My Seeds Have Arrived!

For the first time ever, I’m starting some tender annuals inside this year. As of now the letter carrier has delivered them all to our home from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Burpee. (I like the name Burpee. You’ve got to admit it’s a funny name.)



So here’s what we’ve got:

Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia): Learning that I could no longer buy Mexican Sunflower plants at my neighborhood plant nursery is what pushed me into this seed-starting adventure. I’ve ordered 2 varieties, ‘Torch’ (which grows 5-6 feet, a normal height for Tithonia), and the compact ‘Sundance’, which is supposed to grow to just 3 feet. For now I’m thinking of keeping ‘Sundance’ in a pot.

2014-07-21 11.03.29 Tithonia
Mexican Sunflower

Zinnias. Zinnias are not likely to droop if I forget to water them a while. They also make great cut flowers. I prefer the single flowers in hot colors, so I ordered ‘Zahara Sunburst’ (Z. marylandica) and ‘Zowie Yellow Flame’. We grew ‘Sunburst’ last year, the orange-yellow flowers are electrifying. I also got the more compact, mixed color ‘Pinwheel’.

zinnia sunburst
‘Sunburst’. Photo from

Salvias. 2 varieties: S. farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ and the hybrid ‘Big Blue’.

We also got some Basil, both regular sweet Basil and the Thai Basil ‘Siam Queen’.

These will all be starting inside. Sowing dates seem to vary considerably. Sowing dates seem to start with Salvia ‘Big Blue’ on March 1 and conclude with the Basil on May 1.

Of course, we ordered way more seeds than I’ll be able to sow given our modest basement setup (which will be the subject of another post). I’m trying to start small (which goes against my basic instincts), but I want to plant at least 3 or 4 pots of each plant that was ordered.

2014-08-02 12.07.15 italian white sunflower
‘Italian White’ sunflower

We also got 2 annual Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) that I’ll direct sow outside. The first is my old favorite ‘Italian White’, and another called ‘Valentine’ – but are multi-branched. Though I haven’t had great luck direct sowing Sunflowers – the rabbits eat them to the ground before they achieve much size.

The weather has been downright disgusting lately – not excessively cold, but cloudy days of alternating freezing rain, snow, and hail, leaving the ground slushy and slippery. And yet, when I see my little bundle of seed packets, I think of summer.

52 Comments on “My Seeds Have Arrived!”

  1. My grandmother always ordered seeds from Burpee, and zinnias were one of her favorites for the cutting garden. I remember bachelor buttons, too, and of course her vegetables.

    I was reading about the history of the company and found this delightful tidbit that relates to your part of the country:

    “In 1959, David Burpee made news when he registered as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., listing as his legislative interest a resolution designating the marigold as the U.S. national flower. He enlisted the support of Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who, in 1967, delivered a now-famous speech to the Senate, proclaiming that the marigold’s “robustness reflects the hardihood and character of the generations who pioneered and built this land into a great nation.”

  2. Last year was my first for Mexican sunflower. What an amazing plant! I had given up on the sowed ones, so just tossed the remaining seeds in the garden, and two took. Two were enough. They were at least 6′ tall and absolutely covered in neon orange, nearly metallic, flowers.
    Do you winter sow (the milk jugs out in the snow) anything?

  3. Your is the second post I have read about starting seeds. This almost tipped me into the seed starting operations but each time I read they are in the basement I am put off. I have no basement and no room to have such a set up. This is quite the slippery slope. I am afraid one more nudge and I would be starting seeds.
    I too have always liked the name Burpee. Sounds like a laid back fellow with no pretension, easy to get along with. I hope Johnny’s is selling apple seeds too.

  4. I just received my seeds from Renee’s Garden. I do purchase seeds from other companies from time to time, including Burpee, but I have the most luck with those from Renee’s (I’m located in central IN). Burpee’s makes a very nice seed starting soil mix though. This year I am prepping two batches – one from new seeds and another from last year’s seeds that I saved.

    Zinnias always make me smile – they are such cheery plants. I like to mix Green Envy, Polar Bear and Apricot Blush.

