Several years ago, I bought what I thought was a well-established parsley plant only to have it flower, go to seed and die back a few weeks later. Lesson learned; parsley is a biennial.
Biennials, the two-season wonders, although packing a punch in the border are often given short shrift by many a gardener impatient for the immediate blooms of annuals or wanting the longevity of perennials. Patience is the rule when growing biennials. These plants grow their roots, stems and foliage the first summer and bloom gloriously the second only to die shortly after setting seed.
Foxgloves, stock, forget-me-not, California poppy, English wall flower, evening primrose, black eyed Susan, lunaria and Queen Ann’s lace are biennials.
Hollyhocks and sweet William are technically perennials, but behave more like biennials. Biennials that are grown for edible leaves and roots such as carrots, parsnips, onions and cabbages are harvested the first year and never reach the flowering and seed-setting stage unless of course you miss a plant or two when harvesting.
You can easily grow your own biennials from seed. Start them indoors several weeks before the last frost. At the four-leaf stage set them out in a cold frame or nursery bed to grow on until six weeks before the first frost when you plant them where they are to bloom the next season.
Mulch them well over the winter and you should be rewarded with an eye-catching display of blooms.
As a bonus, biennials tend to be great self-sowers so once you make the initial effort the plants will just keep on coming. Believe me, they are well worth the wait.
Growing Green is a regular feature prepared by the Mount Hamilton Horticultural Society (gardenontario.org/site.php/mhhs). Helen MacPherson, vice-president of the society, wrote this report.