Growing Your Wildflower Family

If you’re a regular visitor to Wildflower Farm’s website, you might be familiar with the many North American native perennials we offer.  Many of you have taken the time to browse through the species and order the seeds that suit your space. And for that I would like to extend a hearty “Thank you” for you are making the world a better place. I’m sure the bees and other pollinators are thanking you as well.


Now, in 2015, Wildflower Farm would like to expand your floral family with the introduction of five new species. Let me introduce you.

Yellow Wild Indigo

You are already familiar with blue, white, and cream false indigo. Now, we are bringing you the brilliant yellow version.  Like the other Baptisia species, Baptisia sphaerocarpa is a slow grower. Don’t let that fool you, though.  This slow growing species is incredibly long-lived and can tolerate the driest of conditions.

A member of the legume family, it will give nitrogen back to the soil as it goes through life, making it a welcome addition to nutrient poor soils. It will also tolerate the frigid Canadian winters and the hot, dry summers experienced in the southern US.  Yellow Wild Indigo is an all around winner where native perennials are concerned.

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New York Aster

If you’re looking for a fall bloomer, you’ve found it.  The New York aster, like others in the Symphyotrichum family, will provide your garden with early to late fall colour which is something many gardeners forget about.  The fall flowers, however, are some of the most important for native insects as they provide a final dose of sugars before the winter slow down.

Growing to a height of 3-4 feet, the New York aster is a meadow favourite, with many insect species using it for food, shelter, and egg-laying.  Its extensive root system provides ample erosion control with the added bonus of bright purple flower clusters.

NY aster

Narrow-leaf Coneflower

If you’re not familiar with the other members of the Echinacea family, I’m going to ask you start there. Not because they are any better than the narrow-leaf coneflower but because you need to know about them. These flowers are butterfly favourites with the monarch particularly enjoying a purple coneflower feast mid-summer.

The narrow-leaf coneflower is shorter than other Echinacea species but still thrives in full sun. It is distinguished from the purple coneflower by its narrower petals and from the pale purple coneflower from the shear density of the petals. Plant in dry soils where you have trouble growing other species.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

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Woodland Sunflower

Another member of the Helianthus family, the woodland sunflower provides the familiar friendly face of yellow that we are used to seeing in this family. You will find that each stem tends to split off two or three ways for a cluster of flowers that stand 3-4 feet tall.

Blooming mid-summer to fall, the seeds will provide food for birds including the Bobwhite, Goldfinch and Tufted Titmouse. The plants themselves are important host plants for many insect species and provide food for so many more: syrphid flies, cuckoo bees, skippers, butterflies, and moths are among the list.

While this plant is an important species to add to your garden, you are forewarned that its rhizomatic root system means it is a bit of a spreader. Not always a bad thing, especially where soil loss is a concern.


Rough Blazingstar

Another member of the Liatris family has been added to the Wildflower family and we couldn’t be happier. A butterfly favourite and an excellent cut flower, rough blazingstar is up there with our favourite plants for good reason.

Rough blazingstar has a bit of a different look than the meadow and prairie blazingstar. For starters, it is typically shorter and the flowers have a slightly more scraggly look to them than the meadow blazingstar. If you grow all three varieties of Liatris offered by Wildflower Farm, you’ll have your seasons covered from mid-summer to fall.


Each of these species is a native North American perennial that will provide you years of enjoyment in the garden. Consider adding them to your already established garden or, if you don’t have much in the way of native plants yet, this is a good place to start.

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That Big Bogus Bag of “Wildflower” Seeds

Confessions of a Wildflower Expert…….

When I first started growing wildflowers some 30 years ago I was clueless and made lots of mistakes. Back then no one talked about pollinators or growing food locally. Monarchs were taken for granted and North American wildflowers …were thought of as weeds.

Legions of North Americans have attempted to reproduce English style, high maintenance meadows, overflowing with red poppies, blue cornflowers and pink Sweet Williams. And over and over again these faux meadows fail because here in North America we most certainly do not have the warm temperatures, rich soil and optimum rain conditions these English wildflowers require.

My Big Fat English Meadow Fantasy -     Red Poppies & Blue Cornflowers do NOT a North American wildflower meadow make!!!

My Big Fat English Meadow Fantasy – Red Poppies & Blue Cornflowers do NOT a North American wildflower meadow make!!!

What grows well here in North America is our own wildflowers, the tough low-maintenance plants that have thrived here for thousands of years with absolutely no help from us.arboretumCurtis

Perhaps you are new to the world of wildflowers. Maybe you have read about the plight of the Monarchs and their need for Milkweed. Or, perhaps you have been assigned by your school, your conservation group or your horticultural society to plant a pollinator patch.IMG_0329 (1024x768)

Maybe you’re a backyard veggie gardener, or perhaps you manage a CSA organic farm or a community garden. Whoever you are – you’re checking out wildflowers.beauteous bouquet!!!

