experiments with seeds

I've always wanted to plant seeds and in recent years wanted to figure out how to do it more successfully. Results have been so hit and miss. I need to document and collect data: test

1. How long from sowing seeds until flowers are produced?

in progress, collating my results

  weeks from sowing seeds to first flower
Opium Poppy  
     Black Swan 13
     Lauren's Grape 16
Borage 11
Chicory following summer
Chinese Lanterns following summer
Cleome spinosa 10
Common Corncockle 11
Cornflower 10 (2018), 12 (2017 and 2016)
Echium Blue Bedder 15 (2019), 10 (2018), 11 (2017)
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) 11 (2018), 15 (2017)
Hyssop following summer
Lupin Festival 15
Meadow Cranesbill following summer
Morning Glory 11
Nasturtium 6 (2019), 11 (2017), 12 (2016)
Pink Fizz Poppies 14
Polyanthus following spring
Scabiosa Perfection Blue following spring
Sea Holly following summer
Snapdragons 6
Viola Chicky Chicks 9
Viola Floral Powers 8
Wild Bergamot following summer

2. Which compost materials are best for germination?

3. Should the seeds be covered? in opaque or transparent material?

4. Which seedlings are most attractive to slugs?

This year's seeds are at Seeds 2019

Seeds 2018 (links to archive of past years: Archive 2016  Archive 2017 )

I'm thinking about the seeds I'm planting for Spring 2018. Every year I say to myself "fewer seeds!" and every year I go a bit mad.

I bought some seeds in Korea, clockwise from top left, Aster koraiensis (saw lots of this in Korea), Pulsatilla Koreana, Rose of Sharon (national flower of Korea), perilla, hyssop, chrysanthemum (saw lots of this in Korea).

Korean seeds

I ordered from Chiltern Seeds:

agastache Korean Zest (bit of a Korean theme going on here!),

Bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Centaurea moschata 'Imperialis'

Cleome spinosa 'Violet Queen' (saw cleome in Seoul so that got me interested)

Common Marsh Mallow

corncockle (Agrostemma githago 'Milas Purple Queen')

Catnip, Nepeta cataria

poppies (Papaver somniferum Black Swan)

purple toadflax (linaria purpurea)

Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)

Valerian (someone on FB said their cat loved it so I want to see how my cats like it)

Water mint (Mentha aquatica)

Scabiosa caucasia  (Perfection Blue)


bought from the garden centre

Franchi cat grass, edible for the cats

2 kinds of tomato seeds

After thinking I needed more edible flowers after seeing so many on MasterChef:

viola Chicky Chicks (Mr Fothergill's)

Winter Purslane (Kings Seeds)

nasturtium (Kings Seeds)

cornflower (Mr Fothergills)

leftover from previous years:

Morning Glory (from collected seed from flowers I grew last year)

Snapdragon (Franchi)

Echium Blue Bedder (Mr Fothergill's)

Wild Bergamot


I've used seed trays and pots but 20-4-2018 I got a few fibre pots and "growing pockets" which I haven't used for years. I'm curious how they will work. This gives me 74 pots for seeds plus the 2 40-cell seed trays that had the muscari, 154 in total, I think I have enough for this year.

growing pockets fibre pots

I have some shelves to keep the seedlings away from the slugs but it hasn't been wholly successful.The slugs and snails can slither up them. Nowhere is safe.


Cat Grass (Mr Fothergills)

19-2-2018 With four cats, I like to have cat grass available for them on the windowsill. The last lot is done so I've started a new pot. I've put cling film over the pot to keep the seeds moist until they germinate. Cover the seeds or not? I'm not sure so some are on top and some are under the compost.

cat grass seed sowing

by the end of March I have a few seedlings, only 10, not impressive considering how many seeds I planted, and of course some other unexpected seedlings, I bought some more seeds to try another supplier

cat grass


I got so few cat grass plants from those Mr Fothergill's seeds, I'm trying these Franchi seeds. Some seeds want light, some don't. I'm not sure about cat grass so I've sprinkled the seeds on the compost and put plastic over to keep them moist. If they don't germinate in a reasonable time I will cover with compost.

