fastest growing flowers in my garden. I have several different mixes I’ll be growing in 2021. The only downside I’ve seen is that they get so tall that they have a tendency to flop over.
Calendula, Pacific Beauty Mix–All calendulas, I’ve found, have resinous stems and flowers, so expect sticky hands when you try to harvest them. This variety produced large yellow and orange blooms. If I grow them again, I’ll likely grow this variety.
Calendula, Zeolights–Steady, reliable blooms which were a faded orangey-pink color. Similar to the Pink Surprise variety, but with larger blooms.
Calendula, Pink Surprise–Small, light pink blooms. Not worth growing if you are harvesting the petals for tea. May or may not grow these again this year; we’ll see.
Calendula, Resina–Small yellow flowers, but supposedly the best for medicinal purposes.
Chamomile, Roman–Took forever to grow. I had no luck at all with these in 2020, where they were tucked in among my tomatoes. In 2021 I tucked them into a back shady area of my Moon Garden, where they did finally reach a decent size. Not prolific by any means, however.
Carnation, La France–Did not take off; plants grew a total of 6″. No blooms.
Cosmos, Sea Shells–Another slow grower, which I thought was unusual for an annual. These can get very tall by the end of the season. Pretty flowers, but the leaves/stems are sticky. I have a few other varieties I’ll be trying this year.
Daisy, African–A moderately slow grower, but once it was established it was quite prolific. It was a great addition to my Moon Garden. Medium-sized white flowers with pale blue centers; plants were about 1.5′ tall. Depending on space, I may grow it again this year.
Delphinium, Magic Fountains Sky Blue/White–Never took off.
ECHINACEA, GREEN TWISTER–All of my echinaceas took forever to grow. Once I realized that they were perennials, and that this is how perennials tended to act, I was appeased. This variety was the least successful one that I grew in 2021.
ECHINACEA, WHITE SWAN–My most successful echinacea variety, pretty white flowers with spiky yellow centers.
Echincea, Purple Coneflower–The basic purple cornflower. I already had a few of these growing in my main flowerbed. The new ones grown from seed were moderately successful, and actually looked stronger and larger than the ones I had inherited with the garden.
Gaillardia, Lollipop Mix–This was a species I had never heard of until I saw it in a catalogue last spring. The yellow blooms were pretty, but I didn’t like the orange ones. All of my plants were successful. The plants averaged around 1′ tall and the blooms about 2″ wide and frilly. I didn’t like them enough to grow them again.
Hollyhock, Indian Spring–I actually loved these hollyhocks; they seemed to thrive no matter what type of soil I put them in. This mix had white and pink blooms. The white flowers were nice, but I really loved the bright pink ones; they really brightened up the garden. I collected seeds from the pink ones and will be growing them again this year. They all reached a good 4′ tall and were able to support themselves. From what I’ve heard, once you plant hollyhocks, you’ll always have hollyhocks, but I was pretty on top of collecting seed pods so hopefully they won’t have self-seeded.
Hollyhock, Nigra–Unfortunately I had no luck with this variety at all. I’ll try growing it again this year as it seems like it will be a very striking plant.
Hyssop, Apache Sunset–This pant was moderately successful, if slow-growing. The flowers were delicate and pink, but nothing showy, and the plant didn’t get taller than 8″. I’m not sure what I expected, but somehow I hadn’t made the connection that it would smell like anise/black licorice. While I like black licorice, I don’t like it enough to give it space in my garden.
Lobelia, Crystal Palace–I was pretty dubious of this plant based on the seed packet I received from Botanical Interests. I think I only picked it up b/c Laura on Garden Answer had done a video on “true blue” flowers, which apparently are pretty rare in nature. The seeds I planted were all very successful–probably moreso than any other flower I grew from seed last year–and once they were full grown and started putting out their delicate blue flowers, I was smitten. Really adorable little bushy plants with gorgeous color that thrived in lower levels of my Greenstalk. I imagine they would be a great border or ground cover as well; they reached about 8″ tall before they started bushing out. Will definitely be growing again next year. They grow well in part-shade; they didn’t seem to like full sun.
