Oh Happy Day !!

Big Blue Stem turns a rich rust color after the first hard frost.

Big Blue Stem turns a rich rust color after the first hard frost.

Oh Happy Day!

Fall is a complicated time emotionally for most of us.

Autumn begins with the upbeat excitement of new beginnings; that start-of–the-school-year feeling mingled with the crisp air and colour explosions of autumn.

Then, a certain darkness descends. We put on a jolly good show to keep sadness at bay. But inside we weep for summer’s demise because we know the truth. It’s time once again to prepare our emotional fortress to fend off winter’s cruelty.

Today I took the opportunity to walk the quiet, green pathways of my wildflower meadows and was soon comforted by its flagrantly joyful display. Everywhere I looked I found great comfort; backlit magical circles and blades of puffery; dark brown seed spikes towering over yellow and cream colored insect landing pads  and the welcome sight of half-eaten seed heads waited patiently to be consumed.

What a show. Be comforted all ye who weep at winter’s looming arrival.

Let Us Rejoice in the purposeful beauty of nature.  

Walk with Me.






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The Birds and the Bees (Literally)

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My front yard vegetable garden where I leave milkweed standing to support pollinators and encourage them to hang out with my veggies.

It’s not officially fall yet so I won’t even go there; there’s plenty of summer left and I’m going to take full advantage of the warm days and late summer blooms. And there are lots of those to peek at right now.

My home garden is where I spend an inordinate amount of time (inordinate to every non-gardener, ordinate to my gardening peers).  I don’t have much space – nowhere near what the Wildflower Farm has but you know what? I can grow a good number of native plants among the non-natives and edibles.

This week I’m going to focus on the amazing native plants in my home garden to show you that they can be grown by any regular gardener.  No need for vast amounts of space or anything special. And no need for any special skills.


Rudbeckia Triloba

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I love the tiny faces of this plant. They’re the cuter cousins of the black-eyed Susan and liven up the garden like no other plant.

I should point out that I didn’t actually plant these.  I have no idea where they came from – they certainly weren’t in the garden last year.  A virtual thanks goes out to the neighbourhood birds.  I find the colour to be a little deeper than their larger cousins, the black-eyed Susan, but the flower is much smaller, button-like I’d say.

The interesting thing is that the plant is actually a biennial (blooming every second year).  You won’t even notice, though, since it self-sows readily into open spaces.  It’s a little picky, preferring fairly rich soil that stays moderately moist.

Mine are in a partly shaded corner of the garden and just began to bloom a few weeks ago.  I expect to see blossoms well into October.


Silphium perfoliatum

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Look at how the leaves come together at the stem creating a tiny water holder. Perfect for butterflies and birds.

These brilliant yellow faces showed up in the back yard last year.  Again, no idea where they came from but you can be pretty certain the birds had a hand (or wing?) in the matter.

Last year I had two bunches of them, this year I look out my window and see six. No matter how gloomy the day is, they bring a smile to my face.  I know that after a rain, the plant provides water to the birds that planted them, and many others.  That’s the neat thing about the cup plant (adequately named), the square stem is wrapped by leaves that create a cup and holds water.

This year I actually dug up a few of the smaller plants early in the season and moved them to the front garden. They’re alive and well and about to bloom! Excited to see what next year brings.


Solidago / Oligoneuron spp. (The Goldenrods)

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Bumblebee heaven.



I’m no goldenrod expert, let’s just throw that out there first.  I know Canada goldenrod is an aggressive “weed” and other goldenrods aren’t.  The goldenrod that grows along my driveway is Canada goldenrod (I’m pretty sure) but after the first year of living here watching the late summer/fall bee activity it draws in, I didn’t have the heart to rip it out.  It hasn’t spread or taken over any other gardens and it continues to bring colour when almost everything else is done.





I actually captured these happy bees yesterday evening, buzzing around, gathering pollen, and just loving life. I’ve also seen beetles, spiders, and lots of syrphid flies on the bright yellow clusters.  It’s a popular spot for sure.

For something that won’t spread or take over in the garden, try stiff or showy goldenrod. Oh yea, and it doesn’t cause allergies (it’s insect, not wind, pollinated).

I find new plants every year in the place.  The spring time brings hepatica; trout lily; red, white, and pink trilliums; and ramps.  As the season continues, the milkweed, black-eyed Susan, strawberries (that actually produce delicious edible fruit), lupine, and harebell.

On walks through the area, I notice bergamot, asters, more milkweed and black-eyed Susan, yarrow, and Joe pye weed.

