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Adventures with seeds - these five uncommon annuals are easy to start.

Adventures with seeds

One gardener's treasure is another's weed. Here are five flowers whose appeal rests partly in the fact that not everyone wants them. Unless you plant them from seed, you may never see them. Most are not even common on nursery seed racks, but you can order them by mail from the companies listed on page 250.

Sow the first three where you want them to grow: they transplant poorly. Most grow best in bright sun; one prefers shade.

Five little-known annuals for the plant adventurer

Dwarf morning glory (Convolvulus tricolor). Flowers come in deep blue ("Blue Flash') or a mixture of pink, rose, blue, and purple. All have contrasting throats and markings.

Sow in a strip as a low edging behind a band of white sweet alyssum, in drifts between other annuals such as dwarf marigolds or dwarf zinnias, or in hanging baskets, patio pots, or over low walls.

For faster germination, soak seeds overnight, or nick the hard outer shell with a file. Plants need bright sun and warmth. For best bloom, keep them on the dry side. Flowers close at night.

Ornamental sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). Soak seeds overnight and sow them where you want them, as an avenue along the drive or garden path or in the cut-flower or vegetable patch, wherever you have bright sun and at least 7 feet of headroom.

You'll get more flowers if you don't feed or water too much, often as many as a dozen at a time from one plant. For armloads of cut flowers, choose "Autumn Beauty' or "Color Fashion' (pink, yellow, and ivory flowers, with bands of other colors around the dark centers), "Italian White' (white with a yellow ring around a dark center), or "Piccolo' (the classic sunflower color). For limited space, try "Dwarf Sungold' or "Teddy Bear', a 2-foot dwarf with gold-colored double flower heads about 6 inches across.

Canary bird vine (Tropaeolum peregrinum). You can grow this compact, graceful vine in the ground or plant three to five in a half-barrel or large pot. Supply strings, a lightweight net, or a trellis for the twining stems; they soon clamber 10 to 15 feet. Or plant it above a retaining wall and let the vines trail down.

Treat this as you would its close relative, the nasturtium. Provide cool, bright shade, moist soil, and little or no fertilizer. Plants bloom about two months after sowing and continue until cold weather. Hummingbirds feed on the nectar.

Venidium (also called monarch of the veldt). Think of it as a large annual gazania --about 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall, with buds and stems covered with an intricate web of silky hairs.

This plant is the challenge in the group. Unlike most, its seeds need light to germinate and may take two or three weeks. Start in containers in a protected place. Scatter seeds over the soil surface, press gently with a board or other smooth surface to ensure soil contact, and water from the bottom.

To reduce the need for further watering, put the containers into clear plastic bags or cover with clear plastic or glass just until sprouts appear. Then remove the covering so air can circulate.

When seedlings are several inches tall, transplant into fast-draining soil where you can keep watering to a minimum, such as along a drive or among other unthirsty plants. Established plants thrive in heat and drought, but too much moisture can kill them.

"Classic' zinnia (Z. angustifolia, often sold as Z. linearis). Quite unlike common zinnias, these golden flowers grow on wire-thin stems, and their slender leaves never seem to succumb to mildew. You can sow seeds where they are to grow, or in containers for transplanting.

Space seedlings 6 to 8 inches apart for a mass of bloom, or put 3 plants in a 10-inch pot or hanging basket. Their airy growth habit also makes them favorites for combining with other annuals in borders, pots, and bouquets.

They thrive in heat with soil a little on the dry side, blooming from early summer until hard frosts, often continuing into December in mild-winter areas.

Where to order seeds

Three mail order sources are W. Atlee Burpee Co., 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18991 (multi-colored sunflowers, canary vine, venidium, zinnia); Geo. W. Park Seed Co., Greenwood, S.C. 29647 (white, yellow, and dwarf sunflowers, venidium, zinnia); Thompson & Morgan, Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527 (all). Catalogs are free.

Photo: Gold-petaled, with a ring of black around its velvety center, venidium is a good cut flower that thrives in hot, dry places. Flowers 3 inches wide grow on foot-tall stems

Photo: Twilight blue funnels with white throats and multicolored markings cover dwarf morning glory. It grows 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide, trails nicely over containers or walls

Photo: Canary bird vine, with feathery, bright-yellow flowers and 2-inch lobed leaves, can quickly cover a fence or wall with delicate tracery

Photo: Armloads of giant flowers with long stems grow on each plant in this 7-foot-tall hedge of colorful ornamental sunflowers

Photo: Gold flowers 1 1/2 inches wide cover wiry-stemmed, foot-tall "Classic' zinnia
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1986
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