Malva, Snow White--I purchased this variety specifically for my Moon Garden, an all-white garden that I tucked in against my side fence. They grew well but by the time July hit they were overtaking the African daisies and Acidanthera and even giving the slow-growing Fleurel dahlias a run for their money By August I had decided that, despite having pretty white flowers, this plant really should have been labeled a weed. I will not be growing this flower this year.
Moonflower–This was another slow grower, and one I chose specifically for my Moon Garden. By August the vines had finally taken off, and by September they had started producing these beautiful, almost iridescent 5″ blooms. They had a low germination rate, unfortunately. I think next year I will sow them earlier and having them running up the main trellises in my veggie garden.
Nasturtium, Alaska Mix–I love nasturtiums, and had success growing them in 2020, so I purchased a ton of varieties. This mix was a pretty representative example of the species–bright orange and yellow flowers with emerald green leaves.
Nasturtium, Alaska Variegated–This is one of my favorite nasturtiums, as I really love the variated leaves. (The regular green leaves on most nasturtiums remind me too much of lily pads.)
Nasturtium, Black Velvet--This was another successful variety I grew this year. The flowers are an extremely dark red/black and do appear velvety. This is one of the shorter nasturtiums, topping out around 6″. Unlike the other varieties that I grew, this one did not seem to appreciate full sun.
Nasturtium, Bloody Mary Mix–Pretty, successful.
Nasturtium, Cherry Rose Jewel–Pretty, moderately successful.
Nasturtium, Dwarf Jewel Mix–Pretty much the same as the Alaska mix. Maybe a bit shorted but not noticeably so.
Nasturtium, Fiesta Blend–Similar to the Alaska mix.
Nasturtium, Peach Melba–Pretty, very successful.
Nasturtium, Single Blend Trailing–When I lived in California, many of the highways there were bordered with huge fields of trailing nasturtiums. When I bought some seeds to grow in IL I just assumed that all nasturtiums were vines. (This is partially why I have so many varieties.) However, this is one of the few that actually trails–most of the other ones are bushy and don’t seem to grow past 10″ tall. I’ll always grow this variety because I love the trailing look.
Nasturtium, Tall Trailing Mix–Essentially the same as the Single Blend mix.
Nasturtium, Tip Top Alaskan Salmon–Pretty, similar in color to the Peach Melba variety. 
Nicotiana, Indian Peace Pipe–Now THIS flower was a huge surprise. Almost 100% seed germination, and the plants grew extremely quickly, reaching 3′ wide within a few weeks and then growing to 6′ tall by the end of summer. It puts out huge spikey stems toped with a profusion of long, tubular white flowers and huge, foot-long leaves. This flower was extremely successful, but since it is a space hog, I likely won’t grow it again.
Pansy, Got the Blues–This is another one I likely picked up due to Laura’s “Blue flowers” episode. I was skeptical of any flower that was less than a foot tall, but these were very successful in my Greenstalk and they survived our record-breaking heat and dryness this past summer. Very adorable little plants that are happy growing in part-shade.
Phlox, Sugar Stars–No germination whatsoever. I tried several times with several different seed-starting mix, and no luck. All of the other species I planted using the same starting soil sprouted, so it must have been something to do with the seeds. These were bought from Baker Creek in winter 2020 or spring 2021.
Poppy, Amazing Grey–These were pretty and the slight gray coloring was a nice contrast in my Moon garden. However, as I found, poppy flowers are extremely delicate and only last a dew days. However, the plant survived and kept putting out blooms until September.
Poppy, Falling In Love–Lovely, delicate white flowers edges with pink. However, as with all poppies, the blooms did not last.
Poppy, Hungarian Blue Breadseed–These were planted in much fuller sun that the other two poppies, and they did not seem to grow as well. The germination rate was moderate. Pretty, vibrant purple blooms, though. I may try these again next year as I’m hoping to be able to make lemon poppy-seed muffins with home-grown poppy seeds.