Franchi cat grass

fast germination but I see now very few actual seeds, all those thin husky bits are not seeds, only the larger fatter ones are seeds so not many in the packet at all

less than 15 seeds in this pot

cat grass seedlings

only 8 or 9 actual seeds in this pot

cat grass seedlings

I stand corrected. Those small husky seeds are growing as well. What are they? same as the larger seeds or something else? There are about 30 of the large grass plants in the one pot and about 10 in this one.

cat grass

They can't be faulted on speed. These are large enough for cats to nibble in a few days - 4 days to be exact.

cat grass seedlings

the cat grass has been fantastic, I don't know why I didn't post another pic, will find one



not seeds but I am planting them this Spring

26-3-2018  I only ordered 1 pack of 25 from Peter Nyssen but when I saw them at Sainsbury's for only £2.50 I thought I'd try those as well. I soaked the corms overnight first. Last year I had a lot of fungus so I thought there was no hurry planting them. I don't think it does them any good to sit in soil for months before they start growing in the Spring.

ranunculus soaking

I put them on the top of some compost and then covered them with more compost.


about a month later, I have a few shoots sprouting from the corms

ranunculus sprouts

as of 8-5-2018


My first (of very few) ranunculus flowers today. They have been mercilessly eatern by slugs.


I also found some ranunculus and anemone corms I hadn't planted yet the other day and promptly planted them, maybe June 1st? Of course ridiculously late but maybe they'll be some late flowers. The above ranunculus are not doing well. The slugs have really got to them. The slugs have been so active recently. Last year I planted the anemome and ranunculus so much earlier (beginning of February 2017) so although I had problems with rotting and fungus I did have a fabulous display of flowers (I'll have to check the exact dates) probably before the slugs got going.


I investigated those late-planted ranunculus and anemone, same gooey rotting anemone corms as last year and larvae in the ranunculus and it sure can't be from too-early planting. They were from the same supplier as last year to replace those with the problems so I question the quality of those corms.


26-3-2018  I sowed 2 types of tomato seeds.The first row is Johnsons World Kitchen Chipano F1 only 10 seeds in the packet so 2 seeds per pot and Franchi Red Cherry in the next 3 rows, a few seeds per pot. I've covered them with plastic and put them on the windowsill inside as it's still quite cold outside.

tomato seeds sown

about 3 weeks later and they are doing great - too great, I need to thin them out

tomato seedlings

thinning out is one of the most difficult tasks (to me anyway) - you get seeds to germinate and then just discard them but we need to make the effort to ensure some will thrive

I thinned them out to 1, 2 or 3 to a pot but they need more thinning, I'm hoping to save more seedlings but ran out of pots and compost to replant them into

thinned tomato seedlings

the Chipano tomatoes I put 1 in a pot and from a packet of 10 seeds I have 10 plants, I'm pleased with that

cipano tomato seedlings

the slugs had 4 of those Cipano tomatoes, 6 plants remaining in the next 2 photos

Cipano tomato seedlings

2 larger ones on the left Cipano, others the Franchi red cherry

tomato seedlings


Corn Cockle

11 weeks from sowing seeds to flowering

planted 27-3-2018, I've never grown these before but I love wildflowers both for the flowers and for the bees, pleased with the germination so far after 2 weeks

corn cockle seedlings

10 days later, looking good

corn cockle seedlings

as of 8-5-2018

corncockle seedlings

8-6-2018 corn cockle with buds surrounded by tomatoes

corn cockle

8-6-2018 corn cockle with buds

corn cockle

8-6-2018 the 2 black pots below are corn cockle, the other pots are cornflowers

cornflowers corn cockle

15-6-2018 first corncockle in bloom, 11 weeks from sowing seeds to flowers blooming

corn cockle

Echium Blue Bedder

planted 27-3-2018, flowering 7-6-2018, 10 weeks from sowing to flowering

last year these did well, I had seeds leftover, so far a resonable amount of germination after 2 weeks

