NZ Gardener - - Q&a - Bar­bara Smith

Q These mys­tery flow­ers have popped up in sev­eral places around my gar­den. I’m sure I didn’t plant them. Can you tell me what they are? I do hope it isn’t a weed as it is so pretty. ALICE HENRY, KAIPARA FLATS

AIt is Li­naria maroc­cana or dwarf toad­flax. It is not a weed, but it does self-sow quite read­ily.

Li­naria maroc­cana was one of the seeds in­cluded in last year’s mix of Plan Bee wild­flower seeds given away with the Septem­ber is­sue. If you or a neigh­bour grew a wild­flower patch for ben­e­fi­cial in­sects last year, these plants could be their off­spring.

Li­nar­ias are re­lated to snap­drag­ons and their flow­ers do in­deed look like tiny snap­drag­ons. Flow­ers of­ten have two colours and can be white, yel­low, pink, red or shades of blue through to pur­ple.

Li­naria is an easy-to-grow an­nual when planted in well-drained soil where there is full sun, but plants can cope with light shade for part of the day. It is not fussy and doesn’t need much in the way of wa­ter­ing, dead­head­ing or fer­tiliser.

Seeds are read­ily avail­able. Yates and Mr Fothergill’s of­fer Li­naria ‘Fairy Bou­quet’; Eg­mont Seeds has ‘Fairy Mix’ and ‘Fan­tasy Mix’; and Kings Seeds has ‘Li­cilia Azure’ and ‘Li­cilia Peach’.

In spring or au­tumn, sow seed di­rectly where you want them in the gar­den. Seeds should germinate within two weeks. Thin to 10-15cm apart. Plants grow to 20-60cm, de­pend­ing on the va­ri­ety and you should have flow­ers within 10 weeks.

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