This fall, I’ll be assessing my space and making a conscious decision to plant some native flowers in the empty spaces where I removed other material earlier this spring. Something tells me, though, that the birds have already made the decision for me. And the bees couldn’t be happier.

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It’s that time again…

Unmowed Eco-Lawn

I love the look of unmowed Eco-Lawn. Oh yea, did I mention you don’t have to mow once a week? Or once a month? Once a year to put it to bed in the fall is all you need. However, if you WANT to mow it, you certainly can, just be sure to cut it at least 3 inches high. This is not your putting green grass, it’s your roll around with the dog, lay and watch the clouds, enjoy a picnic kind of grass.

You there, grass grower! How’s it going? Have you taken a look at your grass lately? Or did you give up in July (officially recorded as the hottest July ever since 1880)?

Whether you’re spending time and money keeping your lawn green or precious energy staring out the window at the brown patch you used to call a lawn, you’re not living your life the way you should be.

In Canada we have just begun prime grass seeding time. That’s right, despite what all of those TV ads tell you, grass actually does better when it’s started in the fall (in Canada, the third week of August to the end of September).  For all other places in North America, check out Eco-Lawn’s seeding times chart.

Why Fall?

Fall provides the best of both worlds: warm temperatures and ample sunlight, not to mention the reliable rains and less competition with weeds.  These are perfect conditions to get those roots into the ground in preparation for winter.  Come spring, if you’ve done everything right, a little overseeding is all you need and the lesser spring rains can take care of most of the watering for you.

If you live in an area that doesn’t really receive “winter” as we do in the Northern States and Canada, be sure to take advantage of the cooler periods: November, December, January.  The seeds will thank you for it: just like our Canadian skin after a long winter, it will burn without some protection. And no one needs that.

Seeding and Overseeding

Seeding grass is a fairly simple concept with a few caveats. Especially when you’re seeding Eco-Lawn.  Essentially it’s the same process as other grass seeds but if you really want it to take off, there are a few considerations.


Cut it or don’t…up to you!

1. Remove existing weeds, grass, and debris.

2. Loosen the soil about 3 inches deep.

3. Rake smooth.

4. Sprinkle compost (1/4 inch layer) in area.

5. Apply water.

6. Spread seeds according to the bag.

7. Water again and press seeds into soil by walking over the area.

Watering is a bit of a controversial subject.  If you water too aggressively, you will push the seed around into an uneven pattern. If you don’t water enough, your seeds will dry up. If you water on a hill, you can easily wash all the seeds down to the bottom. Be smart about watering, apply it lightly and for longer periods of time rather than in short bursts.  Drive those roots downwards and keep the area moist until germination happens.  Upon germination, water less frequently but still keep on top of it.  Proper care during these stages of a grass blade’s life are critical.

If you didn’t notice, a lot of seeding a new lawn is preparation. Probably 90% of the time you will spend establishing a new lawn will be preparing for the seed to be sown. And it’s well worth it.

Overseeding isn’t much different except the prep work isn’t as intense.  When you overseed, you are taking new seed and spreading it into the existing lawn.

Before overseeding, use a fan rake to get rid of debris and built up that accumulates at the soil surface.  Wait until it rains in the fall (or apply water yourself) and throw down some compost and seed.  Take a long walk through your lawn area, ensuring firm contact with the soil and the seed. The existing lawn will bounce right back up, not to worry.

The Shameless Eco-Lawn Plug

Picture1Here it goes: Eco-Lawn works well in the dry climates in the southern States, survives the well-below-0 winters throughout Canada, and can take a heck of a lot of water without drowning (if you live in an area prone to those conditions).

The added benefit is that it is also drought tolerant.  Once established and given the chance to drill roots a foot into the ground, it will source its own water.  The thin blades create a mass of thick lawn that shades the soil surface, keeping moisture closer to where it’s needed.

The seven different species work in harmony, avoiding the traditional monoculture sold by most lawn seed brands. The result is a lawn that is healthier and more apt to fend off an insect or disease attack. And grubs? Not likely, since you won’t need to water constantly to keep it green.

It’s your time to shine, Canada (and a number of States, too).  If you’re not sure about it yet, give us a call – we’d be happy to help you out!

And, of course, our website has a tonne of information for all of your inquisitive minds.

Enjoy the last bit of summer and, of course, HAPPY SEEDING!

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A Special Visit to Wildflower Farm

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  Nothing in the world beats a walk through nature – be it a forest, botanical garden or your very own wildflower paradise. Here at Wildflower Farm we are privileged to walk among wildflowers each and every day.

