Seeds of Thought

This week while Helen from the vegetable garden is away on holiday, I have chosen some self-sown plants around the garden to draw your attention to.

I am feeling pleased because some accidental opium poppy seedlings I let survive in the purple border are flowering. Rather than hoe them out during the routine weeding of this border some weeks ago, I decided to leave them be, hoping that they would grow up to be just as richly coloured as their parent plants  ‘Papaver somniferum ‘Lauren’s grape’ planted within this border last year.

Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's grape'

Indeed, they seem to resemble a very convincing likeness, but as with many self-sown plants, you can never be absolutely sure of what unexpected variant might spring up and surprise you.

Another plant, which every year we allow to seed itself throughout the border, is ‘Malva sylvestris var. mauritiana’. 2015 has been a good year for this common mallow, which we treat as a hardy annual/biennial, cutting it back in winter, knowing it will produce new seedlings which will flower next year. I have noticed that there have been some especially tall specimens this year, which I tied with twine to chestnut poles to safeguard them against the weather.

Over on the other side of the brick wall in the midst of fern and peony foliage in Delos, the majestic display of ‘Lilium martigon’ sometimes refered to as ‘The Turk’s cap lily’ are a superb example of how successful a large group of self-sown plants can be when nurtured and how well their random placement can help to emphasize a more relaxed, naturalistic feeling. Especially valuable in this part of the garden, where an organised wilderness is keenly promoted. There is a mixture of both maroon and white forms too. It takes a few years before they have enough energy to flower, but once they gain momentum they do not fail to please.

Next door by the Priest house in the White garden there are more self-sown surprises.

The most interesting in my opinion, but like ‘chalk and cheese’ in their opposing characters are the architectural leaves of the sea holly, ‘Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss. Willmott’s ghost’and the tall swaying spires of white rosebay willow herb, ‘Epilobium angustifolium ‘Album’.

‘Miss. Willmott’ it seems is in perpetual limbo, appearing frequently at the foot of a border, or standing alone on the edge of a path.

The willow herb, although softer and serene in her appearance is not to be trusted. In the past I have had to yank out persistent rhizomatous roots, which, if not disciplined can lead this plant astray and crowd out everything else.


We do let it seed to ensure an annual succession. But, only one or two spires are needed to keep her presence felt.

And that is my short selection.

What I love most about the presence of self-sown plants, with the exception of all weeds, is their spontaneity and their reminder to us all that plants have a life of their own and not always that of our horticultural choosing.


8 thoughts on “Seeds of Thought

  1. Jo – Love your photos & description of these mischievous garden residents. I’d give anything to have such friendly visitors – they just don’t like sunny & humid NSW. Unlike a thousand varieties of unwelcome weed seed. I love the mallow – great colour!


    • Hello,
      Pleased you enjoyed it. I had to remove some poppy hybrids this morning actually. Not quite the right flower shape. Indeed, our battle with controlling unwanted plants/weeds will be never ending.


  2. Self seeders are great, provided one knows their habits and can control them and not them controlling us. They do take quite a bit of professional knowledge to allow them to enter your borders. Sissinghurst does it so well.


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