Planning our Spring Gardens

My favorite Zinnia!

My favorite Zinnia!

I love the snow. I like really love the snow. But it is only January and I'm already anxious to get started on the gardens. I think the hardest part about living in the midwest is the fact that there are about four months of the year where nothing grows and everything is frozen. I'm trying to play the Pollyanna glad game so that just means I have two more months to plan the garden. Which is a damn good thing because it was a hot mess last year.

Yuck: the repetition of boring. 

Yuck: the repetition of boring. 

I've decided that the first year was a sort of a “starter year” where you just wait around and see what comes up and decide what you like. I had never had an actual garden before. We lived in a master-planned (Little Boxes) community where you had to have your landscape approved by a committee of old hags and maintain a certain amount of indigenous shrubs. 

This was our old backyard:

Giving the Monet Giverny Garden a run for its money.

Giving the Monet Giverny Garden a run for its money.

So having two acres and no rules is like jumping off a cliff. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing so I'm just reading everything and trying to make the yard pretty. Last spring, I (admittedly) jumped the gun and planted a bunch of stuff in weird places that were inappropriate for the garden or the wrong height. Tall flowers in front of short flowers. Things that looked pretty on the seed packet only bloom for a day and then turn into little dead plant carcasses. It's a process of learning what you like and what grows in your yard with your soil and sun restrictions.

It didn't help that some of the landscape that came with our house was hideous. Our peonies are incredible but some of the other choices were a little lackluster... You should never complain about inheriting established plants but there was just SOOOOOOO much cheap Black-Eyed Susan from Lowe's. Nothing against Lowe's or Black-Eyed Susan but when you have like 300 plants of it and they all look the same it gets a little tiring. Lots of hostas. I started out hating hostas because they are so... green... but they got huge and now I kind of love them. They are like the sturdy daddy/John Krasinski/man plants of the yard.

Hostas, hostas, hostas.

Hostas, hostas, hostas.

So I've been doing my research to try and find some new varieties for planting. Because I'm a psycho, I started a garden chart where I list out everything I'm planting, where it is planted, how much was planted, and then I can evaluate it at the end of the season and see what I can improve/move/rearrange next year. I'm planting 129 varieties this year. This may seem like overkill but our yard is almost entirely flower beds and I'm only planting one or two packets of each.


Here are a few that I'm most excited about!

THESE gray poppies! Have you ever seen anything sexier? Floret had a small batch of them so I had to set my alarm to get online as soon as they went up for sale. I had really bad luck with poppies last year but I'm giving it another try because these are ridiculously gorgeous. Apparently, Shirley Poppies are supposed to be easier to grow so fingers crossed.

Shirley Poppy in Amazing Gray. Stolen from Floret.

Shirley Poppy in Amazing Gray. Stolen from Floret.

I'm obsessed with these Pacific Giants Blend Delphinium Seeds from Botanical Interests. They are heirlooms (which makes them fancy) with tall, elegant spires of closely packed blossoms in blue and violet. They are super fabulous and I'm really hoping I don't kill them. I’m loving blues and purples this year. 

Pacific Giants stolen from the Google.

Pacific Giants stolen from the Google.

AND... these Cosmos Psyche White (also from Floret) that look like snow. Does it get better than ruffles on flowers? White flowers are underrated. These double ruffle cosmos are a beautiful pop in greenery and I love anything that looks like fringe!

My friend Lou grew these gorgeous Psyche White Cosmos last year.

My friend Lou grew these gorgeous Psyche White Cosmos last year.

My absolute favorite thing I planted from seed last year was the Black-Eyed Susan vine from Seed Savers Exchange. As I mentioned above, I'm not a huge an of the traditional prairie Black-Eyed Susan but the vine is so incredible. I had no idea it even existed and I don't understand why this isn't the most popular thing ever. I put it in this goofy little planter and it climbed all over everything. The flowers were light yellow, gold and deep orange and they lasted until fall. If I had known they were that gorgeous I would have planted Black-Eyed Susan vine all over. Or at least in a pretty container. Needless to say, this will be an official staple in the Gaye Gardens moving forward. The photo does not show how delicate and pretty these are in person.

This turned into a hot mess insta pot but look at those beautiful vines!

This turned into a hot mess insta pot but look at those beautiful vines!

I've also been using the Exchange from Seed Savers Exchange. If you haven't signed up, you must do so! It's this fabulous FREE resource where gardeners and seed stewards can share and swap rare seeds. It's a great place for people who are really into heirloom varieties and the stories that go with them! I discovered a wonderful lister in Ohio who grows magical purple/blue Rose of Sharon that is hardy (to Zone 4, me!) which is what I've been searching for! I told her that I needed to figure out how to grow it in Iowa (apparently it isn't as hard as I was making it out to be) so she sent me all of these wonderful seeds to try out and some varieties I didn't even know existed including her famous hollyhocks. I heart you, Cynthia!

Pink pumpkins, Rose of Sharon, and hollyhocks from The Exchange.