echium blue bedder seedlings

a week later and the seedlings are looking good; some cells are empty but if I get a decent plant from each of these seedlings, that will be plenty

echium blue bedder seedlings

I've repotted the echium seedlings

echium seedlings

the 6 pots on the left are echium, 3 pots top right are corncockle, 7 pots bottom right, Cipano tomato

echium corncockle seedlings

pot on the left echium, 2 on the top right corncockle (bottom right ox-eye daisy)

echium corncockle seedlings

as of 8-5-2018, following 3 photos

echium blue bedder seedlings

echium blue bedder seedlings

echium blue bedder seedlings

3 weeks later, a few are in the pots to the right below, also see the photo of the poppies below which show some echium pots as well

Seedlings I gave to my neighbour blooming this week, beginning of June. 

echium blue bedder

My first Blue Bedder just starting blooming today (8-6-2018).

echium blue bedder

great success and the bees are loving them

echium Blue Bedder

Poppy Black Swan

13 weeks from seed sowing to flowering

planted 27-3-2018 the other side of the tray from the scabious, also thick fungus on the pots, great germination so far

poppy black swan seedlings

10 days later, I have tried to repot some to thin them out, the 12 fibre pots to the left in the tray are scabious, 7 seedlings of those

black swan poppy seedlings

as of 8-5-2018, some have been lost to slugs but still 14 small pots

poppy black swan seedlings

I had over 10 small pots of seedlings, 3 went into this trough

black swan poppy seedlings

3 pots are to the left below, others are echium and tomatoes

repotted seedlings

8-6-2018 Black Swan Poppies

Black Swan poppies

Black Swan Poppies


I'm seeing some buds and sadly more losses to slugs. Looks like I might get about 20 flowers - if I'm lucky and the slugs don't keep destroying them.

Black Swan poppies

I also noticed in the garden this morning (10-6-2018) a poppy seedling with the scabious in the pot on the left. I don't know which poppy it is. I still have that small Black Swan poppy seedling on the right. I don't know why that one hasn't gotten any bigger.

poppy seedlings

18-6-2018 first Black Swan poppy in bloom, 13 weeks from seed sowing to flowering

Black Swan poppy

some fabulous flowers which the bees loved but only about 17 flowers - not that I had room for much more - which only lasted about a day each

Black Swan poppies


Scabiosa caucasica Perfection Blue

planted 27-3-2018 (?) it has been incredibly wet recently and the pots are all growing fungus which I've never seen before, after 3 weeks I have 2 seedlings

all the scabious seeds I've planted in the past have had poor germination

scabious seedlings

I now have 6 seedlings, not great but if I get 6 decent plants from the packet of seeds, that's something

scabiosa seedlings

as of 8-5-2018, managed to get 8 seedlings, quite small yet, slow-going

scabious seedlings

3 weeks later, I lost 3 more to the slugs although that one on the right is half-eaten. I guess I may have 4 plants?

scabious perfection blue

3 weeks later, mid-July, I repotted the seedlings, 5 surviving, although says "flowering the first year from seed " at the web site, I don't think they're going to make it this year

scabiosa perfection blue small plants

end of August, scabious looking good but still no buds, same 5 small plants, each in their own pot (and a few violas and pansies) except 1 pot that has a verbascum and nasturtium self-seeding in it

scabious perfection blue

scabious perfection blue

scabious perfection blue

A verbascum and nasturtium have taken over this pot leaving the scabious crowded out but not sure what to do. It would be very difficult to separate the verbascum and scabious. The nastrutium will be finished soon and can be removed.

scabious perfection blue

Viola Chicky Chicks

just over 9 weeks from sowing to seeds to flowers blooming

planted 7-4-2018 (?) the slugs have gotten to the seed packet which I put at the side as a label

viola chicky chicks

10 days later, not impressive but I know slugs have been around

as of 8-5-2018, not many but at least I have a few seedlings, differently shaped one top centre is actually snapdragon

viola seedlings

I have 6 pots left with viola seedlings. Ideally I'd separate them out into their own pots but not sure I can. That tall one is a snapdragon that shouldn't be there.

viola chicky chicks

These were in bloom on 12-6-2018, just over 9 weeks from sowing to flowers

viola chicky chicks

2 weeks later, full bloom, I declare the viola Chicky Chicks a success

viola chicky chicks

I collected the seed from those flowers and sowed it. Great germination, better than the original packet of seeds. (taller dead-nettle on the left, tomato on the right)

viola chicky chicks

I put the largest seedling into this hanging basket beginning of September. I hope they'll still bloom this year, maybe they won't till next year but they are hardy so hope they'll be ok.

viola seedlings hanging basket


Mr Fothergills Cornflower

10 weeks from sowing to flowering

sown 7-4-2018, 9 days later some seedlings

cornflower seedlings

a week later

cornflower seedlings

sadly the slugs have gotten to these (by 8-5-2018), one of their favourite plants in my garden, a few plants may survive to flowering

cornflower seedlings

3 weeks later, the few (5) I have left are looking good. They should be able to bloom in those pots even though they are a bit small. I need to keep them on the top shelf away from the slugs, although that didn't wholly save them. The black pots at the front, left and right, are corn cockle.

cornflower small plants

8-6-2018 Cornflowers (terracotta pots, black pots are corn cockle)


first cornflower in bloom, 15-6-2018, 10 weeks are sowing seeds


2 weeks later, full bloom, lots of exquisite blue flowers




I've grown lots of muscari from bulbs and collected seed a few years ago, I'll have to check exactly when I started these, my aim was to see how long until they actually flowered

muscari seedlings

muscari seedlings

I thought I'd be able to fill this pot but it turned out there were too many

muscari seedlings

there were some foxgloves in the seed tray as well so I've made a pot with those, some muscari and there's viola there and a couple things I'm not sure of

muscari and foxgloves

also from last year is Wild Bergamot, not sure where in the garden to put it so just repotted it for the moment, I haven't grown it before so not sure how long it takes to flower or how large it gets

monarda small plants

monarda small plants

as of 8-5-2018

monarda small plants

10-6-2018 there's one of the two pots of monarda, no flowers or even buds so far


here's the other pot of monarda, no buds


almost 3 weeks later, I see buds on the monarda

monarda buds

I sowed these in June 2017 so just over a year later, I have my first flower. Like many perennials they bloom the following year after sowing.

wild bergamot

one pot is planted in the garden, the other pot is large and as the ground is rock-hard with this drought I'm not going to attempt to plant it in the ground until we get some rain

wild bergamot

2nd plant finally in the ground mid-September, also the 3 chicory plants in front

chicory and wild bergamot in the ground


end of April, I found a few seeds left from 2 years ago and I wanted to try out these expanding "pots", after a couple weeks, seedlings in every pot (12) until the slugs had a munch, they destroyed 4

chicory seedlings

end of May  After the voracious slugs have eaten the chicory seedlings, I have one left and I found one self-seeded in this pot (not to be confused with the snapdragons) which may, after planting out - with slug protection - may be able to bloom this year. It's so large, it must have started growing last year.


beginning of August, I found there was another chicory seedling in the pot on the right as well so I now have 3 chicory seedlings, all need repotting, will bloom next year if the slugs don't get them

planted out the chicory plants mid-September (see pic above with the wild bergamot)


Morning Glory

I had loads of seeds from the morning glory plants I had last year. I sowed them 2 or 3 weeks ago. Rather glow to germinate whereas in the past I thought they were quite fast.

morning glory seedlings

I don't know if I took a photo in between these 2 times. Above I hardly had any seedlings and below, 3 weeks later, I potted them into 3 round black plastic pots, not that large but they have bloomed the last 2 years in smallish pots like that. 3 are in my garden and 1 I put in my neighbour's on the other side of the fence. The purple flowers should grow along the top of the fence.

morning glory seedlings

the morning glory have been flowering for the past few weeks but are looking quite nice now

morning glory


Catnip (nepeta cataria)

