Taking Your Gardening Dollar

What’s new at Wildflower Farms—and a seed giveaway—CONTEST ENDED

THE TEN WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN. THANKS FOR YOUR QUESTIONS, AND THANKS, MIRIAM FOR ANSWERING THEM!

Last weekend, the proprietors of Wildflower Farm paid me a visit while on one of their regular Buffalo business trips. Miriam Goldberger and Paul Jenkins’s seed business is located in Coldwater, Ontario, an hour or so north of Toronto. They grow acres of native wildflowers there, and until recently, operated a garden center as well. Goldberger and Jenkins started the business in 1988, first as a dried flower supplier, then as a pick-your-own flower farm, and then as a native plant nursery and garden center. Supplying native wildflower seeds was a natural progression, and so was their next venture into developing a low-maintenance turf grass, which could be used for pathways through their wildflower meadows. This grass, a mixture of 7 fine fescues, eventually became EcoLawn, which is offered as an alternative to the needy turf grasses that have become common throughout North America. It can grow long, and lie in graceful waves—in beautiful contrast to the stubby grass beloved of the American lawnmower. EcoLawn is making waves throughout U.S. garden centers, and is now available in two Buffalo venues. It’s a small player in comparison to the vast Scott’s empire, but at least it represents a healthy and burgeoning alternative. Its thick root system acts as a natural weed barrier, and it’s drought- and shade-tolerant. Fortunately, I have no need for even environmentally-friendly turf grass, but I recommend this for friends that do have to have lawns.

After the events of 9/11/01 and the subsequent anthrax scares, it was no longer possible to mail seeds from Canada to the U.S. without paying inspection fees that could add $75 to the cost of each pack of seeds. In order to serve their U.S. customers and stay competitive, Goldberger and Jenkins have set up a warehouse and distribution center in Buffalo. (Eco-Lawn is grown in Oregon and distributed out of Indiana.) Their Buffalo warehouse is probably a pain for them, but it’s my gain, because I get to see the vivacious Miriam and her handsome husband on a regular basis.

The next venture? Miriam Goldberger has a contract with St. Lynn’s Press to write a book about wildflowers. Goldberger says the book will answer all the most basic questions about wildflowers, offering practical advice as well as celebrating their beauty and their role in the struggle to maintain ecological diversity.

The gorgeous fields of wildflowers that yield some of Wildflower Farm’s most popular seed varieties—blue false indigo, purple prairie clover, pale purple coneflower, prairie blazing star, white aster, ironweed, and many more—are located just a few hours drive away from my urban Buffalo neighborhood. I long to visit—I picture wading through a field of waist-high blooms (think the Italy part of Room with a View).

Fantasy is a big part of my relationship with seeds—because, quite honestly, I can’t really grow anything from seed. Our Western New York season, though it’s getting longer in recent years, is still too short for germinating most seeds in the garden, and I don’t have the interest or dedication necessary for an indoor seed operation. However, I know many of you are seed-starting experts, and I bet you’d love to try seeds from Wildflower Farms.

Post your wildflower questions for Miriam Goldberger here and I will not only get the answers, but I will send a nice packet of 6-10 wildflower varieties to 10 lucky Rant readers, drawn at random. The contest ends 1/15/13, 5 p.m. EST.

P.S.: Apparently there is a bogus malware warning from Google on the WF site–there has been a rash of these throughout the interwebs recently.

Posted by on January 14, 2013 at 8:00 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
Comments are off for this post

100 Responses to “What’s new at Wildflower Farms—and a seed giveaway—CONTEST ENDED”

  1. I’ve purchased from Wildflower farms several times. Great selection and service. I’m always interested in more seeds from them! (Chrome is warning me not to go to their website right now though, saying there is malware there.)

    • Hi Alan,
      Thank you for your kind words about Wildflower Farm’s seeds! Have no fear! The Wildflower Farm site is clean. We are waiting for reapproval from Google of our “cleanliness” after a nasty incident this past weekend.

      Cheers and feel free to enjoy the Widlflower Farm website!

      Miriam

  2. Bob Andresen says:

    it would be great to try some wildflower seeds that may work

  3. Karen says:

    I purchased a Joe Pye Weed “Little Joe” last summer and planted it right away. I watered it appropriately but it still died from the shock. It appeared to set seed anyway (last ditch effort?). Do you think the seeds are viable? How do I prevent a plant from dying from transplant shock next time?

    Thanks,
    Karen

    • Hi Karen –

      Any purchase referred to as “Little Joe” is most assuredly a hybridized plant.
      It is possible that the root system of this Joe Pye Weed cousin is viable. You will know in the Spring…..

      Hybridized wildflowers do not tend to have the rigor and longevity of truly native plants. Also, hybridzed natives do not provide the same interest or nutritional value to the all important pollinators we all wish to support.

      I am on a massive campaign for every household in North America to have at least a small collection of plants, shrubs and trees native to your area. When that happens we’ll no longer have to wonder about the future of our beloved pollinators.

      Cheers!

  4. Karen,
    Do you recommend starting the seeds in pots or sowing them directly into the ground.

    Thanks,
    Suzanne

    • Susan -

      Either method will work well as far as germination goes. You just need to ensure that the seeds experience 608 weeks of winter winter naturally or artificially. If the ground isn’t frozen where you are you can still plant the seed in the soil. If the ground IS frozen in your neck of the woods, you can plant the seeds in pots and place the labeled pots outdoors. Or you can place the seeds in a zip-lock freezer bag with moist growing medium in your refrigerator for 6-8 weeks.

