Sow seeds of something different this spring!

Sow seeds of something different this spring!

April is the month for seed sowing.  We can sow hardy annuals and half-hardy annuals now, as well as the seeds of fruit and vegetables, but perhaps you’d like to grow something different?  Mistletoe berries are ripe now, so it’s the perfect time to gather berries and raise your own mistletoe plants!

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Mistletoe doesn’t grow in the soil; it grows up in the branches of trees.  It’s a hemi-parasitic plant; taking water and nutrients from its host tree and generating supplementary energy through photosynthesis.  To grow mistletoe, find a host tree that’s at least 15 years old and is robust enough to support itself and mistletoe.  Ideal host tree candidates for mistletoe growing include, apple (Malus domestica), crab apples (Malus), hawthorns (Crataegus), poplars (Populus), limes (Tilia), and trees from the Rosaceae family.

Mistletoe berries take a long time to fully ripen. These unripe berries are pictured in September.

Use plump and fleshy mistletoe berries and discard any unripe or shrivelled berries, as they’re unlikely to germinate.  Look for natural crevices in the tree’s bark and squish mistletoe berries into these cracks.  Mistletoe thrives in bright sunshine, so focus on pressing the berries into areas of bark that directly face the sun.  Alternatively, take a sharp knife and make a shallow ‘T’ cut on a sturdy branch; gently open a small section of bark and insert a mistletoe berry.  Don’t make a deep cut, the aim is to push the seed just underneath the outer bark, where the seed can make direct contact with the tree’s cambium layer.  Mistletoe has a low germination rate, therefore sow multiple seeds for a greater chance of success.

Mistletoe (Viscum album) forms these gorgeous pom poms as it grows and matures.

Mistletoe berries are living things.  To remain viable, these berries need daylight to photosynthesise; so, keep mistletoe berries in a bright location and sow as soon as possible. Berries stored in the dark will die.  Mistletoe is slow growing; with good fortune your mistletoe plants will start producing berries in the next five years.

Mistletoe (Viscum album) berries provide a source of food for a number of bird species, including Mistle Thrushes, which are named after their fondness for eating Mistletoe berries.
Here’s a Mistle Thrush in my old garden. Mistle Thrushes are such beautiful birds. I observed his bird eating slugs and snails and feasting on Ivy berries.

Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum)

Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum) are almost magical plants with stunning flowers that are beloved by bumble bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects.  The Teasel’s tall (1.8m (6ft) long-lasting, spiky seed heads are popular with flower arrangers.  I prefer to leave Teasels in the garden; their seed heads persist throughout the autumn and winter months and are an important food source for Goldfinches and other birds.

Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum) are tall architectural plants. The Teasel’s tall stems and the plant’s leaves are literally covered in vicious spines. If you’re worried about intruders, this would be a good plant for near a boundary.
Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) inflorescences are made up of lots of tiny tubular flowers that open in sequence, one after the other. The flowers are a rich source of pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies, and pollinating insects.
Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum) with a winter decoration of frost in my old garden.
A beautiful bumble bee pictured enjoying Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) flowers in my old garden, on the 10th July 2020.
Here’s another view of a Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) in my old garden. This plant is growing in amongst Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis).
Teasel seed heads are very long lasting. These ones are pictured in my old garden on 9th September 2021. In case you’re wondering, the climber is a clematis called Clematis ‘Paul Farges’.
I adore the heart shapes that the fading Teasel foliage forms. I took this picture of Dipsacus fullonum in my garden on the 12th September 2022.
The Teasel’s (Dipsacus fullonum) handsome leaves have sharp spines.

This is the ideal time to sow Teasel seeds.  Sow the seeds directly in the soil, wherever you want your plants to grow.  However, please consider the suitability of your plant’s destination before you sow seeds.  I must warn you against sowing Teasel seeds near paths or driveways because the Teasel’s handsome, architectural leaves and stems are covered in aggressively sharp spines.  When sowing Teasel seeds, look for a sunny or partially shaded, less visited area of the garden or an out of the way corner.  Teasels will grow in almost any soil; they’re drought-tolerant and very easy to grow.

For more gardening advice for April, please click here.

To see my calendar of daffodil garden openings, daffodil plant sales, daffodil talks & events, please click here.

To see my calendar of bluebell garden openings, please click here.

To see my plant pages and find pictures and information to help you grow a wide range of plants, including vegetables, fruit, herbs, trees, shrubs, roses, sweet peas, climbing plants, scented plants, perennials, annuals, biennials, ferns, houseplants, orchids, and plants for bees and butterflies, please click here.

To see my calendar of specialist plant fairs, plant sales, festivals, plant and seed swaps, please click here.

To see my calendar of houseplant sales and events, please click here.

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One thought on “Sow seeds of something different this spring!

  1. Emma

    April 5, 2024 at 10:38am

    Dear Beth,
    thank you for another great article !
    I really love how you chose original subjects, with a lot of interesting information and practical advice ! And your pictures are as always a delight !

    Thank you as well for your reply to my last comment, it is so generous of you to share so much information !

    Re. Dipsacus fullonum : it’s great that you’re showcasing them so well ! they’re one of my absolute favourites in my nature garden. I too keep them over winter (to the dismay of my elderly neighbours !) because they add so much interest and a little romantic touch, even if they blacken a bit.
    Examples of other plants I keep over winter :
    Calamagrostis x acutiflora “Karl Foerster”
    Briza media
    Foeniculum vulgare
    Valeriana officinalis

    I hope it’s alright to keep suggesting themes for you to write on, but … I would be very interested to read your thoughts on which plants to keep over winter and how to layer and optimize them in a “nature garden” perspective (both for visual interest and for wildlife).

    Thank you again !! Have a nice weekend 🙂
    Emma from Germany

    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      April 5, 2024 at 10:51am

      Dear Emma

      It’s so lovely to hear from you. I always look forward to reading your comments and suggestions -thank you for your kindness and support. I really do appreciate it.

      I absolutely love Valeriana officinalis flowers and their gorgeous marshmallow fragrance, but these plants quickly take over!

      Foeniculum vulgare is a delight! Briza media is another joy and a really useful, pretty plant. Calamagrostis x acutiflora “Karl Foerster” is a great value grass.

      We’ve had terrible weather this spring in the UK. It’s another grey and cloudy day here. I hope you’re having better weather in Germany and hope that things are going well for you.

      Warmest wishes
      Beth

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