I can't remember now if I had leftover seeds or bought more but they haven't done very well and the slugs adore them. Poor germination and the few seedlings I got, the slugs had most of them. The tall ones below are not the nepeta. (I think I got these seeds recently from Chiltern Seeds but I'll have to check - I did check, this is a new packet of seeds from Chiltern)

nepeta cataria

The slugs kept eating every nepeta seedling as soon as it started growing so I moved the tray inside. There was nowhere else to put it outside - no matter now high off the ground the slugs still got to it.

nepeta seedlings

somehow I managed to still have 12 nepeta seedlings even though the slugs ate their way through them on more than one occasion, planting so many seeds per cell meant there were late germinating seeds

nepeta cataria seedlings

3-7-2018 In spite of the slugs, I've managed to still have 10 plants, although the main plant in the pot bottom right was eaten, there was another small seedling so I hope that will eventually catch up. I am going to repot these soon.

nepeta cataria seedlings

3 weeks later, the 10 nepeta plants are in bloom, 11 weeks from sowing seed to flowering

nepeta cataria

End of August, I am a glutton for punishment. I am trying to grow more catnip to sell the plants at a Christmas Fair for an animal charity. I put 3 seeds in each cell of this seed tray. Some cells have no seedlings yet. I'm worried about damping off indoors so have been putting them out during the day and bringing them in at night to keep them away from the slugs.

nepeta cataria seedlings


Sea Holly

I collected seed from my sea holly plants 2 years ago and planted the seeds last year. They germinated and grew well but the slugs love them so I put some in this trough rather than in the ground. I also had so many I wasn't sure what to do with them all. Now I wonder how long until they bloom. I have had small plants from the garden centre that never bloomed for 2 years or so, before the slugs got them. They obviously need some time to establish but I don't know how long.

sea holly

A couple weeks later, the sea holly has the tall flowering stems emerging from the centre of 3 of the plants in the trough. This hasn't happened with all of them. I guess the conditions were right?

sea holly

Now I'm more confused than ever. This small sea holly has a flower stem shooting up - why? Most of the small ones still in small pots like this don't have that. I still don't know what makes them develop like this.

sea holly

a number of the plants are flowering, from last year's sowing, very pleased with these results

sea holly


Chinese Lanterns

I planted these seeds last year and as small plants transplanted them to this trough. I wasn't sure how they would do as I'd never grown them from seed before. They have flower buds today (28-5-2018) so looking forward to lanterns later in the year. (plantain self-seeding in the middle there, now removed). Lanterns looking great September. So yes they can be grown from collected seed and yes, they can grow in a pot and produced lanterns.

chinese lanterns

first week of September I see lanterns in this trough but maybe it's too crowded

chinese lanterns

but this pot is looking spectacular, I can't remember if I planted one in this trough or one of the seeds ended up here by accident

chinese lanterns


Cleome Spinosa Violet Queen

I started these about a week ago, about June 1st, ridiculously late for blooming this year but I thought I'd have a go. Maybe late Summer or early Autumn flowers. At least I've had reasonable germination. -update- flowers by first week of August, 10 weeks later, that is very fast but it was a heatwave which I'm sure helped them

cleome seedlings

those little expandable pots are so small I repotted the seedlings into these larger pots as the roots were already coming out the bottom, 24 seedlings

cleome seedlings

Next morning, 5 have been eaten by slugs; I thought that tray was too large and awkward to bring inside, I have now placed the remaining seedlings into 2 smaller trays and added some cleome seedlings from the nepeta tray. Even though I have been collecting slugs a number of evenings, seedlings are not safe!

cleome seedling

cleome seedlings


cleome seedlings

I planted some in this trough, 29-6-2018

cleome seedlings

3 of those cleome in the trough have been eaten by slugs, leaving 3 which may bloom although partially eaten


I had planted four in this pot (with an honesty) but since this photo, two have been eaten by slugs, make that three

cleome seedlings

all of those in the square pot have been eaten by slugs

I still have these in the seed tray 3-7-2018

cleome seedlings

I put the 4 best remaining cleome seedlings into this pot which I put in the front of the house in one of the sunniest spots I have: the doorstep - so needs to be a pot.