      Hope this helps!!!

      Miriam

  5. Thad says:

    I have a great spot in front of a wall that could use some wildflowers, especially perennials or those that reseed easily.

    Cheers!

  6. Jackie says:

    I adore wildflowers! I planted some last year. I hope they come back (:

    • Jackie –

      “Wildflowers” is a super-generic term! I would love to know what you planted. Maybe then I could help you predict whether your wildflowers will return!!!

      Miriam

  7. Kara says:

    Hi, I would love to win some seeds, & start them indoors. I recently got some small peat pots to try & get a jump start on my garden this year. :D

  8. Monique says:

    I hope it’s okay if I ask two questions! :)
    First, I’ve been trying to make a small butterfly garden. Other than Milkweed, what wildflowers would you recommend as a butterfly favorite? (zone 7) Second, what is a good compact wildflower? Most of what I have planted in the past is tall and I need something up front in my garden. Thank you so much!

    • Hi Monique -

      Do you recall the type of milkweed you have you already planted? There are quite a few types!!!
      What kind of soil do you have? Sand? Loam? Clay? Is it very dry? Does it stay damp?
      Let me know and I can make lots of butterfly plant and shorter wildflower suggestions for you!!!

      Miriam

      • Monique says:

        Miriam,
        Thank you for your response. I have both Tropical and Swamp Milkweed in my yard. The Tropical does GREAT and last year was the first year for the Swamp, it did pretty well but I had an issue with aphids. I tried Common but it doesn’t seem to do as well. I am planning on trying again this year in a different area.
        I have normal drainage up towards my house and one corner of the yard is low lying so it stays a bit more damp. I’d say I have loamy soil but I do have to mix in compost from my worm bin to get things to their full potential. Thank you again for your help and I hope that ramble makes sense ;)

  9. gmarieb says:

    Yes, send wildflower seeds my way, I’d love to have them. Here’s my question. Sometimes seed manufacturers suggest putting seeds out during specific times of the year, before frost times, after frost times etc. For wildflower plants, it seems like it shouldn’t make any difference. Won’t they go through their normal development just depending on the temps outside anyway? Or will I end up with vegetation, but no flowers if I plant them directly outside, anytime of the year?

    • Hi gmarieb -

      Very good question. It’s all about timing and longevity. Most wildflowers are very long-lived compared to hybridized or non-native plants. Many – but not all – perennial wildflowers need to experience winter before they germinate. Winter conditions of freezing and thawing over a period of weeks roughs up the tough shells. You can create winter conditions artificially; that’s called Cold Moist Stratification.

      In their first year, most perennials will get themselves established with roots and foliage and not bloom until their second year.
      What this means is that if you don’t plant wildflower seeds in the fall or Cold Moist Stratify some wildflowers, you will delay the joy of experiencing their flowers by a year.

      Hope this helps!

      Miriam.

    • Hi gmarieb!

      It’s all about the timing and the fact that many – not all – perennial wildflowers need to experience winter before they can germinate. So if you plant the seeds in the ground in the fall – they will germinate in the spring. If you want, you can artificially create winter conditions planting the seeds in pots and place them outside in wintery conditions for 6-8 weeks and then they will germinate. Or you can truly fake them out by placing the seeds in a small zip lock freezer bag with moist growing medium for 6-8 weeks then start growing them either outdoors or in pots until they have a big healthy root system then plant them outdoors.

      Hope this explantion is helpful! Happy to answer more questions until it’s clear!
      Miriam

  10. Corinne Flax says:

    Hi Karen,

    I am a window box gardener in New York City, what wild flowers do you think would do well in my East facing windows?

    Thank you!

    • Hey Corinne -

      I’m from New Joisey originally! Let’s get you some color in your NY window box!! There are quite a few wildflowers that work well in fairly shallow containers.
      I’m going to recommend that you grow 6-7 varieties that bloom at different times throughout the season so you can have color springtime through fall!!
      In chronological order: lupines, columbines, beardtongue, spiderwort, coreopsis, black eyed susans and asters.
      Just for reference – have a look at the Wildflower Farm septic bed meadow mix – That’s lots of wildflowers with SHALLOW ROOTS and that’s what you will need. Hope this helps. Happy to answer MORE questions!!!

      http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=product&id=224&parent=3

      Miriam

  11. Dorothy Cassel says:

    Would any of these plants grow well here in south Texas ? we certainly have a long growing season but we also have white tail and axis deer that eat almost EVERYTHING that grows. (The axis deer are imports that have gone native and what the white tails don’t eat they will.)
    Thanks.

    • Hi Dorothy -

      Lots of Wildflowers are native to Texas and will grow very well there. Have a look at our Wildflower Selection Guide (within the green bar on every page) and just look for Texas and you’ll get a big list of Texas Wildlfowers we offer.

      There are many wildflowers that are deer resistent. Have a look at the list of wildflowers in our Deer Resistent Meadow Mixes and you can see all the many kinds of wildflowers that deer just don’t like!!!
      http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=catalog&parent=3&pg=1

      Hope this helps. Happy to answer more questions!
      Miriam

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I was wondering where I could find Queen Ann’s lace … Is it only grown in the wild, or can you buy seeds for it? I saw pictures of it, and I thought it is very pretty!