This week’s Wildflower Farm vlog (video + blog) features 18 wildflowers and native grasses wrapped in an experiential bow.  As you tour Wildflower Farm’s many gardens and meadows I hope you will enjoy the extraordinary beauty of these hardy North American wildflowers.

      My partner Paul and I continue to dedicate our lives to providing the wildflower seeds that grow your wildflower meadows and gardens and the knowledge and experience to help you succeed.

     Which wildflowers are right for you? You’ll discover the wildflowers designed by nature to succeed in your landscape when you visit the Wildflower Farm seed selector.

Dreaming of a wildflower meadow? Let’s make it happen!

Fall is the BEST time to start wildflowers from seed. 

Need some help? We’re just a call, a text or an email away.

 866 476 9453




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The Scree

Boy, it was a hot one this week! But, while we were melting, the scree garden flourished.

The Wildflower Farm’s scree garden was built using large boulders, gravel, and sand.  The plants that thrive there need no water and love the sun.  As an added bonus, they’re perennials that will survive our Canadian winters.

Step 1 - moving big rocks into scree

The first step was building the base. Large boulders are placed using the tractor and finagled until the size and shape was just right.

If you have, or want, a rock garden, these are the plants you’ll want to add.  Like many wildflowers sold at the Wildflower Farm, you’ll need to start these seeds in the fall.

Pasque Flower

You’ve seen this here before.  It’s one of my favourites and is the first to bloom in the spring scree.  Not only are the purple (or white) flowers luxurious to look at, the seed heads are incredibly intricate. Not to mention, incredible important food for the early spring pollinators.

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Pasque flower in the early spring scree garden.

Prairie Smoke

While the Pasque Flower is going to seed, Prairie Smoke is opening up.  A tiny red flower that puts on a heck of a show come summer.  The name “Prairie Smoke” is fitting.

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Prairie Smoke blossoms turn into delicate-looking whisps, resembling smoke from a distance.

Blue Flax

Flax seed is all the rage these days and your rock garden could use some, too. The bright blue flowers sit atop a skinny stem that reaches up to two feet in height. En masse, they are a burst of colour you don’t often find in the garden (blue isn’t the most common of flower colours).

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Blue Flax – eye-popping blue colour.


The Wildflower Farm’s scree garden has a few patches of this light purple cup-shaped flower.  In my garden at home, they just showed up.  Content to grow right next to a cedar bush and a rock pile. The smaller bees and flies love to crawl inside the flower and I’ve often seen them take shelter during the rain.

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Harebell will flower all summer. Re-blooming over and over again to provide delicate colour to the driest of gardens.


For areas that need more of a cover, give winecups a try.  They are a bit slow to start but once they get going, you’re in for a treat! At the Wildflower Farm’s scree garden, they are known as the sea of mallow. And it’s easy to see why.

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Bonus: blooms all summer.

Dotted Mint

One of the most interesting wildflowers to look at: it really doesn’t seem like it belongs in North America, let alone Canada. But, alas, it lives, and thrives, here.  This flower will provide a focal point in the late summer scree.

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Perfect for the hot, dry landscape of the Wildflower Farm Scree Garden. A butterfly favourite.

If you have a dry, sunny spot where nothing seems to grow, give some of these a try. You’ll be surprised at just how much colour and interest you can add to a space you thought would be barren forever.

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My Wildly Floriferous Life

Gathering wildflowers on a beautiful summer day! It's a tough job but Somebody has to do it.

Gathering wildflowers on a beautiful summer day! It’s a tough job but Somebody has to do it.

This morning is a great example of my insanely beautiful life here at the pollinators’ paradise we call Wildflower Farm. Just yesterday on Facebook, one of Wildflower Farm’s loyal friends asked “What’s in bloom right now at the Farm?”  How better to answer her question than with a big fat bouquet filled with many of wildflowers in bloom right now. I couldn’t fit every single wildflower and native grass in bloom into the bouquet. You’ll find list of the species in bloom that didn’t make it into the bouquet at the end of this blog post.

Butterrfly Milkweed, Oxe-Eye Sunflower, Purple Monarda and Dark Purple Capsule-shaped Purple Prairie Clover!

Butterfly Milkweed, Ox-Eye Sunflower, Wild Bergamot and the capsule-shaped Purple Prairie Clover!

