01/18-06/18 update: Seed starting has begun

January 1st was not the greatest day, I was feeling quite anxious, not sure if it was because of something I ate (no I didn’t party all night, actually went to bed at 8:30!!), or because it was January 1.

snipped from insta-feed of https://bemorewithless.com/soulful-simplicity/

The New Year has never been my favorite time because, no matter what I say to myself, I always dwell on the unachieved resolutions. I know, I know, but after 35 years of this, the lecturer is well practiced and effective, however I try to keep holding the knowledge in my near consciousness that one is never too old… so I am trying some new practices including writing these weekly assessments- very new to me, and one of my promises to myself for 2018, so here’s hoping and practicing…

Seed starting
I did manage to start the year off on January 1 doing something I love, planting seeds! Now, usually you should not even be thinking about starting seeds in January if you are from up here in Zone 2 no matter how desperate you are to get back to gardening, because you end up with leggy root bound plants by the time we get decent enough weather out here to plant things out. The exceptions to this rule are plants whose seeds might need a freeze-thaw to break their dormancy, and which you did not plant in the fall. Another exception is for really slow growers like Lisianthus (on my calendar to start in 2 weeks from now). But I have an exciting (?!) project coming up this summer, we have to replace our old septic system. Because we are on heavy clay here, our treatment system will be buried in a mound of sand and gravel. The mound is comprised basically (and I am seriously simplifying this) of gravel, two types of sand and capped with soil. Typically mounds are seeded to grass, not shrubs or trees whose tap roots apparently may compromise the system. Anyway, we have decided that this is an opportunity to try establishing a perennial meadow! There are several species I hope to try there that need a long lead time to get going, so I didn’t have to curb my yearning to plant seeds like I have had to in the past ….

In preparation for seeding/planting in June (construction currently scheduled for May), I purchased several packages of seeds from Gardens North (www.gardensnorth.com) and Wildflower Farm (www.wildflowerfarm.com), two Canadian seed companies offering seeds of interesting common and uncommon native plants of Canada (along with other most interesting seed).  If you are interested in purchasing from Gardens North, do so soon, as I just found out that Kristel has decided to retire and sell her business. Another serious loss to those of us interested in grasses, is that of Bluestem Nursery in B.C. (www.bluestem.ca). They are no longer selling their fabulous assortment of ornamental grass plugs, nor are they selling their equally impressive collection of willow. Their webpage is still an amazing resource, but I am in mourning for the loss of these two favorite suppliers.

After that spate of bad news about two of my favorite Canadian specialty seed suppliers (thank goodness Wildflower Farm is still going strong!), I should end on a positive note and point out that we are really lucky here in the Edmonton area to have the Edmonton Native Plant group (http://www.edmontonnativeplantgroup.org) who sell seeds for native plants of Alberta at various places throughout the spring and summer (check out their website) AND who publish “Wildflower News”, a fabulous monthly newsletter all about Alberta native plants and what’s going on in and around Edmonton to protect those plants and their habitats here . Cherry Dodd and the Edmonton Naturalization Group also published “Go Wild with Easy to Grow Prairie Wildflowers and Grasses” (2004) a little coil bound book full of excellent guidance on how to grow native wildflowers, from locals with experience! I have purchased seed from the Native Plant Group in the past and had good success when I lived in YEG. I plan on buying more at upcoming Seedy Saturdays and Sundays in and around Edmonton. I will also need to buy bulk seed for the mound project, and based on my preliminary research it appears Wildflower Farm and OSC Seeds out of Ontario seem to have the best selection in bulk seeds. If you know of any other Canadian suppliers of unique and native seeds, please let me know.

Back to seed starting: on January 1, to coincide with new growth and new year, new hope and the impending full moon, I planted the seeds for several interesting north American native plants, and other unusual perennials that likely will take a long time to get up to a good planting size, and many of which needed some kind of cold treatment to break their seed dormancy. I also am trying some of my lupines this way as several of the ladies in my Garden Club report that the outside treatment is great for getting these going. Here are the ones I planted and where they are at after 1 week:


Common Name Source Species Planting treatments on Jan 1 Status January 7
Russian Sage GN Perovskia atriplicifolia 50% O

50% HMHH

HMHH: 1 emerged
Blue False Indigo GN Baptisia australis 50% O

50% SN


3 of the SN’s have emerged
Prairie Shooting Star GN Dodecatheon pulchellum 50% O

50% HMHH

Mountain Mint GN Pycnanthemum virginianum 100% HMHH 0
White snakeroot/Tall boneset GN Eupatorium rugosum syn. Ageratina altissima 100% HMHH 3 emerged
Hysssop GN Hyssopus officinialis 50% O


Sheep’s Bite Scabiosa GN Jasione perennis 100% HMHH 0
Honeysuckle- red GN Lonicera dioica 100% RT4 NA
Branched Coneflower GN Rudbeckia triloba 10%O


