My Grandma had the most glorious gardens! Her vegetable garden was located behind the farm house, and provided her family with fresh vegetables all season long. And while her vegetable garden was amazing, what I remember most about her garden were her flowers. Hundreds of them, all around the vegetable garden! All colors, shapes, sizes, and smells. The flowers I remember most were her Hollyhocks, Bachelor Buttons, Chinese Lanterns, Morning Glories, Poppies, and Lily of the Valley.
All six of these flowers are perfect for an old-fashioned garden, and are easily grown from seeds.
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
Hollyhocks were some of the tallest flowers in Grandma’s garden – they typically grow from 4-8′ tall. The flowers are large and there are many colors available. Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to Hollyhocks. This plant grows best in full-sun to part-shade. At the end of the growing season, the flower seeds fall to the ground and will sprout again in the Spring.
Bachelor Button (Centaurea cyanus)
Bachelor Buttons are easy to grow pretty much anywhere. They grow to about 24″ tall and prefer full sun. They bloom throughout the Summer and make great cut flowers. Bachelor Buttons self-seed in optimum soil conditions. I remember picking these blue flowers as a kid and sticking them in the button holes of my shirt, the bulb shape behind the flower held them in place – fun memories!
Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi)
Chinese Lanterns are such a cool plant! The white flowers of early Summer turn into a husk with a berry inside (poisonous). This husk turns orange and has a papery feel. The orange “lanterns” make great dried flowers that keep for years. The Chinese Lantern grows up to 24″ tall, and prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Be careful where you plant them, since they can be very invasive as they spread through underground rhizomes (best for large areas).
Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea)
Morning Glories are a vine with flowers up to 4″ wide. The vines typically grow 12-15′ in a season. They prefer full sun and will need something to climb on, such as a trellis. What I love most about the Morning Glory is how the flowers open to the sun in the morning, then close again at night – just like magic. Butterflies and hummingbirds also love Morning Glories.
Poppy (Papaver spp.)
Poppies are a papery and wispy flower that ruffles in the wind. The flowers have a short bloom time, but they add splashes of color to any garden. Poppies grow to about 12″ tall and prefer full sun. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and honeybees are attracted to them. Poppies will self-seed if you do not pinch the flowers off before they go to seed. My aunts and I used to sit among the poppies and gather their seeds for Poppy Seed Bread – yum!
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily of the Valley has such a wonderful fragrance! They prefer shade to partial-shade and typically grow to about 8″ tall. Lily of the Valley has a single underground rhizome, known as “pips”, and they can be divided anytime after flowering. The north side of my Mom’s garden was always full of Lily of the Valley. When they were in bloom, you could smell them from anywhere in the yard!
Save Your Seeds
At the end of the growing season, collect seeds from your flowers and share them with family and friends. You might also be interested in exchanging with other seed collectors through the Seed Savers Exchange.
The photos above are from Burpee. Clicking on the photo will bring you to their website, where you can purchase the seeds for these flowers, or the plants themselves.