Pink pumpkins, Rose of Sharon, and hollyhocks from The Exchange.

The zinnia collection on the Exchange is also out of control! I found giant orange zinnias that I'm really excited to try out since I'm doing a zinnia cut flower garden this year. Zinnias are officially my new favorite thing. I had never paid much attention to zinnias until we moved to Iowa and our yard just loves them. I planted the Benary's Giant Zinnia (from seed) by our old clothesline last year, and by August they were 4' tall and gorgeous. From one packet of seeds!


I'll be putting together a tutorial on seed starting as we get closer to spring so that should be highly entertaining. The plants I started early last year had about a 10% survival rate. Which is pretty good for my first try and way better than I'd expected.

I'll share the official garden plans once they are a little further along but below is the current list of everything I'm trying out this year. Next week we will talk about the magic of Colorado Columbines!

2019 Seed List:
Blue Planet Ageratum 

Rosie O'Day Sweet Alyssum 

Tiny Tim Sweet Alyssum 

Globe Amaranth

China Aster Lady Coral Chamois 

China Aster Moonstone

China Aster Rose Quartz Mix

China Aster Valkyrie Chamois 

Camellia ed Balsam 

Purple Dark Opal Basil

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Indian Summer Black-Eyed Susan 

Calendula Mixture

Calendula Mixture

Gibsonii Castor Bean

Flamingo Celosia Seeds

Pampas Plume Tall Blend Celosia 

Spider Flower Mixture

Chinese Lantern 

Clematis, Purple (Heritage/Rare)

Amish Cockscomb

Giant Fluorescent Neon Red Cockscomb

Giant Peach Orange Salmon Cockscomb

Giant Pink Cotton Candy Cockscomb

Giant Purple Fuchsia Magenta Cockscomb

Giant Sunshine Yellow Cockscomb

Purple / Fuchsia / Magenta Giant Cockscomb

Black Dragon Coleus 

Rainbow Blend Coleus 

McKana Giants Blend Columbine 

White Swan Echinacea 

Purple Coneflower

Double Sunburst Coreopsis 

Cosmos Diablo

Cosmos Psyche White

Double Click Blend Cosmos 

Sea Shells Cosmos Mixture

Sensation Cosmos Mixture

Sun Ball Craspedia 

Alaska Shasta Daisy 

Sparkle Blend Iceplant (Livingstone Daisy) 

Zulu Prince Daisy

Pacific Giants Blend Delphinium 

Pumpkin on a Stick

Spring and Summer Forget-Me-Not 

Giant Spotted Foxglove

Honeywort Pride of Gibraltar 

Midnight Marvel Hibiscus

Summerific Cherry Choco Latte Hibiscus 

Giant Pink Hibiscus 

Hot Pink/Neon Hibiscus 

Mixed Purples Hibiscus 

White Perennial Texas Star Hibiscus 

Black Hollyhock

Chater's Double Hollyhock 

Purple Tear Honeywort 

Midnight Blend Impatiens 

Larkspur Earl Grey 

Larkspur Smokey Eyes

English Lavender

Cascade of Color Trailing Lobelia 

Crystal Palace Lobelia 

Crackerjack African Marigold

Red Marietta Marigold

Starfire Signet Marigold

Made in the Shade Mix 


Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory

Heavenly Blue Morning Glory 

Double Blend Portulaca (Moss Rose)

Shades of Summer Verbascum (Mullein) 

Black Velvet Nasturtium

Empress of India Nasturtium

Ladybird Nasturtium

Milkmaid Nasturtium

Tip Top Nasturtium

Love-in-a-Mist "Miss Jekyll"

Historic Pansies Mixture

Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper 

Color Mixture Pincushion

Isaac House Blend Scabiosa Pincushion 

Breadseed Poppy Black Beauty

Breadseed Poppy White Frills 

Chima Poppies

Heritage Farm Poppies

Hungarian Poppy Blue

Iceland Poppies Sherbet Mix 

Lauren's Grape Poppy 

Nudicaule Blend Iceland Poppy 

Oriental Blend Oriental Poppy 

Shirley Poppy Amazing Grey

Shirley Poppy Mother of Pearl 

Early Bonfire Salvia

Column Blend Stock 

Stock Apricot 

Stock Malmaison Pink

Sun, Teddy Bear

Sweet Pea Grandiflora Mix

Double Blend Sweet William 

Cup and Saucer Vine

Ruby Moon Hyacinth

Benary's Giant Zinnia

Envy Zinnia Seeds

Fireball Blend Zinnia 

Giant Kink Orange Zinnia

Gift Zinnia

Northern Lights Blend Zinnia 

Persian Carpets Zinnia

Zinnia Benary's Giant Wine 

Bells Of Ireland

Blue Boy Bachelor's Buttons

Bouquet Dill


Cardinal Climber


Four O'Clocks

Johnny Jump-Up




Mixed Bachelor's Buttons

Night Scented Stock

Painted Tongue

Prairie Blazingstar

Radio Calendula

Tall Russell Lupine

Triple Curled Parsley