The six dozen species on the list are fairly easy to germinate, as native plants go. The only one that needs to be in cold-stratification soon is White Turtlehead, which has an unusually long cold requirement. Some seeds are challenging only because they are so tiny: Cardinal Flower, Alumroot, and others.
If you are unfamiliar with cold-moist stratification, it is giving the seeds a period of moist chilling, at about 0 to 3C, Many native plant seeds have anti-germination chemicals in them, probably to prevent the seed from germinating on a warm afternoon in December. The anti-germination chemicals break down slowly at temperatures just above freezing. This cold-moist period can be achieved by burying your seeded pots deep in a snow-bank or by using your refrigerator. Some species germinate much more reliably after experiencing a natural winter, than they do after a faux winter in the fridge. This may be due to repeated freeze-thaw cycles breaking hard seed coats, or seeds responding better to a slow natural progression to warmth, or to snowmelt and spring rains washing away anti-germination chemicals. In truth, for many species, there are no definitive answers and result vary from person to person and from year to year.
Folks with shady gardens will notice that there are almost no forest species on this list. Many native woodland species have complicated germination requirements and the seeds may be intolerant of dry storage. The easiest way to get a whole bunch of, say, Bloodroot from seed is to plant a few nursery-grown plants of Bloodroot in your garden and eventually ants will distribute Bloodroot seeds around your garden.
Beaux Arbres has chosen not to be a vendor at this year’s Seedy Saturday but you can pick up pre-ordered seeds at the Seedy Saturday pickup wicket.
If you are heading to the Ron Kolbus Centre for Seedy Saturday on March 5th, you can pick up pre-ordered Beaux Arbres seeds, and other vendors merchandise, at an outside wicket. Please get your seed orders in by Wednesday, March 2nd. We will WAIVE THE SHIPPING CHARGE for orders picked up at Seedy Saturday.
Growing native plants from seed is an economical way to get more plants, whether to plant a large area or to have extras to share with friends. This winter, Beaux Arbres is offering seeds from more than 80 species of wildflowers native to eastern North America. The species in this collection are among the easiest wildflowers to grow from seed, all seeds tolerant of dry storage and none demanding tricky germination techniques. Packets are $4.00, minimum order – 5 packets.
Many native woodland plants are challenging from seed — either the seeds are intolerant of dry storage or require multiple winters (or both). Because of that, the collection is slanted toward the sunny meadow species. Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) and White Snakeroot (Agertina altissima) are plants for shady gardens that are also easy from seed.
Some other seeds have very hard seed coats that require physical abrasion (scarification) to allow water to get into the seed. They may have evolved to pass through the gizzard of a relatively large bird like a grouse or a turkey, or they may be shoreline plants that have evolve to roll about on a beach, being abraded by the sands and gravels. Frankly, I hate dealing with these fussy seeds. There are some seeds on this list that require scarification but they are all species that I have had success with by using the much easier boiling water method to soften the seed coat. (Basically, put the seeds in a cup, pour boiling water over them, let cool and soak overnight, and drain off the water in the morning.)
The commonest germination technique for native seeds is cold, moist stratification. Essentially, the seed needs to experience winter. This prevents it from germinating on an unusually warm afternoon in December. You can either use the outdoors or a refrigerator. If you do use the outdoors, best to place your pot in a snow-covered place out of the late-winter sun (which can be very warm). The only at-all-tricky species on my list are White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) which needs a longer than usual cold period, and Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum), which responds much better to fluctuating outdoor temperatures than to “winter” in a refrigerator.
Visitors to the nursery this past summer were impressed by the fine clump of Downy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata)(pictured above) in front of the hoop house. Had I any plants for sale, I could have sold dozens. But every single last pot of Wood Mint that I had in the hoop house failed to overwinter. Every last plant of Wood Mint that I planted in the garden wintered just fine. There are some plants that, in western Quebec, well north of their native range, are just like that. They are hardy in the garden but just not hardy enough to overwinter in pots, even when well protected. (The lovely Wood Poppy is another problem child this way.) Fortunately, Downy Wood Mint is fast and easy from seed. Like many plants in the Mint family, it is attractive to small bees. It also has the advantage of being moderate in height and having a long period in bloom, nice features for the flower border. Despite the ‘Wood’ in the common name, this is a plant for places that are more sunny than shady. And, although it is related to Mints and the plants expand a bit after flowering, the roots do not run about all over the place the way true mints (Genus Mentha) do. (Downy Wood Mint is on the Seeds list and I should have seedlings available for sale next summer.)