Rudbeckia, Autumn Colors–These had good germination and grew quickly. I had been used to the scrawny basic yellow rudbeckias I had inherited with the garden. These did not grow tall–maybe 1.5′ maximum–but they put out a ton of yellow/orange blooms. The petals were surprisingly thick and velvety. Their color scheme was great for fall but seemed a bit out of place in the summer garden. As these are perennials, I wont need to sow them again this year.
Rudbeckia, Gloriosa Daisy Prairie Sun–Also pretty, with yellow petals and a green center, but not nearly as prolific as the Autumn Colors. I’ll need to grow them again this year.
SALVIA, ROSE QUEEN–Moderate germination and growth. I don’t see what all of the fuss is about regarding salvias, honestly. These were just eh.
SCABIOSA, FAMA DEEP BLUE–No luck with these The biggest only grew 6″ tall.
Snapdragon, Madame Butterfly Mixed Colors and Madame Butterfly Bronze w/ White–These were pretty, with delicate frilly blooms. Moderate germination; survived cold temperatures better than any of the other flowers. However, I preferred the look of the Rocket Mix variety I picked up at the local nursery.
Strawflower, Apricot–Not very successful. Only had 1 or 2 germinate and the largest one didn’t get taller than 6″.
Sunflower, ProCutĀ® White Nite and ProCutĀ® White Lite–These were moderately successful. O found that any sunflower seeds that were planted in the ground were eaten by chipmunks, and transplanting them out was only moderately successful. I’ll try a few again this year and see how it goes.
Sunflower, Evening Sun–This was by far my favorite sunflower this past year. They germinated well and grew huge and bushy. No issues with needing support, and the flowers were gorgeous.
Sunflower, Mammoth–This one was eh. Chipmunks stole most of my seeds. The one I did get to grow only grew 4′ tall and the head was so heavy that it faced downward completely. I may try it again in a better location if I have the room.
Sunflower, Sparky–This sunflower from Floret was my other favorite. Based on the photos, it looked spiky and thin and I only bought it b/c it was one of the few things Floret had in stock. When I grew it however I was very pleasantly surprised. The petals aren’t spiky per se–they just curl inward a bit. It adds depth and a nice range of color to the bloom. As with my Mammoth sunflower, it didn’t get more than 4′ high but put out multiple blooms. If a sunflower can ever be said to look elegant, this variety succeeds.
Sunflower, Valentine–Lemon-color sunflower, not memorable.
Sweet Pea, Bouquet Blend–None of my sweet peas were very successful. I’ll try again this year.
Sweet Pea, High Scent–This was the only variety that was even mildly successful and put out a few flowers. I’ll try again next year.
Sweet Pea, Knee-Hi Blend–Unsuccessful.
Sweet Pea, Little Sweetheart–Unsuccessful.
Sweet Pea, My Navy–Unsuccessful.
Sweet Pea, Perfume Delight–Unsuccessful. 
Sweet Pea, Royal Blend–Unsuccessful.
Viola, King Henry–Adorable.. Solid royal purple. Very short, but delicate-looking and somehow surived out dry, hot summer with no issues. Perfect  for lower levels of the Greenstalk or as a border/around taller flowers.
Viola, Johnny-Jump-Up Viola–My absolute favorite of my pansies/violas. Totally precious. I never understood why people bothered growing small flowers b/c the ones I bought at the local nursery weren’t very delicate looking and never lasted past July. However the ones I grew from seed were less bulky and smaller but still survived the heat so much better than the ones from the nursery. And they always brought a smile to my face. Not bad for 6″ tall plants. I picked up a few more varieties for this year and I’m excited to see how they turn out.
Zinnia, California Giant–Exactly as described. I had a few reach 5′ tall. Nice bright colors. As it turns out that my mom’s favorite flowers are zinnias, I’ll be growing a bunch more this year.
Zinnia, Canary Yellow–Turns out I love the color yellow, when it’s on flowers! Tall and healthy plants. Not bad for a free seed packet from Baker Creek.
Zinnia, Queeny Lime Orange–Shorter than other zinnias with smaller blooms. Delicate colors, but compared to the larger zinnias, they look a bit washed out.
Zinnia, Senora–Medium-sized zinnia with magenta flowers. It’s a color not included in the California Giant series.
2021’s Flowers