    • Hi Elizabeth –

      Queen Anne’s Lace is a very pretty biennial flower that is actually not a North American Wildflower. This lacey lovely came over here from Europe and has made itself so at home that many people think it’s a wildflower.

      I love that look! Here is Zizia – a gorgeous wildflower that look s like a cross between Queen Anne’s Lace and Golden Yarrow. It blooms in late Spring. I love combining Zizia with late blooming tulips. Grows in sun or shade.

      http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=product&id=116&parent=1

      Hope this helps!!!

  13. Morgan says:

    Silly question here. What is the difference between plants sold as wildflowers and flowers that actually grow in the wild? I mean most plants at one point grew in the wild somewhere…and I can’t remember ever seeing a beautiful coneflower grow in a field somewhere. That being said I do have great luck starting flowers labelled as “wildflowers” by seed.

    • Hey Morgan – Thanks for your question. The answer is – It Depends.

      Sadly it’s rare to see most true North American Wildflowers growing in the wild because most natural eco-systems have been destroyed. Last time I checked, we had destroyed over 95% of the original, natural meadows in the United States.

      The plants that are sold in your typical garden center as wildflowers are more often than not, hybridized versions of wildflowers. So they will look a lot like a particular wildflower but research shows that hybridized wildflowers do not offer what pollinators need to support our all important food chains and eco-systems.

      That’s why it’s a good idea to consider growing your own true wildflowers from seed! It saves you money and all the pollinators will thank you!!!

      Do let me know if I have answered your question!!!

      Thanks1
      Miriam

  14. Jackie says:

    I’m not really sure. It was a mix. I’m not super good at gardening. I just like planting seeds and watching them grow. I know for sure I has some cosmos and some bachelor buttons. I also had one gigantic sunflower. Other than that I don’t know the names. They were beautiful though.

    • Hi Jackie -

      Will your “wildflowers” come back? The pack of seeds you bought sounds like it was filled with lovely annuals. It’s possible that there were some perennials in the mix that started growing foliage last year and will flower for you this year…..

      Most commercially available “wildflower seed mixes” are really just filled with annuals that are from Europe that don’t last longer than a year in most parts of the U.S.

      If you happen to want a true long-lived wildflower meadow mix have a look at the Wildflower Farm website. These kind of meadows last for 50 years or more with minimum maintenance!!!

      :)

      Miriam

  15. Denise Fedor says:

    If I just scatter the seeds, how will I tell them apart from weeds? I have a habit of micro weeding!

    • Hey Denise –

      Micro-weeding is fun and relaxing! But – if you want to keep your wildflowes safe here are a few suggestions you might consider: you might consider a few a few labels in or around the area you have sesuggestions:
      1) Label or indicate with rocks inside or around the area you have seeded
      2) Have a look at the Wildflower Farm instructions for preparing a site for seeding wildflowers.
      3) Read my upcoming book!!!! It will have full-color pictures of many wildflower seedlings!!!

      More questions? Happy to answer!

      Miriam

  16. Fred Karp says:

    There’s a field nearby where last year I tried sewing some maximilian sunflowers from seed collected along the street elsewhere. There was less than an inch of rain over two months in Denver last spring. No sunflowers (sniff). Stratification was not the issue, just moisture. Maybe a pot start would help. I’m not tied to those sunflowers, but they’re so common that I think they must be hardy.

    • Hey Fred -

      If what you scarfed and seeded were truly Maximillian Sunflowers they are hardy and should do nicely for you.
      Sounds like cold moist stratifcation in the refrigerator would work best, followed by growing them up in pots until a sizable root system has formed.
      That way, you can control the stratification and the growing conditions!

      We affectionately refer to those lovely sunflowers as Hell Max! One of my absolute favorites!!!! They happen to make an excellent cut flower if you are so inclined…..

      Miriam

  17. Salud Garcia says:

    I have a rain garden that gets lots of shade and it’s under a redbud. Is there any wildflower that would like such a home? During the bad scorcher we had last summer, this spot didn’t get as dry as the rest of the yard and is actually protected from most of the afternoon sun.

    • Hey Salud!

      A HUGE number of wildflowers and gorgeous native grasses will adore those exact conditions: Here is a partial list..by common names….

      Common Name

      Lavender Hyssop
      Nodding Wild Onion
      Wild Columbine
      Red Milkweed
      Butterflyweed
      White False Indigo
      Blue False Indigo
      Marsh Marigold
      New Jersey Tea
      Shooting Star
      Pale Purple Coneflower
      Purple Coneflower
      Joe Pye Weed
      Sweet Joe Pye Weed
      Ox-eye Sunflower
      Wild Iris
      Blue Flag Iris
      Cardinal Flower
      Great Blue Lobelia
      Wild Lupine
      Bergamot
      Evening Primrose
      Smooth Penstemon
      Beardtongue
      Jacob’s Ladder
      Mountain Mint
      Yellow Coneflower
      Wild Rose
      Meadow Rose
      Black-eyed Susan
      Green-headed Coneflower
      Sweet Black-eyed Susan
      Branched Coneflower
      Wild Senna
      Royal Catchfly
      Cupplant
      Smooth Aster
      New England Aster
      Sky Blue Aster
      Spiderwort
      Ironweed
      New York Ironweed
      Culver’s Root
      Golden Alexanders

      Native grasses

      Common Name

      Northern Sea Oats
      Canada Wild Rye
      Bottlebrush Grass
      Virginia Wild Rye
      Sweet Grass

      I will be happy to answer more questions! Have fun!!!
      Miriam

  18. Amy says:

    Ooo, can I still be entered in the seed drawing if my question got answered a few posts up?