and I seem to have some buds, 26-7-2018

cleome buds

1-8-2018 the buds are getting larger and the weather is supposed to be very hot for the next 5 days so I expect flowers soon

cleome buds

cleome buds

6-8-2018 5 days later, the cleomes started blooming and after a couple weeks more are looking great

cleome flowers

Meadow Cranesbill, sown 2017, first flowers June 2018

meadow cranesbill


beginning of July

I must be a glutton for punishment but I've planted the next set of seeds. These are to bloom next year. I have no compost left so I'm reusing the compost from the tulip troughs. I'll start feeding the seedlings early as they won't be getting much from spent compost.

Just 3 pots of Rose of Sharon as they can be sizeable shrubs and I don't imagine I'll need many.

nothing but weeds so far

rose of sharon seed sowing

Pulsatilla Koreana

nothing but weeds so far

pulsatilla koreana

Melancholy Thistle

beginning of July 2018

melancholy thistle seed sowing

a month later, I've gotten about 5 seedlings only so far, I hope there will be more intermittent germination

melancholy thistle seedlings

melancholy thistle seedling

end of August, still only about 10 pots of seedlings and kinda stunted, maybe they need a rosette, like some thistles, to get established

melancholy thistle seedlings

even though they're small, they have well-developed roots

melancholy thistle seedling

so I decided to repot them, I'll keep the ungerminated pots (on the left) in case they germinate

melancholy thistle seedlings

I'm melancholy about the melancholy thistle seedlings. The slugs have gotten to them. Bottom row looks pretty serious. Not sure they'll recover. Worst part is I don't know where to put them to save them from the slugs - except inside.

melancholy thistle seedlings

Winter Purslane (Claytonia)

beginning of August

winter purslane

3 weeks later, very grass-like, very unevenly germinated - but at least one seedling in each pot

winter purslane seedlings

end of August, not exactly what I was expecting but they appear to be fully grown and flowering

winter purslane

I'd never seen winter purslane but had heard of it as an edible flower. That's why I grew it but the flowers are tiny.

winter purslane claytonia flowers

2 weeks later, they did ok, I guess, not very excited about the winter purslane now that I've grown it

winter purslane

Hyssop officianlis

after about a month, these have germinated really well (rogue seedling in a pot on the top row)

hyssop officinalis

mid-August looking good, unfortunately shortly after this photo, the slugs got to them

after the slugs got to them, only a few seedlings left but I hope they will do ok (large seedling in the middle is obviously not hyssop)

hyssop seedlings

lost one pot completely but the hyssop came back from slug damage in 1 pot leaving 5 pots of hyssop - it's something

hyssop seedlings

I sowed some seeds in August, for flowers next year. I managed to drop the seed tray and the contents of some cells spilled out. Maybe I should add more compost and seeds. First 2 columns on the left, Self-Heal, next 2 columns Bugle (I think), then Pansy Beaconsfield (was actually looking for viola seeds but closest I could find), next 2 columns Valerian. I've heard cats like Valerian so wanted to try it.

same tray 2 weeks later, I filled in the cells that seemed to suffer with the drop and I supplemented with more seeds where nothing was growing, on the left 2 columns Valerian a couple seedlings but not the same, next 2 columns Pansy with 6 seedlings, next 2 columns Bugle with a couple seedlings but one is a poppy, next 2 columns a few seedlings left but slugs ate quite a few maybe 4? remaining Self-Heal

seed tray

Chrysanthemum on the left half of the seed tray below, a few seedlings so far, Aster koraiensis on the right half, no germination so far

seed tray


I collected the seed from this year's delphinium flowers and thought I'd do a late summer sowing. I have a few seedlings - of course some aren't delphiniums (I see a poppy) and the slugs ate some already but I don't have too much room for large plants so if I get even 3 plants from this it would be fantastic.

delphinium seedlings