02 September 2010

Mary Ann King of Pine Ridge Gardens Reveals Perennial Wildflower Seed Tips

The bare spots in your fall garden could be the ideal place to put in a few seeds for next spring.

Even though they may not come up before the first frost, they will emerge by spring. In particular, seeds that need a cold period in order to sprout will wait until the soil warms next year. If seedlings do come up, plan to mulch them after the first freeze.


Native Rhododendron on the northwest U. S. coast.


Native plants have the advantage of easily adapting to our soil and weather, as well as being beneficial for wildlife.

Experienced gardener and native plant specialist, Mary Ann King, is the owner of Pine Ridge Gardens in London, Ark. King grows hundreds of native plant species from seed each year.

"I try to grow the plants that gardeners can't find other places," King said. "After all these years, I am still learning how to grow some things. It is frustrating when what grows is not what you thought it would be. And some seeds won’t grow at all."

King said that some tree seeds and perennials such as native clematis can take two years to come up.

"Home gardeners can select from a wide variety of easy to grow natives," King said. "Most perennials take four to six weeks to germinate; some take three or four months."

Since it is difficult to control conditions in a flower bed, it is best to plant seeds in containers.

King said to plant seeds in seed germination mix, available from garden supply stores. Look for ProMix, Scotts TX-366 or Redi- Earth. Avoid planting seeds too deep. Most seeds should just be barely covered with tiny seeds scattered on top of the medium.

King suggested some native plants that you can to grow at home from seed.

Asters are easy to grow from seed if the seed is good. Aster seed does not usually germinate if it is not cross-pollinated. In other words, aster seed in the wild is usually good. There are a dozen to choose from including: Aromatic aster, Heart-leaf aster, New England aster, Prairie Aster, etc.

Bird of paradise shrub, Caesalpinia gilliesii, drought tolerant, deer resistant, 4-foot tall shrub. Large yellow flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, butterflies. Seeds — Plantsofthesouthwest.com.

Carolina silverbell, Halesia Carolina, is a 35-foot tree for shade. Flowers are white bells. Fall leaf color. Seeds available from Tree-seeds.com.

Coneflowers, Echinacaea - Varieties: Purple, pale purple, yellow, or glade. Seeds — mowildflowers.com.

Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, and Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardi, germinate readily and grow quickly. Seeds — mowildflowers.com.

Mexican hat or Gray-head coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, matures to 3 feet tall. Easy to grow from seed. Seeds — mowildflowers.com.

Prairie ragwort, Senecio plattensis, will grow in dry, half-shade after established. Yellow flowers. Seeds — Prairiemoon.com.

Red flower yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora is a xeriscape plant that attracts hummingbirds. Seed source — Seedman.com.

Red veined sorrel, Rumex sanguineus, is grow in the flower bed and use as a salad vegetable. Bright green leaves with maroon lines. Seeds - Johnnyseeds.com

Rosin weeds, Silphium integrifolium, Compass plant; Silphium laciniatum, Cup plant; Silphium perfoliatum (moist soil), Prairie dock; and Silphium terebinthinaceum (a large leaf foliage plant). All produce bird seed. Seeds - mowildflowers.com.

Wild indigo, Baptisia. Put seeds in heatproof dish, pour boiling water over and let sit 24 hours. Cover with good potting soil, only to the depth of the seed. Grow on at 75 degrees. Seeds — mowildflowers.com.

Wild quinine, Parthenium integrifolium, has large white flower heads, 4 feet tall, lots of insect nectar. Seeds need about 12 weeks of cold, outside or in the refrigerator, to germinate. Seeds — horizonherbs.com.

Most of these plants are available from Pine Ridge Gardens. Search the catalog at www.pineridgegardens.com, call 479-293-4359, or e-mail office@pineridgegardens.com for more information.

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