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On Tour

New Look to Old Garden

On tour, an old garden gets a new look and solution to drainage disaster. Do you have problems with flooding, hugs of old shrubs, and lack of privacy? That was the case for writers Helen Thompson and Charles Lohrmann when they refurbished their old home. To update their garden with a fresh clean look, designer Patrick Kirwin gave it structure with multi-level raised beds that assist the underground water control scheme. He filled them with lush, low-water plants that attract wildlife. The neighbors come by, too, to gather organic food from the front yard vegetable bed. For privacy and views from every window, Patrick chose plants that handle both drought and seasonal drenching from underground springs.

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Question of the Week

Why don’t my wildflower seeds come up?

One reason that wildflower seeds don’t germinate could be that they were planted too deeply.  An easy way to gauge how deeply to plant seeds is seed-size.  The smaller the seed, the more shallow it should be planted.

This is why you’ll see instructions on many wildflower seed packets to only lightly scratch seeds into the soil, not plant them in holes. They need light to germinate. Some do want a little deeper planting, so check the packet label.

Another reason might be an autumn rain shower, which could wash away your seeds. Or, it could wash more soil on top of them which covers them too deeply.

Also, avoid planting too early. Late October to mid-November is best. In hot dry weather, seeds won’t germinate. In the meantime, they could get eaten or get too wet and rotted.

I planted lots of flowers from seed in my garden when I moved to Austin in 2009.  And in September of that year, I got over seven inches of rain in just one day.  Needless to say, most of my seeds didn’t come up, and those that did didn’t end up where I planted them.

But maybe that was nature’s way of making me relax about the perfect plan that I thought I had, and loosen up to a more natural look in my garden.  The result was, of course, still quite beautiful.

Finally, when your seeds germinate, remember to lightly water them if rains don’t come. We often get hot and dry months in winter.  If the little seeds wither, that’s the end of your wildflower crop this year.

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Plant of the Week



Papaver rhoeas

There are many non-native poppies, but one of the most common for us is corn poppy, also known as Flanders poppy. Like native poppies and California poppy, we plant corn poppy seeds in the fall. There are many colors and flower forms. Seed them among dormant perennials for a burst of color in spring to feed bees and other insects. They're lovely against native yellow columbine or non-native larkspurs and other springtime flowers. The seeds are very tiny, so you don't want to bury them. Scatter on top of cleared soil and barely cover. Lightly water in to firm their soil contact. Late October to mid-November is a good time to plant them, after temperatures are slightly cooler. In late spring, you can collect the seeds to save for next year. When the seed head turns brown and the top "pops up," it's time to get a bucket and clip the stems to drop in. If you're lucky, many will re-seed on their own next year. Saving some is insurance to make sure you have more next fall! Let the seed dry and clean off debris. Store indoors in plastic bags or containers. Poppies can hybridize with other colors and forms, so next year you could have something a little different.