2021 takeaways: Flowers

I love violas and pansies! Who knew? Very cute flowers, and they are pretty hardy as well. Mom loves zinnias, so I’ll grow a bunch more those. Bachelor Buttons are gorgeous but need some support. Hollyhocks are gorgeous and fun. Moonflowers are lovely but need a lot of room to vine out. Lobelias and cosmos are also gorgeous and low-maintenance. Asters are gorgeous but take a while to grow. I only need to grow one variety of calendula–the pollinators love them, but they love other, prettier flowers as well. On the whole, it’s better to grow your own flowers from seed as they tend to be healthier than those from the nursery.

Garden Update, 6/14/21

The heat wave has finally broken, and I can finally wander around my garden without getting sweaty and sunburned in the first five minutes. Yay!

So I was able to take a leisurely walk around my garden this evening, and survey the damage:

All the Joan J raspberry bushes, gone. Heat plus some unknown bug did them in. My Anne Yellow raspberries are growing well, but then again, so were my Joan J raspberries until something unknown made all the new leaves wither and die. So we’ll see. Luckily, the old native raspberries are having a stellar year and I know that at least those won’t succumb to the usual pest or disease pressure in the area.

Apple trees are thriving–my Haralson actually has two apples on it! I know the trees are very young still, but I figure growing two apples isn’t going to hurt the tree too bad.

My lilacs are thriving; one (Royalty, a pink lilac) is actually blooming and has a nice, sweet scent. My Night-Blooming jasmine bushes are loving the heat and are happily growing, They aren’t taking off as fast as I had expected, though, so I may not see any flowers until next year. Hydrangeas–my smallest one (Zinfin Doll, iirc) is not doing well and has lost most of its leaves. It’s had plenty of water, and I can’t see any specific pest damage, so I’m not sure what’s going on. The two larger hydrangeas (Limelight Prime, I think) are doing so well that I actually had to prune them a bit to get them back in shape. So, no idea what’s going on with the smaller one. Maybe it just was the heat.

The Moon Garden is thriving–all flowers are now blooming except for the white dahlias and while mini-gladiolii. I’m not expecting the dahlia to bloom until late July, but they all look well on their way. The three Fleurel dahlias are some of the few who avoided getting a bunch of pest damage yet.

The tomatoes are also thriving. My current count is three Paul Robesons (purple slicer) plants; one White Tomesol (white slicer); one very small Carbon (purple slicer); one Terracotta (orange slicer); one large and thriving Barry’s Crazy Cherry (yellow cherry); and one medium-sized Sun Gold (yellow cherry). I have them mostly trimmed down to one stalk, though somehow one of the Paul Robesons ended up with three main stalks and has already produced four baby tomatoes. Looks to be a good tomato season this year!

My peppers are all also thriving. My decorative peppers (Aurora and Black Pearl) and almost at their full height, and Aurora has put out a ton of cute little purple peppers. My Pasilla Bajio is also almost at full height and has put out a ton of flowers. The bell peppers are proceeding apace and I expect them to start flowering this week. The only peppers i have that are dragging their feet are the Biquinho Yellow peppers from Baker Creek. These germinated well but have taken forever to get to any size–even the largest one is less than a foot tall at this point. I ended up planting the two smaller ones directly in my raised bed (the rest are in plastic pots), in the hopes that that will help them take of. Who knows. I had really hoped to have a large harvest of the Biquinho peppers b/c I hear they are very tasty pickled.

My tomatillos (Grande Verde and Purple) are zooming along–all of the plants are already 3′ tall and are just now really putting out branches and flowers. I can’t believe one of my seed packets said they’ve only get 2′ tall.

The dahlias are struggling. Many (the ones that didn’t get tossed already, that is) are being eaten alive by some kind of bug–possibly a flea beetle. I’m applying diatomaceous earth on them plus my hollyhocks, poppies, and eggplants, and it seems to help, but I need to reapply it every few days. The white dahlias in the Moon Garden and the few dahlias I have potted out front of the house have avoided much damage, but with the rest, it’s an ongoing battle. I’m not sure at this point how many will survive to bloom this summer! The good news is that I contacted Longfield Gardens (which is where two of my diseased bulbs had come from), and they issued me an immediate refund, which will help pay for the new dahlia bulbs I ordered for Swan Island dahlias.

The potatoes are extremely happy, though they get attacked by flea beetles occasionally as well. They seem to be doing equally well in my raised beds as in my grow bags. My garlic is coming along, slowly but surely. My onions are all starting to flop over, through I know they are not at the right size yet. At least their tops are still green and firm; maybe they’ll keep growing. I’ve pinched the scapes from all of my garlic, which should help them bulk up–they’re still looking pretty skinny and I’m not sure they’ve started dividing into cloves yet. The leeks–I think I have three successions of them growing at the moment–are all looking good, and I’ve been able to harvest and use some of the Dixondale ones I planted back in March.

Brassicas. Ah, Brassicas. Last year my entire garden was nothing but brassicas (and a few tomatoes) and I spent the entire summer fighting with cabbage worms. I had no idea what I was doing so I spent a good ten minutes in the morning, each morning, manually picked off the matte green worms. This year, too, I brought a knife to a gun fight, and my cabbages are getting decimated–this time by flea beetles (or something similar). I kind of put them in just to see what would happen, though, as I was too late to get a real Spring garden growing anyway. I figured none of my brassicas would grow anyway. Much to my surprise, the Napa cabbage took off right away and I could have gotten a nice harvest, were it not for the beetles. Come fall, however, I will have a Plan and will put them all in the same bed and cover it with insect netting. Good to know that I can successfully grow Napa cabbage, though–I hadn’t tried growing it last year. (Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and bok choy, yes; cabbage, no.)