Your research indicates that growing native plants will increase your crop yields and ward off harmful insects and attract native pollinators thus eliminating the need to rent expensive European honey bees to pollinate your crops.Or maybe you’re a home gardener or national parks horticulturalist intrigued with wildflowers’ low maintenance and drought tolerant characteristics.

Every day more and more humans are discovering the vital role wildflowers play in food security and the ecological health of our planet.16270a-horiz

Unfortunately we humans have nearly eradicated the North American wildflowers upon which our pollinators, eco-systems and our food security depend. That’s where you and I come in. What can we do? Grow wildflowers, of course!large seedlingbutterflyweed

Whether you’re seeding an entire meadow or starting a few wildflower seeds in pots, North American wildflowers are easy and fun to grow.  Here’s a little video I made to help you get started.Making Wildflower Babies - – Follow along and learn simple wildflower seeding techniques.

And a few more great resources to help you along!

Growing guides: “Starting Seeds” – Wildflower Farm’s online wildflower seeding instructions.  – – has lots of great winter sowing techniques. My book, Taming Wildflowers

Making Babies - Chapter 5 gives the straight goods on wintering wildflower seeds outside or wintering wildflower in the fridge.

Making Babies – Chapter 5 gives the straight goods on wintering wildflower seeds outside or wintering wildflower in the fridge.

has a chapter on growing North American wildflowers from seed. Chapter 5 “Making Babies” offers step by step easy ways to seed North American wildflowers outdoor or in your refrigerator. .

Happy Seeding!!!





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Ringing it in, Wild Style

Happy New Year from all of us at Wildflower Farm!

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2014 in One Word: Stunning

There’s something about this time of year that makes us want to reminisce. Perhaps it’s the holiday season or perhaps it’s that we have little else to do.  As gardeners, we like to be outdoors with our gardens (or with someone else’s). We like to think about our gardens even when they aren’t in bloom or are under various feet of snow.

Let’s recap some of this year’s excitement!

The Reveal

After months of hard work and a few challenges, IT finally arrived! It was early February when the truck backed into the driveway carrying with it some precious cargo.  We spent some time lugging the boxes into the office and then…photoshoot! How else are you supposed to express this much excitement?

The Biggest Change

With the collapse of one of the shade structures (thanks to last year’s devastating winter), some plants that were once covered by partial shade became exposed to full sun.  This year, they were OK.  The summer wasn’t overly hot and there were regular rains to keep the soil moist. We are still debating whether or not to reconstruct the structure. On one hand, we know it works; on the other hand, this could be an interesting experiment.  What will happen to those shade-loving plants?  What will replace them if they start to die out? Decisions, decisions.

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This toadshade trillium lost its protective covering when the shade structure was brought down under heavy snow in early January of this year. It will be an interesting experiment to see what happens to this space in the coming years.

The Stunners

Every year, the Farm is inundated with beauty.  Swaths of Baptisia, Echinacea, Coreopsis, Silphium, and Liatris (among many others) decorate the acreage at various times throughout the season. These swaths are visible from the road; their colours bursting from the ground.  This year was no different: stunning.

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That lovely blue Adirondack chair could not be better situated. A huge swatch of lanceleaf coreopsis provides quite the view!

The Bouquets

No shortage of colour here either! Miriam and I both created a good number of seasonal arrangements for various purposes (sometimes just because the office needed a few fresh flowers).

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I had a lot of fun putting this together in late July.  A great combination including yellow coneflowers, prairie blazingstar, anise hyssop, pale purple coneflower, monarda, ox-eye sunflower, black-eyed Susan, Ozark coneflower, Culver’s root, and wild quinine.

But the big highlight was the Toronto Botanical Garden’s Farm Tour and Floral Design Workshop.  What an experience! And on top of that, each participant built their own take-home arrangement using some early season beauties. I particularly enjoyed how diverse the group was in their floral background and in the creations they designed.

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The arrangements were as diverse as the individuals themselves!


Thanks for another great year at the Farm and we can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for us.

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The Gift of Wild

With the holidays all but upon us, I can guarantee there are some of you reading this who still haven’t finished their shopping.  Some of you haven’t started…am I right, Dad?

But, thanks to the miracle of technology, you last minute shoppers don’t even need to leave your house to find that perfect gift for the garden lover on your list.  Or maybe the one who’s always going on about pollinators, wildlife habitat, and native plants.  You needn’t go further than your computer to get these folks something they’ll love: a Wildflower Farm Gift Certificate.

For the Experienced Gardener

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The Pasque flower is an early spring bloomer attracting hungry pollinators who have been taking a break for the winter.