Allow me to introduce you to each of the wildflowers in this bouquet. Monarda fistulosa  or Wild Bergamot  sporting soft mauve, crown-shaped blossoms, the blooms and leaves smell minty and indeed Monarda fistulosa is a member of the mint family. It’s a super accomodating plant that stays in bloom for many weeks and grows happily in full sun or part shade. Veronicastrum virginicum or Culver’s Root, it’s easy to spot the tall white spires of this plant from a great distance! Bright yellow Heliopsis helianthoides or Ox-Eye Sunflower is an absolute workhorse in the garden.

I am absolutely enchanted with Amorpha canescens or Leadplant! This native shrub is in its glory this time of year sporting purple flower spikes flecked with gold!

Look at the stunning purple spikes of Lead Plant flecked with gold!!

Look at the stunning purple spikes of Lead Plant flecked with gold!!

Parthenium integrifolium or Wild Quinine, is a beautiful white wildflower that  blooms all summer and into the fall, growing in in full sun or part shade.

Sturdy Wild Quinine blossoms visited by native sweat bee during photo session

Sturdy Wild Quinine blossoms are visited by a native sweat bee during the photo session!

Asclepias tuberosa or Butterflyweed, this bright orange Milkweed loves full sun and sandy soil and, of course, is an essential food source for Monarch Butterflies. Look how beautifully it works as a cut flower!!!

Butterfly Milkweed is an essential food for Monarch Butterflies! Love that orange!

Butterfly Milkweed is an essential food for Monarch Butterflies! Love that orange!

Silphium perfoliatum or Cup Plant is a tall, majestic, wildflower with bright yellow flowers. Its thick square stems combine with sturdy leaves to form a cup that holds water for the birds. Monarda punctata or Dotted Mint grows triple decker blooms of soft pink and white.  Rudbeckia hirta or Black Eyed Susan are the classic cheery yellow and brown wildflowers that grow in sun or shade.  Agastache foeniculum  or Anise Hyssop smells and tastes like licorice.  Ratibida pinnata or Yellow Coneflower offers bright yellow droopy petals on very thin stems.  Pycnanthemum virginianum or Mountain Mint is an essential plant for bee keepers; this lovely member of the mint family has white flowers. Attention summer drink mixologists! Mountain Mint tastes rather like spearmint and works well in  mojitos!

Coneflowers close up! Yellow Ozark Coneflower, Pale Purple Coneflower and Purple Coneflower float atop this very full mid-summer bouquet

Coneflowers close up! Yellow Ozark Coneflower, Pale Purple Coneflower and Purple Coneflower float atop this very full mid-summer bouquet

A Carnival of Coneflowers! Echinacea purpurea or Purple Coneflower, is there anyone not acquainted with the effervescent purple coneflower? Echinacea pallida or Pale Purple Coneflower is a tall, long-blooming tall member of the coneflower family.  Echinacea paradoxa or Ozark coneflower is both goofy and elegant with its giant conehead and huge yellow petals.

And here are the beauties are also in bloom in my mid-summer wildflower gardens and meadows that either didn’t fit into this giant bouquet or don’t work well as cut flowers: Artemesia  ludoviciana or Silver Sage is an elegant silvery ground cover for sun or shade. Bright yellow Coreopsis lanceolata or Lanceleaf Coreopsis; Gallardia aristata or Blanket Flower –  everyone knows this bright red, orange and yellow wildflower! The low growing and elegant native grass, Sporobolus heterolepis or Prairie Dropseed.  Astragalus canadensis or Canada Milkvetch has soft yellow lupin-like blossoms. Verbena stricta or Hoary Vervain sports bright purple blossoms. Eryngium yuccifolium or Rattlesnake Master is the ancient ancestor of the blue sea holly.

Gravel and rock garden plants are amazing! Very few of these beauties function well as cut flowers but they are truly the ultimate drought tolerant plants grow in full sun in pure gravel! Ruellia humilis or Wild Petunia  is a great rock garden plant that thrives in gravely soil and full sun. Callirhoe involucrata or Purple Poppy Mallow, its cousin Callirhoe digitata or Fringed Poppy Mallow and another cousin Callirhoe bushii or Bush’s Poppy Mallow.

Supporting Beneficial Wildlife!  Remember, each of these wildflowers has a long standing mutually beneficial relationship with pollinators and beneficial insects.  So, if you are planning on starting or expanding your wildflower garden start with our Wildflower Seed Selector Tool  to choose the wildflowers that will grow successfully in your site conditions. It’s easy to grow all these beautiful wildflowers from seed! And this fall is the best time to start your wildflower seeds.

It's ridiculously easy to grow your own wildflowers.

It’s ridiculously easy to grow your own wildflowers.

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