  19. Jackie says:

    Thanks for the tip (:

  20. John says:

    I live in northeastern North Dakota (Zone 4) and planted various Coneflowers (about a dozen in total) two years ago, concentrated in a couple of different areas. We haven’t really had many butterfly visitors, so I was wondering how many I should plant to achieve critical mass to attract butterflies? Also, what would you plant as companions to the Coneflowers to attract more butterflies?

    • Hey John -

      Wow! Have I got a plant for you – the ultimate Monarch magnet is Meadow Blazing Star. A native of your region of North America and even further north this stunning plant blooms throughout August. All the native Liatris’ are awesome for attracting butterflies.

      http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=product&id=78&parent=1

      I would also strongly suggest you grow at least one member of the Milkweed or Asclepias family. Bright orange Butterfly weed if you have soil that drains well or Red Milkweed if you have medium to moist soil – including clay. Milkweed plants do double duty for the Monarchs, providing food and shelter to Monarch caterpillars as well as Nectar to full grown Monarch beauties!

      Hope this helps!!! More questions?

      Miriam

  21. karen says:

    Love natives. Ideas for dealing with Canadian thistle in a tall grass/natives area of about 4 acres?

    • Hey Karen -

      Been there. Done that. Tough situation. Was this an area that you seeded with a wildflower meadow mix? Or perhaps it was a naturalized area that you added wildflower seeds or plants into…. Either way, sounds like you will need to attack the thistles in a very stealthy fashion.

      You are probably aware that digging up the Canadian thistles simply spreads them around even MORE!

      I do not know where you are located. In many Canadian provinces, many herbicides have been banned for use except by permit.

      I would suggest the magic wand or stealthful glove treatment for those thistles. This does involve the judicious use of chemicals. If this is not to your liking you can attempt to use repeated applications of hot water.

      I invite you to contact me for exact methodology at details: miriam@wildflowerfarm.com

      Drastic situations sometimes call for drastic action…..

      Miriam

      • karen says:

        Thank you Miriam. We have been working with a Northwest Ohio former farm field for 15 years.

        It had some kind of grass growing in it when we slit seeded a pasture mix the first year –birdsfoot trefoil, some kind of clover and grasses. We have mostly grass now but there are areas planted with native seed mixes (from reputable sources) and with native grasses and plants. Little blue stem has taken hold and is spreading nicely.

        I’ve limited native plants expansion because we can’t use chemicals in the areas with the plants. We use 2-4-D and Curtail, sometimes mixed, almost every year both broadcast sprayed and on individual plants, cut off flowers from thistles by hand to prevent them from going to seed multiple times, Rounded-up individual plants and cussed them out on a regular basis. We still have a lot of thistle.

        I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the chemicals which don’t eliminate the thistle anyway. Still, willing to entertain any solution so I can get more flowers going — besides the purple ones that come with the thistle. I will send you a private message.

  22. Although coneflowers are native where I live in the prairie, they seem to be difficult to germinate “in captivity”. Do you find that it is easier to chill and start indoors, or is it best to put them out before winter and let them germinate on their own?

    Great site that you have, and thanks to Annie Haven at http://www.manuretea.com/ for tweeting this!

    • Dear Billy Joe’s Food Farm!

      Any friend of Annie Haven’s is a friend of Wildflower Farm, indeed!
      Echinacea seeds germinate more successfully after Cold Moist Statification treatment for sure. We achieve the greatest success seeding them in pots in fall and allowing the seeds to freeze in the pots all winter outside or in unheated greenhouses. On occasion, we do seed them in late March without the freezing phase. Both methods work. The former, with greater success.

      In the book I am now writing I will talk about the importance of growing wildflowers in vegetable gardens to attract and support the pollinators!!! And, many wildflowers make awesome cut flowers!!

      Great to meet you!

      Miriam

  23. Laura Bell says:

    What does WF have for Westerners? Many (most?) wildflowers that are native to the Buffalo area either won’t grow here in dry-summer California, or will do too well & become invasive.

    • Hey Laura –

      If we can hunker down to some specifics I’m going to be able to be helpful and I do so wish to be helpful!!
      There are many polite, non-spreading wildflowers that are native to western states and/or grow quite well in western regions.

      What is key is what type of soil you have, the amount of sunlight and the degree of moisture.

      Have a peek at Wildflower Farm’s Selection Guide. It’s organized in two ways: by conditions – that you just indicate. And then there’s a completely separate guide section that gives the wildflowers that are native to each state and province in North America.

      The key will be matching up your conditions with the wildflowers. Some wildflowers are purely clump forming and do not spread aggressively. Others will be prolific if conditons are optimum and polite if not.

      I would be pleased to offer you a detailed list of non-aggressive wildflower suggestions once I know the conditions of your site!!!

      Miriam

      • Laura Bell says:

        Oh good! The site I have in mind is un-irrigated, so assume no water from mid-May to end of September. Only 17 inches of drizzle & fog from October to mid-May. Bright, full sun. Hot summers, cool winters (freezing is rare, though we are getting more than our share of it right now). Clay. Heavy, heavy clay. As in there’s a world-class clay pipe & terracotta factory just up the road. As in don’t even consider digging in July.

