I read that Bells of Ireland (Molucella Iaevis) could perform as a perennial in zone 7. Does anyone grow it? How easy is it to grow? How many stems per plant can you cut for arrangements?
I grow it, and love it, but my climate is very different from yours. Ease of growing, stems per plant, and even stem length here may not be relevant there. I hope others with a climate more like yours will jump in.
I am in 7b NC and they only grow to about 16 inches tall here for me, but they do grow and reseed for me, so I keep them for my small home garden. I believe it's too hot and humid here. Anyone else?
I sowed a 72 cell flat with Molucella and put them in my greenhouse in March. The germination rate was horrible but as I read more about this plant, it seems that the rate of success increases significantly if the seeds are sown outdoors after the frost date. I think that the temp extremes that can be expected in greenhouses (mine that is) are too much for this plant. That said, the seedlings that I did get are very vigorous and so perhaps I should save seed from these and sow them in situ next year. I dont think that it will perennialise other than to self seed. I have never grown this plant before but love it so I am hopeful. Please keep posted on how you do with this.
For me --- Bells of Ireland self-seed like crazy. I covered my odds and sowed some in the greenhouse but only got 13 plants. Which is fine because I'm trying to thin them out! They are every where......... not in a bad way --- but they will self-seed if given the chance.
If you're going to sow them in flats, the best method we've found is the same one we use for rudbeckia, larkspur, delphiniums and angelica. Sow the flats. Stack them in the cooler for two weeks. Then, put them in a warm greenhouse. Better germination this way. And, this may be the best way to do it for those living in warmer climates. Otherwise, direct sowing is the suggested means.
I sow them and germinate them indoors, chilling them in the fridge for a couple of weeks first. They graduate to the greenhouse (mine doesn't have temperature extremes) once germinated, then the cold frame, and finally get planted out a little BEFORE the last frost date, after hardening off. They also self-sow like nuts if I don't get all flower stalks cut before they set seed. I've tried letting some of the self-sown grow, planting the indoors-sown ones nearby, but the indoors-sown got bigger faster, so I got a better crop from them. With our short season, that's all-important, but it wouldn't be in Georgia. The self-sown come up several weeks before last frost date and handle mild frosts just fine, so you could try direct-seeding them pretty early in Georgia so they get the chill they want that way, before they come up. It may be too late for that now, though - I don't know your temperatures.
By cold frame do you mean something like this?
Here is a link that might be useful: Single Cold Frame