Prairie Smoke GN Geum triflorum 30% 0

30%RT 1 wk

Prairie Blazing Star WF Liatris pycnostachya 50%O


Rough Blazing Star WF Liatris aspera 50% O

50% RT1wk

Yellow Wild Indigo WF Baptisia sphaerocarpa 50%O

50% RT1wk

Green-Headed Coneflower WF Rudbeckia laciniata 50%O

50% RT1wk

Branched Coneflower WF Rudbecia triloba 10% O

10% RT1 wk

5 emerged
Wild Lupine WF Lupinus perennis 50%O

50% RT4

Prairie Smoke WF Geum triflorum 50% 0

50%RT 1 wk

Maral Root R Leuzea carthamoides 10% HMHH 1 emerged
Joe Pye Weed R Eutrotrichium purpureum RT4 NA
Pink Lupines Me Lupinus 30% O NA
Lupines – mixed GS Lupinus polyphyllus 30%O NA

GN= Gardens North
WF= Wildflower Farm
R= Richters Herbs
GS= Geo seeds
Me= seed collected from my own plants
SN= soaked seed overnight and then “nicked” seed coat prior to seeding into potting mix and putting on heat mat under lights inside
O= planted in moist potting mix in plastic jug and placed outside
HMHH= planted in moist potting mix covered in vermiculite as necessary and put on heat mat under lights inside
RT4 mo= refrigerator treatment as per seed packet instructions. Seeds placed in moist paper towel and put in a plastic baggie in crisper in fridge
RT1 wk= seeds placed on moist paper towel and put in a plastic baggie in the crisper in the fridge for 1 day, then in freezer 1 day, alternating this treatment for 1 week. Then will be planted in soil.
or alternating fridge to freezer (also in moist paper towel inside a plastic baggie) for one week
NA = data not available yet

I will summarize their performance each week, and compile it at the end of the year. Other good news on the seed front, my sweet pea seeds finally arrived from England.  I was panicking and thinking I needed to re-order, but they finally arrived, 8 weeks after they were shipped.. Good grief.

Planning the Mound
Because the mound is large (~20 feet x 125 feet) I spent several hours over a couple days drafting the first plans for the planting. Primarily I wanted to do a plan view of the paths and general shape of the beds. The mound will be built to specific dimensions in order to perform its function and to meet the standards to be approved. However, where it must be positioned (right along the drive approaching the house), its rectangular shape will offend my delicate sensibilities (😉). As a result, I hope to add some additional soil/sand around the perimeters to soften the look of it, and of course to grow more plants!

As my dream is that it be a perennial meadow, and as I have been a fan of Piet Oudolf’s for a decade now, I turned to the book he co-authored with Noel Kingsbury, “Planting, A New Perspective”(2013) as well as to the “Gardens of the Highline” (Oudolf and Darke 2017) I purchased when I made my “pilgrimage” to the High Line in October.  I feel a bit bad that my second run at a perennial meadow inspired by Piet is a septic mound (my first was a small area in my front yard in Edmonton) but I hope he forgives me if he ever finds out.  Several of the plants he uses in his designs are hardy here, but many, many of them are listed as Zone 4 or warmer (USDA zones). I am undaunted however, and curious to see if I can get several of them to grow here. I am not gutsy enough to try any of the Zone 5 materials, but I am going to take a risk and try some of the ones listed as Zone 4. Now you may say, but Clara, USDA Zone 4 is actually Canadian Zone 5, but I am finding that some things listed as 4 I could actually grow in my Zone 3 garden in Edmonton, so I am approaching this as an experiment, wish me (and the plants) luck!

the flat lay vs. the working lay!

The houseplants know the days are getting longer
Also lifting my spirits this week was the appearance of the delicate little green swellings of impending buds on the jasmine vine that has been overwintering in my cool sunny basement plant room! I crave jasmine since being in Rome many years ago and huge hedges of the vine grew and on fences and their luscious scent filled the evening Roman air…..sigh. I am so excited to see it blossom, it hasn’t for a couple of years, but now that it is in that cool room it seems happy! Adding to this impending fabulousness are that there are new leaves forming on various plants around the house and one of my succulents has two flower stalks forming- will try to get decent photos next week.

On the weather front, we emerged from the week of daily highs in the -30 C’s at the end of December and it has been lovely and sunny all week, gradually working its way up from to Saturday when it was a balmy +3C and sunny! We are expecting a 10-15 cm of snow this week, and a return to the -20’s starting this coming week. This is fine with me as I worry about my perennials whenever the zero celsius mark is broken this early in the winter. I also need more snow to melt to water my house plants with.

Well that about wraps it up for the first week of January 2018! See you here next week!

Inula magnifica in the winter