Peas. Peas are growing well! My Magnolia Blossom snap pea, my Purple Royalty snap pea, and my Green Arrow are all thriving, despite the heat! I’m so excited. I’ve already had some fo the Magnolia peas, and they were very tasty. Next to harvest will be the Green Arrow shelling peas, the the purple snap peas. I’ve got another batch of the purple snap peas locked and loaded, and will probably put them in this week.

My melons and squashes are all happily germinating and growing–the honeydew melon-types especially. Here’s hoping I actually get some to harvest this year! And that the trellis I ordered arrives in time, because the melons are already starting to take over the cucumber trellises.

Finally, the rest of my flowers. I ended up pulling all of the ranunculus; they took forever to sprout initially, then only grew about 4″ high, and never showed any signs of putting up a flower talk, so out they went. I’ve already ordered next year’s corms, so I should be able to get the kind of early start that all of the flower farmers I watch on YouTube have. My poppies, by and large, have not fared too well, though one of my Amazing Gray poppies and one of my Falling in Love poppies are absolutely thriving. (All I want is at least one of each flower variety to thrive, so I can decide if I like it enough to grow it next year.) Sunflowers are just getting started, unfortunately, because several rounds of seedlings and seeds have been eaten by the local chipmunks. The violas and pansies will make it onto my “to grow” list next year, because I’ve found that they are just so delicate and precious, and much smaller and daintier than anything I’ve seen at the local nurseries. They are really quite cute. Same goes for the Snow White Malva and Crystal Palace lobelia–both of which were a pain to grow as seedlings but ended up being very delicate, refined-looking filler flowers.

As for calendulas, I haven’t found one that I really like yet. My zinnias are just bow blooming, so it’s too early to tell. I’ve found that I really like the Black Velvet and Tip Top Alaskan Salmon nasturtiums; the rest, though successful, were just eh. My sweet peas still haven’t bloomed; they may not do so this year as it’s already pretty late into their season. The hedge roses have settled in nicely, though despite being named “Double Knock-Out red” roses, they’re really a magenta pink. Which is fine; I didn’t care that much about the color.

That about wraps up my garden update. More photos to come!

Moon Garden Update 6/2/21

The moon garden is progressing well.

The Moon Garden, as of 6/2/21

(Not show in the picture is the night-blooming jasmine in the urn on the right-hand side of the screen. Mulch to be added soon, I promise!)

So far, everything is growing well, and a few things have finally even started blooming. I ended up adding in a few more Fleurel dahlias to the mix; I think it will really help bulk up the garden. As it’s a 3′ tall dinner-plate dahlia, we may end up with more packed in to this space than it can handle–who knows? I also ended up adding two of the African Blue-Eyed daisies, as they had survived much better than I had expected, and a few more Abyssinian Gladiolus. I also added two more moonflower sprouts, as they seem to be slow in taking off. Now that I’m thinking about it, I do have a small white bleeding heart growing next to my compost bin that I could probably add as well–but there is a massive red bleeding heart plant right next to the Moon Garden (literally overshadowing it, until it died back this week) so I’m not sure it’s a great idea to put to such aggressively spreading plants so near each other.

The Snow White Malva (Pinetree Seeds) is blooming, and though the plant is a lot shorter and less bushy than I envisioned, it’s still very charming. The African daisy (Baker Creek) is also very charming, and again smaller than I had pictured. It looks like it will be very prolific, at least. Both of which I grew from seed this year for the first time–but honestly, seed packets can be pretty inaccurate sometimes. The dwarf cosmos and snapdragons were from the local nursery and were already in full bloom–the cosmos are fine with just a few dead-headings, but the snaps look to be burning themselves out pretty quickly.

I know the dahlias won’t be flowering until the end of July, probably, and the Moonflower seedlings seem to be on that same track as well. The chamomiles I added near the fence are also being slow to grow! I had no idea chamomile flowers took so long to grow from seed. The Abyssian glads are very thin with small flowers, so hopefully they should start sprout and bloom by the end of the month. The Night-Blooming Jasmine is also putting all of its effort into growing tall currently, before it’ll even think about putting out flowers. Gardening really is an exercise in patience.