With so many other tall yellow daisies for late summer to chose from, the rather gangly Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) was never a big seller and I dropped it from my nursery list. I just had to tell folks that Tall Sunflower was the better looking plant. However, if the main focus of your garden is to provide for birds (and, yes, there are lots of birding enthusiasts for whom this is the main reason to garden) then Wingstem is a serious contender for inclusion. (Do also consider Tall Sunflower, as well). The flat, winged seeds of Wingstem are arranged in a rather different pattern than those of most of the yellow daisy clan — more of an accordion file than a tightly packed cone. They are eagerly sought by Goldfinches. Although the yellow daisies of Wingstem are rather small for the height of the plant, if bird-watching is your aim, plant a clump of Wingstem where it is easy to see from the sunny spot where you sit to drink your coffee or tea on September mornings. After several years off the list, Wingstem is again available in seed.
I have finished collecting all the seeds I intend to collect this fall and have picked over and done preliminary cleaning on most of them. I will be posting a list of the available species soon.
Pink Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii) — pictured above — seeds will be available this year. I almost gave up on this species. It is not native to Canada but native to eastern USA and it is generally available in garden centres, so I was willing to let it go. It ripens its seeds so late in the year I had never been able to collect good seed from my plants. However, this summer’s heat and the long, open fall weather produced a good crop of seeds.
Nothing replaces the locally native White Turtlehead (C. glabra) as a host for the caterpillars of the beautiful Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies. Baltimores lay eggs on White Turtlehead and the young caterpillars eat only White Turtlehead. The caterpillars overwinter at the third instar stage. The following spring, however, the larger (and very hungry) fourth and fifth instar caterpillars will eat White Turtlehead and several closely related plants, including Pink Turtlehead and Hairy Beardtongue.
Pink Turtlehead is showier as a garden flower than is White, not only because of the colour but also because it often has more flowers open at once on a stalk. It is also a bit shorter and less dependent on constant moisture, although it too does like a moist soil. If you have an appropriate spot for White Turtlehead, do plant several for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies, but you might also like to include some Pink Turtlehead in a nearby flower border, to provide additional food resources for the larger caterpillars.
It is not too late to order native seeds for those species that require no cold pretreatment. These seeds are often tiny things that we sow on the surface of a pot of seed-sedstarting mix and give moisture and warmth.
Many species in the Pea Family germinate well with hot water soaking to soften the hard seed coat, followed by a brief 10 -14 day cold-moist stratification, which you can easuly give them in a Ziplock baggie in the fridge. After the cold period, sow, bring into warmth and they often germinate very readily.
I also have two uncommon and highly desirable species of clematis, for which even the March Seedy Saturdays are too late, These clematis seeds want a period of warm-moist treatment to finish ripening the seeds, before they experience winter (cold-moist). If you get them now — and mark your calendar carefully — you will have them on hand to start conditioning them in the fall.
All Beaux Arbres seeds are now half price, that is $2.00 a packet or 8 packets for $15, while supplies last. (+$5 for shipping). Available at time of posting:
With the rescheduled Ottawa Seedy Saturday now cancelled, and diverse Horticultural Society events in question, Canada Post is the most reliable way to get your wildflower seeds. Beaux Arbres has nearly all the species we prepared for Ottawa Seedy Saturday (March 6th) still in stock. We sold out of a couple at a very busy Ottawa Valley Seedy Sunday on March 7th.
Download the species list and then send me a message via the Location and Contact page. You can send us a cheque or we can set up an email transfer. The minimum order is 4 packets (for $15). If you order 8 or more packets, we will add two bonus packets, your choice. (There will be a $5 shipping charge for any order that fits in the small bubble mailer).
Print off the list (PDF) to help plan your Seedy Saturday shopping.
Some of the seeds I have in very small quantities, perhaps because that was all I was able to harvest, or sometimes because I think the plant is a bit specialized and will be attractive to only a few gardeners. Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis triptera) is one such. It is a nice, easy, tall yellow daisy, but the number of gardeners who need a 7 foot plant which runs is limited. However, if you have an expanse of Big Bluestem Grass (Andropogon gerardii) and want to add colour and diversity to your fledgling tall-grass prairie, Tall Coreopsis would be just the thing. If you want a tall yellow daisy which very much stays put, I have seeds, new this year, of Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum), tap-rooted, with elegant leaves.
Another species I have only a couple of seed packs for is Fen Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia glauca). Everybody loves this little charmer when they see it in bloom, but I have to warn you it is both fussy to site and very, very slow from seed – a species only patient and experienced gardeners should attempt from seed.
Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens) is a lovely summer-blooming little shrub in the Pea family. It is slow to mature but otherwise not difficult to grow in a dry, sunny spot. Each pod has only one seed, and the hard, tightly-wrapped pods must be removed for the seeds to germinate. I suspect that folks who have had difficulty germinating this species were not using hulled seeds. I go at a small heap of the pods with a heavy marble rolling pin and some elbow grease. Some of the seeds get crushed in the process but I do manage to release many seeds. I have had great germination success with seeds I have prepared this way and now offer for sale. Lead Plant is so slow and tap-rooted, it almost never appears in the nursery trade, which is a shame.
