I first saw Cleome (Spider Flower) many years ago, tucked between shrubs in front of an old farmhouse in Berlin, MA. It was love at first sight! This is an easy annual plant to grow from seed, and will probably reseed itself every year in your garden, so you only need to plant it once. Hummingbirds and other pollinators love it, and its tall stems bearing pink, rose and white blooms add an airy, delicate touch to any sunny garden.
For impatient “lasagna gardeners“, Cleome will grow in almost any soil, so it makes a great filler plant for a brand new lasagna bed. I never actually dig new beds on my own property, but rather I smother the existing grass with layers of wet newspaper, and then spread layers of composted horse manure (of which we have plenty!!) on top of the newspaper. Worms start to work their magic and within 6 months to a year, I have a great area for planting. In the meantime, though, the area can look a little..er…..rough. Cleome comes to the rescue. Dig up the Cleome seedlings that pop up elsewhere in your yard, and transplant them into the lasagna bed. They will quickly fill the area. Let a few reseed for next year.
The photo at left shows a new garden bed (created in May 2008) on THB Farm. June transplants of Cleome and Cucumber are all thriving on August 1st. The Cleome is blooming its head off, so if I allow these seed heads to remain into autumn, I’ll have Cleome growing here next year, as well as plenty of free seed for the birds.