  24. Lara Ruiz says:

    My husband is convinced that because we live in the desert (out near Palm Springs, CA) that the only wild flowers I can grow is verbena! lol. I’d love to be able to show him that we can bring in butterflies and flowers with wildflowers but haven’t had too much success this far. I’ve only been able to grow 1 sunflower and some larkspur from seed. Do you have any suggestions for changing my success rate?

    • Hey Laura -

      There are SO many gorgeous wildflowers that can be successfully grown in your region of California. Have a look at the Wildflower Farm Selection Guide and click to select the conditions you have got and magically a huge list of wildflowers and native grasses that thrive in exactly the conditions at your property will appear.

      And below it you’ll find a list of California native wildflowers that we offer… Here is that list! Have fun and let me know if you have any questions!!

      Butterflyweed
      Canada Milk Vetch
      Marsh Marigold
      Lance Leaf Coreopsis
      Blanketflower
      Helen’s Flower
      Maximillian’s Sunflower
      Cardinal Flower
      Bergamot
      Dotted Mint
      Evening Primrose
      Black-eyed Susan
      Blue Vervain

      Native grasses

      Sideoats Grama
      Canada Wild Rye
      Sweet Grass
      Junegrass
      Little Bluestem

      Miriam

      • Lara Ruiz says:

        Thank you so much I’m going to spend my sick day looking the up and rereading all of the comments. There is so many useful tips thank you for giving your time so so many of us can learn more about wildflowers!
        Lara

  25. jonquil says:

    Part of my little garden space is shady, with cool soil. Damp enough to sprout mushrooms on occasion. Can you recommend a wildflower or two for this space?

    • Hey Jonquil –

      You have an ideal location to grow many many wildflowers! Here is a list of the wildflowers I would recommend for you! They all thrive in part shade, medium to moist conditions. I think you’ll enjoy growing them from seed. Directions are on the website and each seed pack as well.
      Let me here from you if you have more questions. Always happy to help!

      Common Name

      Lavender Hyssop
      Nodding Wild Onion
      Wild Columbine
      Red Milkweed
      Butterflyweed
      White False Indigo
      Blue False Indigo
      Marsh Marigold
      New Jersey Tea
      Shooting Star
      Pale Purple Coneflower
      Purple Coneflower
      Joe Pye Weed
      Sweet Joe Pye Weed
      Ox-eye Sunflower
      Wild Iris
      Blue Flag Iris
      Cardinal Flower
      Great Blue Lobelia
      Wild Lupine
      Bergamot
      Evening Primrose
      Smooth Penstemon
      Beardtongue
      Jacob’s Ladder
      Mountain Mint
      Yellow Coneflower
      Wild Rose
      Meadow Rose
      Black-eyed Susan
      Green-headed Coneflower
      Sweet Black-eyed Susan
      Branched Coneflower
      Wild Senna
      Royal Catchfly
      Cupplant
      Smooth Aster
      New England Aster
      Sky Blue Aster
      Spiderwort
      Ironweed
      New York Ironweed
      Culver’s Root
      Golden Alexanders

      Native grasses

      Common Name

      Northern Sea Oats
      Canada Wild Rye
      Bottlebrush Grass
      Virginia Wild Rye
      Sweet Grass

      Miriam

  26. Gary J says:

    I did not know the Coneflower is a wildflower!

    • Hey Gary J -

      It’s true! Echinacea or Coneflower are North American native wildflowers! You will see lots and lots of hybridized coneflowers on the market these days – in as many colors as lollypops!!! They are lovely and fun to grow.
      But – remember – they will not be as hardy or long-lived as native coneflowers and they will not provide the same attraction or nutritional value to the all-important pollinators – the birds, butterflies and insects that we need so very much!!!

      Miriam

  27. Sarah says:

    Hi Miriam,

    I’m a newbie gardener (bought a house in June 2012 and started my garden) and I’ve found that I don’t like a lot of “messy” looking leftovers once things are done flowering. I read some blogs saying you should leave native wildflowers to “do their thing” and not deadhead or clean them up in the spring, etc… Is that true?!

    I do leave some seed pods and other interesting forms around for winter… but I don’t think I can leave dead plant parts around come spring. :) Everything must look fresh! I’m in zone 4b.

    Glad to have found the Garden Rant blog and I thank them for featuring you! It’s been really, really helpful!

    Sarah

    • Hey Sarah -

      First- congrats on the new house! It’s an amazing feeling to garden at your own special place!!
      You were asking about whether it’s bad for the plants if you like to clean up your perennial garden in the fall rather than wait until the spring.
      From your plants’ point of view it makes little difference at all whether you tidy up your garden in fall or spring.

      In natural untended areas debris falls to the ground creating a natural very nutritous mulch that breaks down to feed the plants and support seedlings that form from seed heads that have not been deadheaded.

      All the creatures – birds, butterflies, insects use untidied up garden areas for food and shelter throughout the winter. So, you do support the natural eco-systems by leaving those areas throughout the winter.

      My favorite reason – aside from those I mention above – to leave my garden alone all winter is purely psychological. It comforts me to see the finished flower and grass stems not only surviving against winter’s ravages but reminding me that under when the winter is finally over – my gardens will return.

      Hope this clears things up a bit for you!

