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Wrapped up sowing with an ear worm


By John Beaulieu (pronounced Bowl-you)

The winds of November are blowing, and I have just wrapped up the last of my fall (autumn) in-ground sowing. It may be blustery weather, but it is my last chance to get seeds in the ground or plants moved before the ground freezes for winter. I do in-ground sowing of any perennials as late in the season as possible to prevent possible early germination during an unusual warm spell in October or November. It has happened in the past, and of course the young seedlings do not survive the freeze which follows.

Most perennials benefit from being exposed to the cold of winter, and the germination is better than those sowed in the spring. Over the last few years I have been sowing a lot of hardy geraniums and daylilies. All daylily seeds are sown this way, and most of the geraniums were in-ground sown. Only those that I had just a few seeds of, special plants, or those that might not be all that hardy, were held over for mid-winter sowing in pots.

This fall, I have started running out of room for seedlings, so I only sowed my daylilies in a nursery bed. A few collected geranium seeds and my seed scheme picks will be winter-sown later. As any gardener knows there is always lots of last minute cleanup and gathering to be done before things (tools, hose, etc.) get buried by unexpected snow. I’ve been scrambling to get all this done while being bugged by an ear worm. No, it’s not some garden pest, but a term I’ve heard on the radio for that tune that sticks in your head and you can’t seem to shake it.

This is a result of attending a gathering up in Orillia (a small town about a half hour drive from Midhurst) for the birthday celebration of one of our popular local musician’s (who is well-known across North America). Gordon Lightfoot was turning 75! Music and a cake cutting was held at the Mariposa Market (a popular bakery/café) on the Orillia main street. After an afternoon of Gord’s tunes, I can’t get them out of my head!

Anyway, back to the topic of in-ground sowing and nursery beds….

When I started preparing seeding nursery beds a few years ago, I did some work to help conserve moisture. Our ground is fast draining, with less than a foot of topsoil over the golden sand below. I removed the top soil and laid an old rug in the ground to act as a sort of liner to hold moisture and prevent it from draining away right away. Soil was placed back over the rug and a top layer of a potting-type mix was added to sow the seeds in. After sowing and covering with a thin layer of the mix, a mulch of leaves or pine needles are added to prevent strong rain from washing up the seed. This basic method has worked well for me.

Checking the new seedlings in May.

With the hardy geraniums, it is surprising how soon the seedlings can be identified. On the left is a Geranium x oxonianum ‘Kathrine Adele’ and a ‘Dark Reiter’ G. pratense on the right.

The more they growth the easier it is to confirm what they are. Rows are marked by stakes and an overall map plan is made, but some seed does get moved around somehow.

This is my second nursery bed for geraniums. The seedlings are left in each bed for two years to check on the bloom before moving them to permanent spots. I use all sorts of wire cages and fencing to protect the seeds and seedlings from digging by critters (most often skunks) for the first critical months.

These are the 2nd bed seedlings at the end of the first year of growth.

Where the germination was more random, I used little sticks to mark where there were seedlings, making it easier to step through the bed for weeding.

This is that first bed. Plants were all moved elsewhere and it was cleaned up ready for another crop of seedlings. As mentioned this year I did not sow geraniums in-ground. This area has now become part of my expanding rockery and scree, with this spot becoming the home for most of my meadow cranesbills. I’m trying to keep similar plants together in areas, rather than scattered all over the garden.

The winds are picking up…. I’m thinking of Lightfoot’s song about the Great Lakes ship that sunk in November on Lake Superior, The Edmond Fitzgerald….. The lake it is said never gives up her dead when the gales of November blow early…. (here comes that ear worm!)

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we like Gordon especially his 'wreck of the Edmund fitzgerald' gosh 75 yrs old.

I enjoyed you blog too. very interesting.

19 Nov, 2013


as a very young man, Gord used to drive the "bread truck" up through Muskoka (where I'm from) have loved his music all my life and he has a wonderful voice. "The legend lives on..from the Chippewa on down..of the big lake they call Gitchygoomy...Superior, it's said, never gives up her dead when the witch of November turns gloomy." Now I carry that earworm!
appreciate the effort to make a proper bed for your geraniums...We have sandy soil on top of bedrock. A strange type of sandy eluvium, not quite clay, but with a few more hundred millenia, maybe!
Good drainage can be a blessing and a curse. In the summer my front bed gets so dry in such a short time. The elevation here means that we have clouds at the treetops some very overcast days...but as is seen elsewhere, our water table is lower than it was. trying to build a natural pond in the stream to hold a siberian iris collection. Not much to boast about now but with a few more years perhaps it will become what I envision. Have only one variety of geranium plus lots of herb robert which self seeds and makes a pretty carpet under the cedars. Could you suggest a blue variety of cranesbill?

19 Nov, 2013


John an excellent blog as ever interesting read.

20 Nov, 2013



Your earworm has a better grasp of the lyrics than mine!

There are sure lots of blue geraniums out there.... The catch is, regardless of what gets suggested, most people will have a very limited choice of plants that they will find at local garden centres.

Here is a list of my favourite 'blues' starting with the best (my opinion) and working down..... But, they are ALL still good plants.

x Magnificum
Johnson's Blue
Blue Sunrise
Rozanne or Jolly Bee (said to be the same)
G. pratense (blue form)

Magnificum and Johnson's Blue are often said to be the best bloomers (over a long period) because they are both sterile hybrids and do not produce seed. Many are confused in the trade and wrong names are very common on these. If you get seed (beaks) forming on these they are not the right plants.

My top pick, 'Nimbus', is a light blue with more of a star shape with petals that are narrow and do not overlap. The foliage is deeper cut than many, almost a ferny look

And, of course 'blue' in plants is usually more of a blue/purple than a true blue.

20 Nov, 2013

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