Gardener – Starting wildflowers from seed

By Henry Homer

I recently visited Nassami Farm in Whately, Massachusetts. Formerly the New England Wildflower Association for Native Plant Trust. I met Alexis Dosha, the manager of their nursery. The 75-hectare farm produces many years, grasses and some trees – mainly from seed. The plants are sold at their headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts, and on Nashimi Farms on weekends.

If you are interested in growing wildflowers, the most expensive way to get more is to start with seeds. This takes some effort, but it does a lot of things – if you collect seeds from the wild, you are getting plants in your garden without reducing the number of bushes – the way you dig plants (in most places it is forbidden).

Breeding plants also promotes genetic diversity. Many purchased plants are transmitted by cuttings or divisions, which means that they are all clones with exactly the same genes. Seeds from any plant produce seedlings with many characteristics, making them less susceptible to environmental challenges such as global warming.

It takes patience to start wildflowers. Some seeds germinate and grow during the same summer you collect them (eg campanulas), and other things like lily can take four or five years to bloom. Many need a three-month cold period, called a cold shower. Some transplanted people will grow underground next spring, but do not send any green growth until next spring.

Nassami grows seedlings in large plastic hop houses. These do not warm up except in the spring, or in winter if the temperature is below zero. They allow you to control greenhouse seedlings and easily care for them on tall tables. You can set up a table in a barn, cottage or garage for some nurseries. Some wildflowers thrive in well-drained apartments outdoors – especially in dark places where the sun is very hot and dry.

Finally, you can sow seeds directly in the ground at the site where the plants grow. You do not know what percentage of the damage will be done. If you have to sow 100 seeds in a flat at home, it will be easier to cut or plant seedlings if you need to put them on your hands and knees. And there should be no weed competition if you use a sprouting mixture in a flat. On the other hand, because it takes two years to germinate, I plant things like a golden seal directly in the ground, and I don’t want to water and care for too long.

Alexis Dosha gave me some tips for success when starting wildflowers. First, collect the seeds when it is easy to uproot and remove any loose material that sticks to it. In general, seeds begin to lighten, and when fully ripe, they darken. If you want to store seeds, make sure they do not dry out. Store in a cool, dark place.

Buy a good seed mix, good ground peas and perlite. Strong mixed seeds can cause the seeds to overflow. For small seeds (sand grains or less), sow only seeds, soak them in soil mixture, and water them. There is no need to cover them. Alexis suggests that seeds germinate at 60 to 80 degrees, but warns that many wildflowers need 90 days of frost before they can grow.

To prevent Alexis from eating rats, you need to provide mouse protection – metal hardware on the apartments. Rats can easily become a problem, such as in a barn or outdoors.

I asked Alexis for advice on some of the plants that would be easier to start with. She pointed to the blueberries, hazelnuts, and plums. She lists the following: Milk, mountain cinnamon, black-eyed Susan, wild bee balsam, wild iris, Esther, Joe Paye weed and all the golden seeds that are great for pollen.

Forest flowers often have very specific needs and are not as easy to grow as the wildflowers mentioned above. Soil pH and type are important. When sowing spring wildflowers, I try to make my home look like a forest: if you grew up in the maple-beach-ash forest, I try to plant it in the same way.

Plants with large, fleshy fruits, such as jackfruit or golden seals, may ask you to remove part of the fruit before planting. Some suggest gloves that contain harsh chemicals that can irritate your skin. Boiling You can sow such seeds to remove the skin and flesh.

A good reference for anyone interested in starting wildflowers is William Culina’s “Growing and Growing Wildflowers in the United States and Canada.” Unfortunately, I heard that it was being republished, but it is out of print. It weighs hundreds of wildflowers and weighs in gold.

So try to gather some seeds and make an appointment to visit Nasami or a garden in the forest.

Henry Homer is the author of four vegetable books. It is his website And he lives in New Hampshire Cornish.


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