Yesterday, as I walked out into the garden on a glowingly golden afternoon, I thought of the Parable of the Sower.

No, I’m not going to get all religious on you. My family always laughs when I quote the bible, because I am, as Lady Bracknell would say, ‘ quite irreligious’!

But when, as a child, I sat rather unwillingly in church listening to the vicar, I used to look at a large painting pointedly placed just beside the pulpit.

It was a copy of a painting by someone like Holman Hunt or his ilk. You know the kind of thing? An extremely realistic, but idealised and  sentimental painting. A Victorian ideal of an anglicised middle eastern farm worker, flinging seed around. Some fell on stoney ground, some amongst brambles and so on. You get the message.

I have googled like crazy but couldn’t find the picture. Here is a stained glass substitute:

The bearded face is not unlike me!

Well, from my point of view the vicar’s religious words obviously fell on stoney ground, but the horticultural image went home.

When I was Head Gardener of the Botanic Garden in Bristol I was of course used to making precise sowings in pots and frames. And now, you know, I take a distinct delight in being slovenly and taking my chances.

Compared to running a nursery, with all its accuracy and complexity I just love the casual nature of it and the casual nature of the results.

It is sheer serendipity!

And I always think of The Sower.

So yesterday, inspired by this image by Tony Rodd of Angel’s Fishing Rods, I imagined the little stream overhung intermittently with fronds of these tubular bells:

So I grabbed some ripened seedheads of Dierama forms from the border and took them to the stream and flung them liberally around.

The books will tell you ‘deep, rich, moist, well drained, loam.’

Ok folks, where does that soil exist? They grow in well drained sandy loam in north devon and I’ve grown them in heavy peaty soil in Bristol and seedlings do appear from time to time in both places. The stream has a variety of soil surfaces beside it. So some of them will fall on the proverbial, stoney ground, some on boggy ground and some of them will come up. They have two choices!

I am actually more apt to use this technique with annual, biennials and short lived perennials.

It is great  for these because it keeps alive a kind of shifting population of these ephemerals, which softens the disposition of your perennials.

Who would not want more Eryngium ‘Silver Ghost’?

I always want more white foxgloves around. I love limey- yellow Smyrnium perfoliatim. I am trying to have more of the topazy-apricot flowered Verbascums rather than the citric yellow. Hesperis is a good idea. And Lychnis coronaria ‘Atrosanguinea’ is always a bit of a shock to the system.

But these were just my choices of what was available yesterday. You will have other thoughts and other seeds available.

A couple of words of caution:

Have a care what seeds you use the technique with. I would for example be cautious with Oenothera biennis but would use all the Oenothera ‘Sunset Boulevard’ I could lay my hands on.

It doesn’t work with everything. I had one plant of Verbena hastata ‘Rosea’ last year, laden with seed and I flung it everywhere because I love it. But only one plant came up…….. in the path!

The whole operation feels at its most relaxed if you just carry a few sprigs around. But keep them upright, or carry them in a bucket or tray, otherwise you will lose the lot on the way!

Take care you don’t in the early months of next year weed your precious seedlings out. A small white label in the front corner of the bed will tell you what you sowed and what therefore to look out for where.

 So go grab yourself some seedheads, have a wander and enjoy a fling!

R

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