Dwarf Mountain Fleabane (Erigeron compositus) is a charming species, easy to geminate and easy to grow. I think anyone with a rock garden might like to have this little mat-forming daisy in quantity. It grows in the Canadian Rockies and also across the north to the Atlantic. It seems to be tolerant of the hot, humid summers of the Ottawa Valley.
White Camas in front of orange Butterfly Milkweed.
A few species want such a long period of cold-moist stratification I have put them in little bags with moist vermiculite and they are already (December) in my fridge: White Turtlehead, Dwarf Arctic Iris, and Beach-head Iris. If you take any of these home from Seedy Saturday in March, you can place them back in the fridge until you are ready to sow them, probably when it starts getting warm about the beginning of May. Alternatively, you can sow them and place their pot outdoors to experience natural winter temperature fluctuations.
Beaux Arbres’ wildflower seeds will be on sale at the $100 and Under Christmas Sale in Carp this weekend — a chance to pick up some little gifts for the gardeners on your list, and an advance look at some special species new for 2020.
For the first time we are have seeds of the lovely native vining Clematis called Purple Clematis (C. occidentalis). This pretty plant with relatively large nodding mauve flowers grows in woods in the Ottawa Valley but it much less well-known than the white-flowered Virgin’s Bower (C. virginiana). Purple Clematis is rather a wispy thing in the wild, and it is in bloom for only a short period in the spring. In your garden, give it a bit more sun, with much less competition than it struggles with in the woods, feature it on an attractive tuteur or trellis, and it wii reward you with an abundance of bloom. You cannot expect Purple Clematis, a wild species, to rebloom throughout the season, the way fancy modern hybrid clematis do, but lovely swirly seed heads will follow the spring blooms.
The seeds of Purple Clematis need a period of warm-moist stratification, to complete their ripening, before they get their cold-moist stratification. If you want grow this species from seed, get seeds now, before Christmas, to allow you the time to condition your seeds for germination next spring.
We are offering seeds of another very special species clematis: Sugar Bowls (Clematis hirsutissima var. scottii) (featured image). This little gem from the American Rocky Mountains, has no claim to be native to eastern Canada, it’s just super cute. Sugar Bowls is a small, non-vining herbaceous clematis with deep blue urn-shaped flowers, perfect for a sunny rock garden. It too needs a period of warm-moist prior to a period of cold-moist to germinate. Sugar Bowls is so slow to mature — mine took five years to get to blooming size — you won’t find it at the local garden centre.
Three very choice species for which we now offer seeds:
Clustered Poppy Mallow is another slow-to-mature species that you won’t find at the garden centre. It’s bright purple-pink flowers are a delight in the late summer garden but it you want it in your garden, patience is required. Like many of the choicest prairie flowers, it spends its energies in its early years making a deep, very drought-resistant root system. Once the plants are well-established, they bloom and bloom for weeks in mid- to late summer.
Some new seeds I haven’t yet packaged will be available at Ottawa Seedy Saturday in March. Look out for:
White Camas (Anticlea elegans, formerly Zigadenus glauca)
Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia)
West Carleton Arts Society’s 5th annual $100 and Under Show and Sale
St. Paul’s United Church, 3760 Carp Rd., Carp, Ontario
Friday December 6: 2:00-8:00 pm Saturday December 7: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm Sunday December 8: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Getting excited about spring? Looking forward to getting into your garden? Seedy Saturday is a great boost to the spirits — all those little packets of potential: heritage vegetable seeds, garlic bulbs, seed potatoes, and wildflower seed galore. I have put up the list of species Beaux Arbres will be bringing to Seedy Saturday on March 2nd. Download the PDF here: Seedy Saturdy 2019
If you preview the list on your laptop or phone, you can link to pictures and descriptions.
Some of the seeds are available in very limited quantities, and once they are gone, they are gone. The list is what I will be bringing to the sale for 10 am Saturday morning.
We have packaged a selection of seeds from some of our showiest flowers in time for holiday gift giving. They will be available for sale at the $100 and Under Sale of the West Carlton Art Society in Carp this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The seeds are sharing a table with Michael’s hand-crafted baskets. If the gardeners you know would prefer to get plants*, we have Gift Certificates available, redeemable for nursery stock and other Beaux Arbres items.
The $100 and Under Sale is rather small but full of good stuff from local artists. It is happening almost next door to the much larger Carp Christmas Market. Plan to visit both to find the locally crafted gifts you’ll want to give this Christmas.
*Hey, they are gardeners. Of course they want to get more plants.