      Miriam

  28. Martha says:

    Why did you stop selling native plants in the nursery and move to just seed? I have an opportunity to sell local genotypes but wonder why so many nurseries are getting out of this line. Also, what is your view on local genotypes? These were sourced from about ten counties.

    • Hey Martha -

      Thanks for your question! My partner and I have been growing hardy, perennial wildflowers for over 25 years now. Amazing most of all to US because it’s so very challenging to believe how fast time goes!!!

      It is really very much a personal decision for us that will allow us to move on to a different phase of our lives. For 25 years we have been devoted to growing native plants. Yet this commitment virtually tied us to our garden center business. We are so excited to have time to experience nature and summertime in ways that are new and exciting for us.

      Growing local genotypes is fine but quickly create a number of challenges of scale and economy. A complex discussion that touches upon so many issues!!!!

      I hope this answers a few of your very good questions!!

      Miriam

  29. Lesley says:

    I want to convert our front garden into a wildflower garden, but I have no idea where to start! It’s not a huge space so I’m not sure what kinds of wild flowers I should plant. All I know is that I want colour all year! Any suggestions?

    • Hey Lesley!!

      How exciting for you! I’d start by reading, reading and reading more!!! Talk with as many gardeners as you can.

      The Wildflower Farm Planning Information link has substantial information (It’s really a Wildflower Growing Guide!!) that you will find very specific and helpful as you plan your new garden: http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=page&page_id=PI

      It is definitely possible to choose wildflowers that give you extended color, form and texture throughout the year! Please feel free to be in touch to ask lots of questions!!!

      Miriam

  30. Ann Morgan says:

    I made queen anne’s lace jelly a couple years ago and it was very pretty. I wish I had made it a couple weeks earlier as I was a little short on the flowers. It turns a beautiful pink when cooking. http://www.foragingfoodie.net/queen-annes-lace-jelly.html
    I’d love to win some seeds!

  31. Susan in Western NC says:

    I live in the mountains of western North Carolina and have a garden with a lot of “wildflowers”, which is to say, plants that grow locally whose seeds I’ve collected or the wind and birds have delivered. I’ve identified more than 100 flowers, native and otherwise, on my property. The natives are so much easier to grow.

    Do you have any suggestions for a damp area that’s shaded most of the year but gets some afternoon sun in mid summer? Thanks

    • Hey Susan -

      Your property sounds so beautiful! There are a substantial number of wildflowers you can grow from seed that will do really nicely in the conditions you have described! Here is a partial list:

      Be sure to consider growing some of the decorative native grasses. They look stunning in the shade!

      Lavender Hyssop
      Nodding Wild Onion
      Wild Columbine
      Red Milkweed
      Butterflyweed
      White False Indigo
      Blue False Indigo
      Marsh Marigold
      New Jersey Tea
      Shooting Star
      Pale Purple Coneflower
      Purple Coneflower
      Joe Pye Weed
      Sweet Joe Pye Weed
      Ox-eye Sunflower
      Wild Iris
      Blue Flag Iris
      Cardinal Flower
      Great Blue Lobelia
      Wild Lupine
      Bergamot
      Evening Primrose
      Smooth Penstemon
      Beardtongue
      Jacob’s Ladder
      Mountain Mint
      Yellow Coneflower
      Wild Rose
      Meadow Rose
      Black-eyed Susan
      Green-headed Coneflower
      Sweet Black-eyed Susan
      Branched Coneflower
      Wild Senna
      Royal Catchfly
      Cupplant
      Smooth Aster
      New England Aster
      Sky Blue Aster
      Spiderwort
      Ironweed
      New York Ironweed
      Culver’s Root
      Golden Alexanders

      Native grasses

      Northern Sea Oats
      Canada Wild Rye
      Bottlebrush Grass
      Virginia Wild Rye
      Sweet Grass

      Miriam

      • Susan in Western NC says:

        I have a number of the ones you suggest in the garden already. I’ll have to try some of them in the shadier spot. Thank

  32. bev says:

    Hello;

    After losing my 25+ year shade garden to divorce, I am starting a new (sun!) garden and would love to win some seeds for it! Thanks for this post!

  33. Carolyn says:

    I’m trying to develop a perennial bed outside my kitchen window for winter bird watching–I need plants that have good seedheads & have strong enough stems to hold up all winter to provide cover. The purple coneflowers are teriffic–any other suggestions for my Rhode Island zone 5 garden? thanks!

  34. Alexandra day says:

    I can’t remember most I planted last year, but not even the sunflowers wanted to grow. We are dealing with red ga clay in all the front yard and most of the back yard. There is also a huge tree that blocks a lot of the sun in the front yard. I am wondering what I could do to help the soil and what grows best in this ga clay? Never had to deal with clay befor so any tips I will take. Thank you

    • Hey Alexandra -

      Our first wildflower farm was located on pure, compacted clay! At first we were utterly challenged about how and what to grow in this break-your-shovel-chay! We discovered that there are LOTS of wildflowers that thrive in unammended pure clay!!!

      I know you are likely not interested in growing a meadow but have a look at the list of wildflower species in our Claybuster Meadow Mix. These wildflowers and native grasses grow in pure clay!!!! I suggest you choose the wildflowers from this list!
      http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=product&id=222&parent=3

      What’s really amazing is that to grow these wildflowers you will NOT need to ammend your soil.