    The weather has been odd here too – below freezing at night, up to 50’s and even the low 60’s a few times so far in Feb. A fair amount of rain for Feb. Last week we had a full day of impressive thunderstorms complete with lightning. The plants are all confused – the lenten roses were fried by the polar vortex but the lillies, peonies, irises and daffodils keep trying to emerge. My snowdrops popped up in late December, stopped growing and only recently restarted. Normally they emerge in mid-Jan and are finished by early Feb.

    Two years ago in summer I had a quite spectacular spider show up in the yard in mid-July. It was 5.5” from end to end (using the feet to measure), a brilliant yellow & black and took over 1/3 of my garage door opening. The web was multi-layered and quite strong. I had never seen such a spider here and I’ve lived in this house for 15 years. I left it alone and just made sure I could see it when I worked in the yard. It disappeared after 3 nights below 32 in October. Llast summer there were 3 more in the yard. All three were much smaller, just 2.5-3” long. Two were yellow & black but the third was blue & black. All three webs had the signiture zig-zag pattern sewn in the middle although the smallest spider’s zig-zag pattern was not a vertical line but a circle. They all disappeared by mid-September, long before the nights were cold. I also noticed the autumn spiders (those big brown spiders with multicolored legs & two black “eyes” on their belly) showed up quite early last year – in mid-July! Then they all disappeared during a week of 90 degrees+ weather in late August. I’m already wondering what is in store for my yard this summer.

    Good luck with your new seed starting venture.

  5. Fun stuff! My advice on keeping seeds for years is store them in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Some will last 10+ years. Also, re sunflowers, start them May 1 but in pots. Once they put out real leaves, transplant them. They may survive the rabbits this way. Good luck!

  6. I have been starting a few things from seed also. Julie Thompson-Adolf is in an Instagram group with me and other gardeners. They have motivated me to try starting from seed and also saving seeds. Her book helped me be far more successful than I had been previously. Good way to be gardening while the snow is still outside. Hope you all are staying warm!

  7. That sunburst zinnia looks very tempting. What a beauty. It’s so easy to save seed from zinnias, and also, properly stored, the seed you bought this year and don’t use can be saved for next year. Last year I started zinnias inside as well as direct sowing. FWIW, the direct sown plants did much better than the starts. Gardening is such a wonderful adventure, huh?

  8. Aren’t those seed packets an instant mood lifter?? I’m growing many of the same things you are, but in most cases, I have to keep the seedlings inside veg garden fenced area. As you say, the rabbits can be a total nuisance and last years sunflowers, which I took a chance on and planted just outside the fence, were basically gone before they even made it to a few inches.

  9. You’ve been very good and restrained in your seed order. My tithonia seeds came from Select Seeds. I went mad with their catalog and ordered far too much. Looking forward to your indoor seed sowing advice because I have problems with damping off and only have a small space in the garage to try my luck.

  10. I have been starting lots of plants from seed for years. The secret is lots of light an inch or so above the plants for 16 hours a day and a small fan(s) blowing gently across the flats. I order a lot of seeds from Pine tree in Maine ( They sell small quantities for $2. I can’t eat 500 broccoli heads. I wonder if Burpees sells burpless cucumbers?

  11. The compact Tithonia sounds interesting and I will look out for that another year as I have already got my seeds for this year. Torch did well for me in pots several years in a row, and I found the easiest way to keep them moist and stable was to put them in plastic pots inside heavy terracotta ones. The wind did topple them over once or twice even then! Look forward to seeing your basement setup. I can’t wait to get started sowing seeds but will no doubt regret trying to sow anything too early!

  12. Have fun with the growing project! I love growing my plants from seed. You have so many more options than at the garden center. Does take a bit of space, but it’s only temporary. I would take all your extra zinnia seeds and scatter them around your transplanted seedlings. The more plants the better, and you have a back up if something doesn’t take to transplanting. Protect the sunflowers, everything loves those tender seedlings! Can’t wait to see the progress. Time to get going on my planning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: