Masses of tiny flowers
Plants with masses of tiny flowers hold a special appeal for me. Seeded outdoors a few weeks before the last frost, annual baby's breath (Gypsophila elegans) is up in 10 days. With wiry, criss-crossing stems ending in a flurry of white flowers, ‘Covent Garden' is an old standby, described in one catalogue as “world famous,” while the blooms of ‘Snow Fountain' are larger. ‘Garden Bride' (G. muralis) has pale pink blooms. Two All-America Selections winners—the double pink G. m.‘Gypsy' and the more recent, darker-coloured introduction G. m. ‘Gypsy Deep Rose'—intrigue me; but at 100 pelleted seeds for $16, they stray from the seeds-as-bargain concept. Annual baby's breath grows best in light, limey soil in full sun, with plants thinned to 15 centimetres apart. My seed packet says the germination rate is 90 per cent, so even seed-shy gardeners might want to try a patch.
Love-in-a-mist, also known by the contradictory name devil-in-the-bush, is a slender, airy plant with dill-like leaves and multi-petalled, round flowers of clear blue, white or pink, each sitting in a frilly ruff of foliage. Given space, good soil and sun, love-in-a-mist will grow thigh-high, its branched stems studded with bloom; crowded in meagre dirt, it shows a few small flowers at shin level. Decorative seed pods, as plump and purple as plums, are tipped with small, curved-back horns (which likely explains the devil reference).
The ubiquitous sweet alyssum
The ubiquitous sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) wins a place in our garden on the strength of its lovely scent and long, frothy flowering. Sprinkle seeds of this willing filler directly into the ground at the front of sunny beds, or in window boxes and containers. Cover with the merest dusting of soil (5 mm or less) and look for signs of growth in a week or so; then thin seedlings to a hand-span apart. The cultivar ‘Sweet White' smells of honey, as do the much larger flowers of heat-tolerant ‘Snow Crystals'. A packet of mixed colours (‘Wonderland' or ‘Aphrodite') weaves a low carpet of rose, purple, lavender, pale copper and white. Similar to sweet alyssum in colouring and flower shape, but twice as tall (25 cm), annual candytuft (Iberis spp.) is also quick to grow from seed; look for ‘Fairyland' and ‘Flash' in mixed colours, amiable fillers that thrive in lean soil in the sun.