‘Volunteer Gardener’ August in the Garden: Seed-Starting Tips

By Laura Bigbee-Fott

August is a great time to start seedlings for next year’s blooms. You can start hardy annuals now, as well as perennials and biennials. You can even still plant some hybrid sunflowers that will bloom this fall!

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
There are two varieties, Jua Maya and Cherry Rose, touted as having the fastest maturity ‒ a whopping 45 days from seed to vase! Jua Maya is lovely golden yellow flower with a large dark disc. Cherry Rose is a bicolor sunflower whose pale yellow petal tips deepen quickly to maroon toward the base of the petal. This flower also has a lovely, dark disc in the center. Both varieties are pollen-less hybrids, so they are perfect for cutting and enjoying indoors as well as out.

Hardy annuals
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Canterbury bells (Campanula medium) and bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus) ‒ also known as cornflower ‒ are just a few of the lovely flowers you can start now. A good resource that covers hardy annuals in detail is book Cool Flowers, a book by Virginia flower farmer Lisa Mason Ziegler.

Biennials
Here on the farm, I have started several trays of hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). I love their dramatic display in arrangements and nothing says “cottage garden” in quite the same way. Foxgloves (Digitalis) are quite easy to start from seed and they put on a wonderful extended show the following spring and early summer. Just remember: Foxgloves need a bit of afternoon shade here in the South.

Perennials
Starting perennials from seed has become my passion here on the farm, and there are so many to choose from! Perennials are the backbone of any garden, whether it’s a cutting, ornamental, butterfly or native garden. This year, I’m starting columbine (Aquilegia), yarrow (Achillea) and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Have fun starting next year’s garden! You’ll be saving money while you’re at it because a packet of seeds is much less expensive than a half-gallon plant. You’ll practically have a whole garden for what just you’d otherwise spend on a few fully grown plants. Plus, you get the joy and satisfaction of raising them yourself!

Happy Gardening!

Laura Bigbee-Fott is a Davidson County Master Gardener. She owns Whites Creek Flower Farm and runs a floral event and wedding design business called Everything Blooms.

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