      I did have another section of my garden where I grew lots of hybriized annuals and perennials that were not native. To ammend this section of my garden I used compost, compost, compost!!!! I found a duck farm that sold completely processed compost (so it had no weed seeds in it) and bought truckloads from them.

      I hope this helps!!!!

      Miriam

  35. heather says:

    i hope to win this one i have just the place to plant these

  36. Tannis W says:

    What is the best way to keep weeds at bay on a newly seeded wildflower patch?

    • Hey Tannis –

      If you seeded a wildflower meadow mix I would advise you that the best thing to do is tie your hands behind your back and resist the temptation to even touch the area until the seedlings are larger and their root systems can withstand the disturbance that weeding would cause them.

      If you know what the wildflower seedling babies look like and you also know what the weeds in that area look like, once the wildflower seedlings are a bit older in a month or so, you can weed it carefully.

      I’m excited that my new wildflower book will include pictures of many of the wildflower seedlings! Exactly what would be helpful to your weedy situation!!!!

      To be genuinely helpful to you I will need to ask you a few questions!

      Where are you located? Did you tidy up the site and rid it of existing vegetation? What type of seeds did you sow there?

      Hope to hear back from you to help more!!!

      Miriam

  37. Gerry says:

    This is only my 2nd year of germinating seeds. I guess I should be trying a few flower seeds this year? The critters ate every bite of my 15 seed flats last year AND I had to plant tomato and cucumbers 4 times to get any produce at all. Here is hoping this year is better ;-)

    • Hey Gerry!!!

      Persistence in all things – including gardening – is almost always the best approach to life.

      Growing perennial North American wildlflowers as part of your vegetable garden or around your property will help your vegetable garden to succeed because it will invite and nurture those all-important pollinators to visit and perform their pollination magic!!

      Best of luck with your gardening this year Gerry!

      Miriam

  38. Stephanie says:

    I love the greater celandine (poppy family) that has sprung up on its own for the past 3 years in a spot where nothing would grow before: along the house, in the shade on the south side, and we live on top of a shale hill. What do you recommend for taking care of it and giving it every chance of coming back year after year?

  39. Autumn says:

    I feel pretty well versed in native plants myself, so I can’t come up with any questions for Miriam at the moment (Hi Miriam!), but I wouldn’t mind trying my hand on some new seeds! ;)

  40. Maria says:

    Oh please add me to the list even though I have PLENTY of wildflower seeds….. seeds, not the plants.

    The story: Last spring I properly stratified my wildflower seeds (from what I could tell) and got all my little wildflowers repotted into six packs and then set them in the backyard to germinate…..which most of them did…..but a raccoon came by one night and carefully removed every single identifying marker so I have no idea what most of them are. The few that continued to grow I could figure out but most of them will take a year of drastic temperature changes to germinate….if they’re still even there. Errrgh. I was so proud of myself for doing everything right and then there’s always the unexpected stuff that happens. C’est le gardening, I suppose. :-/

    I do have a question about cold moist stratification. This year I used sand as my medium since some of my seedlings from last year managed to die from damping off (with fresh new purchased potting soil and fresh new pots!). When I take my seeds out of the refrigerator and pot them up in six packs, do I just lay the sand with the seeds in it on top of the potting soil? I’m not sure whether I should try to mix the sand into the potting soil since the seeds are tiny and I don’t want to bury them too deep (like several inches deep).

    All of these questions and answers have been so much fun to read. I’m off to study your site right now and look forward to reading your book in the future!!! Even more so since you will be providing seedling pictures!!!

    Maria (Kansas City, MO)

    • Hey Maria –

      Darn those raccoons anyway!

      Now to address your question: I have always preferred cold moist stratifying seeds in pots rather than in zip lock bags in the refrigerator for the very reason you bring up in your question!!

      It is far more difficult to determine the whereabouts of seeds – especially tiny seeds in a loose bag of starting medium or sand than in a pot.

      It is very important, as you indicate you know, to not bury the seeds deeply as this will inhibit germination.

      Perhaps your solution lies in the use of a flat rather than a small pot. You can carefully pour out the sand and seed from the plastic bag, utilizing the entire surface of the growing medium you have used in the flat. Next, sprinkle what I’d call a thick dusting of growing medium over the entire surface of the flat. Next, apply pressure since good seed to soil contact provides the moisture so essential to germination!

      I do hope, Maria, that I have been of service!

      Miriam

      • Maria says:

        Miriam. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all these questions for us. It’s very much appreciated. I guess no matter how much one reads up on things, there is always a personal adaptation to what you learn. Each seed species I have is in a ziplock bag with about a 1/4 cup of damp sand. When stratification is done, I think I’ll smoosh/flatten each seed group on top of tamped down potting soil in some sort of “flat” arrangement so the seeds don’t get too buried. I suppose the soil below the sand will eventually mix with the sand on top and by then, hopefully the seedlings will be big enough to transplant into something that is not layered. Whew. I think I finally have it figured out.

        As for raccoons, mine have been more entertaining than destructive (so far…and I’ve been visited by them for years). The one who removed all my plastic ID markers left a similar looking bone as “payment” for the entertainment. That’s what I choose to think. Those backyard critters do some head-scratching things. I remember looking up at my elm and seeing two lemons next to each other at the end of a branch (!!!!). Best thing I ever found in a birdbath was a porkchop!!!!!! Hahaha.

