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Fall Seeds Bring Spring Flowers!

Some days it sure seems like fall is never going to get here. And then, in mere minutes, a cold front whooshes in to pep up our steps. Plants leap into action once again. Late to the party this year, red spider lily (Lycoris radiata) finally emerged, albeit sparsely, due to late summer’s sparse rainfall.
red spider lily Lycoris radiata
Thanks to a few rain spurts, a parched median strip transformed overnight when hundreds of rain lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen) sprang up.
Zephyranthes chlorosolen Rain lilies September bloom street median
Native goldenrod, even growing wild along drainage runways, helps bees fuel up for winter with nectar and pollen.
bee on goldenrod
Drought-tough native aromatic asters absolutely exploded this week, extending pollinator feeding fests for weeks.
aromatic aster
bee on aromatic aster
And, as days cool down (sort of!), it’s time to think ahead to dreamy late winter and early spring flowers that enchant the dormant perennial garden and nurture its wildlife.
bee on poppy flower
So this week, we visit La Otra Flora Laura Brennand’s small garden, where she shows us how to seed spring flowers—including those tricky poppies—and plant beautiful bulbs for successive bouquets.
flower vase and Laura Brennand
Last spring, Laura showed us her cool weather cut flowers and how to include them in arrangements.
vase of spring flowers
Last week we headed back on a misty morning, this time a first since fall 2019 to unite with director Ed Fuentes and Robert Moorhead.
garden with CTG crew and Laura Brennand
Laura’s summer flowers are fading—though she collects seeds for next year. Purple hyacinth bean vine blankets a fence; its flowers and young leaves perfect in salads. When the bright purple seed pods brown up, she’ll save some to plant next April. Seeds that fall to the ground may come up on their own.
purple hyacinth bean flower
Gentle fragrance greeted us, too: a gift from almond verbena’s (Aloysia virgata) generous flower spikes, signaling every bee and butterfly around when the sun returned. This large shrub/small tree made it through the February hard freeze, as did my own. We just cut them almost to the ground, which I do most years anyway.
almond verbena flower
Laura started a cut flower garden in her small yard while pregnant with her son, now four (and very garden savvy!). When her random, new-mom-neglected plantings flourished, she discovered another new love. She grew her plant passion into La Otra Flora as a flower garden consultant and custom cut flower garden designer. The key thing she’ll tell you: soil first, plants second.
sweet peas and poppies in hoop house covered with plastic
She shows us how she fluffs up her soil after its busy summer. Rather than pulling up tired-out annuals, she cut them back to let their roots naturally continue soil nourishment. Then she gently folded in a layer of compost. In this spot, she demonstrated how to plant one of her spring favorites, Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist).
woman ready to plant seeds
nigella flowers
Now, and the next few weeks, we can also seed larkspur, bachelor buttons, delphinium, sweet peas, nasturtium, pansies, and alyssum, along with wildflowers. For every seed—flower or vegetable—it’s essential to note its planting depth, since some need deeper soil cover and others just a light topping. Note: since we’re supposed to hit the 90s again, do keep newly planted seeds and sprouting seedlings gently watered!
seed packet
And that’s where gardeners can fail at poppies, like this Shirley or corn poppy.
red corn poppy blue larkspur peach Iceland poppies La Otra Flora garden Laura Brennand
First, she told us that poppies need super soft, fertile, fluffy soil. Next, don’t plant too early. “I usually plant somewhere in November. There’s an old garden tale that in order to get successful poppies, you need to find the dreariest, rainiest, ugliest day in November. And that’s when you plant your poppies. The soil needs to be nice and moist. And the reason is because the poppy seeds are so, so tiny and they can get easily washed away or dried out,” she advised.
woman in garden showing seeds in her hand
Finally—and this is absolutely critical—merely scatter the dust-sized seeds on the surface of your soil and gently rake or tamp in. She recommends California poppies for one that’s really bright and showy. Note that their leaves are very fine and feathery.
California poppy
Dramatic Black Swan and Lauren’s Grape are opium or breadseed poppies, Papaver somniferum.
Lauren's Grape and Black Swan poppy seed packets
One of her favorites is Amazing Grey, the Mother-of-Pearl poppy. These are called Shirley or corn poppies, Papaver rhoeas. Many of the red poppies you get are these species.
'Mother of Pearl' poppy Laura Ruiz Brennand La Otra Flora
For cutting poppies, Laura recommends Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicale) for their thick, strong stems.
Iceland poppy
Laura also starts seeds in her small greenhouse.
camera and woman in greenhouse
She prefers to use coconut coir as her medium rather than a peat-based product, breaking it up and moistening before filling her cell seed starter trays. This allows flexibility in timing, protection from dramatic weather, successive sowing, and a backup in case of squirrels!
woman with coco coir in bowl
Let’s not forget spring bulbs, which we can plant any time in October and November. Laura likes to pre-sprout anemones to give them a head start. (Anemones are actually corms, but generally called “bulbs.” They were one of the first I ever planted, my gateway to spring bulbs!)
anemones
She and I are big fans of fragrant Narcissus ‘Erlicheer,’ one of the early bloomers and so reliable in Central Texas.
Narcissus Erlicheer
To help you get growing, Laura advises keeping a journal, however you want to do it. It’s invaluable to remember varieties that worked well, when you planted, how long it took to germinate and flower, how long they lasted, and what problems you encountered.
garden journal
I still have my first homemade journal, where, like Laura, I drew plans, noted blooming dates, and even wrote little stories about each plant. I love to revisit it from time to time to remember how my journey evolved!
garden journal
But I do not have a nicely organized seed box like Laura’s! Well, okay, I’ve got a container for them, and now and then, they’re organized. For a few minutes.
seed storage box
Check out her website for her garden diary and to sign up for her garden consult and design services. Follow her on Instagram to watch her garden across the year.

And watch our garden visit now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda

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