Even the most experienced gardener likes to try their green thumb at something new. For many gardeners, wildflowers ARE new! Most require a bit of patience but are well worth the wait. For something unique, suggest they look into the Pasque flower for a spring blooming beauty; Tennessee, Ozark or narrow-leaf coneflowers for a bit of a different Echinacea feel;  of course, if they’re looking for something showy to fill the garden with late fall colour, suggest they read a little more about Maximilian’s sunflower.

For the Novice

If you are an avid gardener looking to engage another who may not be quite as knowledgeable (yet!), suggest they read our blog outlining the easy-peasy “sow and grow” wildflowers.  They’re bound to find something that catches their eye.  Maybe make it a combo gift: a gift certificate and a helpful gardening hand from a professional (you).

Or, because we are quite knowledgeable on the subject of wildflowers, direct them to the blog, the website, or let them know about Taming Wildflowers.  That’s right, a book about growing and using wildflowers that will inspire and educate even the most novice of gardeners.  We have instructions and a great video to help them along.  There really is no excuse: I think we’ve covered all the bases here.

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The blanketflower is one of the easiest wildflowers to grow. It will provide a novice gardener a quick sense of satisfaction and a garden full of colourful blooms.


Sometimes gift cards are seen as impersonal.  Where’s the passion and love?  Wildflower Farm gift cards are so different though: we love what we do and after spending a bit of time browsing the site looking at all of the beautiful NATIVE flowers, we think you will, too. One pours their heart and soul into growing their own flowers and the results are stunning.

Gifting seeds is tough (we all have different growing conditions and floral preferences).  Gifting the opportunity to choose your own seeds, however, is easy.  Give the gift of wild this season: a unique gift for just about anybody.

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It’s a lot harder to gift someone seeds than it is to gift them the opportunity to choose their own. Or maybe they want a book…or grass seed…or native ornamental grasses…think of the possibilities!

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Californians! Christmas time is Eco-Lawn Seeding Time!

Santa's Reindeer Celebrate Rainy Season in Burbank!!!

Santa’s Reindeer Celebrate Rainy Season in Burbank!!!

A long time ago I lived in Burbank, California. Built by mid-westerners who wanted their new homes to resemble the towns they’d left behind, Burbank is like a 1950’s movie set, with block after block of cozy little houses and lush lawns.

For me the hardest part about living in LA was the winter holiday season. Overcast, rainy weather combined with twinkly lights on palm trees, Christmas music and tinsel just made me sad.

Thus began my education about how very disconnected we humans are to our environment. December and January in LA is the rainy season, the natural cycle of weather when seeds fall to the ground and receive the ample moisture required to awaken the seed and create new life.

Californians - Christmas time is Eco-Lawn seeding time!

Californians – Christmas time is Eco-Lawn seeding time!

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The Perfect Time to seed an Eco-Lawn in California is during this rainy season!!!

Seeding in rainy season gives a young Eco-Lawn time to mature sufficiently – with additional watering – to withstand its first brutally hot California summer. Many Californians make the mistake of starting their Eco-Lawn in springtime. December and January in California (and other hot climates) are PERFECTLY RAINY and COOL.

That Crucial Head Start

It takes Eco-Lawn nine months to a year to develop the 9” to 14” roots that make it so delightfully drought tolerant. When Californians seed Eco-Lawn in December or January, Eco-Lawn gets the crucial head start required to withstand its first hot California summer.

Taking Care of Your Adolescent Lawn

During its first summer, when it’s not fully mature, nurture your adolescent Eco-Lawn with extra watering. By the fall that Eco-Lawn will be mature! You may wish to do a bit of overseeding in the rainy season.

Drastic Watering Reduction!

The next summer and thereafter your California grown Eco-Lawn will enjoy a drastic reduction in watering requirements – between 50% – 80% – depending upon your conditions.

Here’s a glittering gallery of lush California Eco-Lawns to inspire rainy seasoners to take full advantage of this cool, wet weather and SEED YOUR ECO-LAWN!!

Eco-Lawn in Sacramento

Eco-Lawn in Sacramento

Eco-Lawn in Stockton

Eco-Lawn in Stockton

Eco-Lawn in Novato

Eco-Lawn in Novato

Eco-Lawn in Santa Barbara

Eco-Lawn in Santa Barbara

So, hot climate dwellers, let the rainy season work for you! Give yourself the gift of reduced watering, mowing and fertilizing and a soft, green oasis for your tootsies.

Happy Seeding and Merry Eco-Lawn to all!

Recommended by the trusted editors of Sunset Magazine  - Eco-Lawn offers Californians a Drought Tolerant, Low-Maintenance and Lush Lawn Lifestyle !!!

Recommended by the trusted editors of Sunset Magazine – Eco-Lawn offers Californians a Drought Tolerant, Low-Maintenance and Lush Lawn Lifestyle !!!


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