  41. Lisa H. says:

    I live in the central dry area of Washington state, I am wondering what flowers would be best for an area that gets very little if any irrigation. I have a very dry garden space that needs some color. The soil is very poor also.

    Thank you for chance to win and for all of your great answers.

    • Hey Lisa!

      The key to your wildflower gardening success will be to grow wildflowers that thrive in exactly the conditions you have on your central Washington site. This is entirely doable!

      I understand from you that the soil is poor and dry. Is the soil very compacted or is it easy to dig in?

      Please let me know and then I can give you suggestions galore!!!

      Miriam
      Miriam

  42. Ali says:

    Wildflower dreams…I thought I could convince our town to plow up some land where our community gardens is (Open space) but it didn’t happen too many large rocks. I have a couple hundred $$ of donated wildflower seeds (MG over bought for a project) and would love to have a wildflower garden there. Do I have to till or can I just randomly toss the seeds of love into the weedy grass which sits on this old farm site..and hope & pray they germinate.

    Appreciate any info.
    A Flowergirl in CT

    • Hey Ali –

      You remind me oh so very much of myself as a newby gardener thinking how very cool it would be to have a lovely wildflower meadow. I envisioned myself skipping joyfully through the open meadow in my Empire Waisted Edwardian frock gracefully distributing seeds first this way then that. Oh, and of course, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Spring Sonata would magically accompany me through this pastoral exercise!!!

      I gotta tell you Ali – Done that, been there. Doesn’t work!!!! Ramdom distribution of wildflower seeds dropped onto the surface of an area filled with competitive plants just does not work. If only life were so simple!!!

      You have 3 options that WILL work!
      1) clean up the entire area – making it free of all vegetation then tilling it repeatedly for several years to kill off dormant weed seeds.
      2) simply clean up swaths and seed into those areas rather than the entire meadow area
      3) seed these wildflowers into pots and then plant the mature plants into the meadow area. They will then be old enough to defend themselves against competitive vegetation.

      For exact instructions on how to approach your question I will humbly refer you to the Wildflower Farm ‘Planning Information ‘ Link. in the green bar on every page!

      http://www.wildflowerfarm.com

      Happy to answer more questions!!

      Miriam

  43. Dear Miriam,

    At the most recent gathering of garden bloggers in Asheville, NC I noticed there were poppies every where we went and there were more than one species. I live very close by. Obviously poppies should grow for me. I have tried and failed direct sowing on bare ground. Some germinated. I even had a poppy that was a half an inch high with the tiniest bloom you can imagine. It was a microscopic poppy. I think I sowed the seeds to late.

    I have four packs of annual poppy seeds, swag from the Fling, and plan to try again. I’d like for them to thrive and start self sowing with the rest of the wildflowers. What would you recommend to guarantee success for bloom this year? I’m a zone 6ish at 4000 feet in elevation.

    Signed
    Poppyless in NC

    • Greetings esteemed Christopher –

      My experience with poppies is that they require cooler temperatures to germinate than oh so many other annuals. Generally they do well for me direct-sown when one has consistent temperatures in the 50 – 65 F range. After that it’s just too warm for them to pop!!!

      Most of those lovely colorful lollypops of color that we call poppies are not native to our continent but to that of Europe. Except of course the gorgeous saffron colored California poppies…..

      Hope this helps!!!! My best to you in gorgeous NC!!

      Miriam

  44. dawn says:

    Is there a wildflower or a wildflower mix that can stand up to the foot traffic of a few dogs?

    • Hey Dawn –

      Wildflowers are tough tough plants! Our dog spends lots of time gleefully running though our wildflower gardens and meadows. I cannot determine from your question whether you have a small or a large space. If the dogs are restricted to a small space and will be going back and forth a lot then what you need is gravel rather than any sort of plants. If you’re referring to an occasional chase through an area planted with wildflowers – that will work for you.

      Hope this helps. I am happy to answer more questions!

      Miriam

  45. DEL says:

    I still am getting flowers in my 35 year old garden started from seed. Red poppies, and achilla and the indestructable shasta daisy. I live in the Adirondacks and 35 years ago there should have been no reason for success with seeds. Zone 3 on a good winter sometimes a 2 now a 3/4. I started them in a nursery garden spot and moved them the following spring to places they are still happy in. Couldn’t afford plants then. I have found plants started from seed to have more persistence, resistance than plants any way. Even tomatoes work better if I start them. Thank goodness for seeds.

  46. Lisa-St. Marys ON says:

    I tried to go to the Wildflower Farm website, but my antivirus closed me down. Hopefully you will be clean again soon.

    • Hey Lisa -

      Thanks for your note. The wildflower farm site is clear of mal-ware. We seem to be waiting to receive clearance from google to remove their cautionary note.
      Quite the drag!!!!
      I absolutely look forward to helping you out.

      Miriam

      • Lisa-St. Marys ON says:

        Thanks Miriam,

        I am interested in what you have for the septic mix. I have a cottage in Barrow Bay with a new septic that I don’t want just grass on.

        Lisa

  47. Shannon says:

    My husband and I are considering a pick your own wildflower farm along with bee keeping. We are located in Indiana. After reading the above blog, it seems you have experience with this. In your opinion, would this be a successful venture? We rent our field to a farmer right now for corn and beans. We are trying to find something s little more natural and fulfilling for our family.

    Thank you,
    Shannon

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