Three new wildflower seeds listed

Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia)


Three new wildflower species have been added to the catalogue Seeds 2014/2015 (PDF download):

  • harebell – wild collected in central Ontario
  • white wood aster – wild collected in Nova Scotia
  • Canada burnet – garden source

Harebells are a lovely addition to a rock garden. After the first flush of bloom in early summer, the dainty plants will continue to bloom, a bit more sparsely, until frost, if the summer rains (or the gardener’s hose) keeps them growing. This circum-boreal species is also known as bluebells of Scotland.

White wood aster is very common in the Nova Scotian woods. It occurs along the St. Lawrence into eastern Ontario. In a shady garden, it makes a nice counterpoint to heart-leaved aster, which usually has blue flowered, with a different foliage texture.

Canada burnet is new to me. The seed I am offering is from a garden in Nova Scotia.  The tall, white fuzzy candles of Canada burnet tip over sideways. They bloom late and the foliage is attractively coloured in the fall, so I think it must be the plant’s untidy habit which keeps it from being popular in gardens. I have never seen Canada burnet in the wild, but it is said to grow in marshy areas in full sun. If you can give the plants lean but wet soil in full sun, they will be more compact and upright. Otherwise, grow Canada burnets with other wetland plants and let them sprawl.


One species taken off the seed list

Canada wild rye
Canada wild rye

Re-examining this year’s seeds of Canada wild rye, I discovered that the seeds themselves had been eaten, by weevils or their ilk. and there was nothing but seed coats and chaff left. This happens with wild collected seed from time to time. After all, one reason we grow native plants is to provide food for insects. Although weevils on the desk in my office might not have become part of a food chain, insects eating plants is life unfolding as it should. We will try again next year.

A few more species added to the seed list


I have added the following species to Seeds 2014/2015 catalogue (PDF):

  • Northern Pitcher Plant  – wild collected in Nova Scotia
  • Indian Tobacco – wild collected in Pontiac Region, Quebec
  • Buttonbush – wild collected in Pontiac Region, Quebec
  • Ninebark – wild collected in Pontiac Region, Quebec

Buttonbush is a wonderful native shrub for the edge of a pond or other damp spot. The globular flower clusters bloom in summer and are extremely attractive to all sorts of pollinating insects. They are also attractive to hummingbirds even though they are not red. The little birds will quickly and systematically move around the flower clusters, visiting each small tubular flower. Buttonbush flowers earlier in the summer than cardinal flower or jewelweed – classic hummingbird flowers. If you are hoping to have hummers breed in or around your garden, it is important to plant to supply blooms for the whole of the summer. The buttonbush seed I am offering was wild collected at Knox Landing, on the edge of the Ottawa River.

I am also offering Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) even though it is a not-showy annual species. While I was being shown around the wonderful Meditation Garden of the Unitarian Church in Westboro by its creator and main gardener, Renee De Vry, I spotted some plants that had been torn down, nearly to the ground. “Oh, that was great blue lobelia. It keeps getting stolen,” she said, with some exasperation. “Why would anyone steal great blue lobelia?” I wondered. I knew that desirable little alpine cushions and expensive Japanese maples get stolen from public gardens, but I couldn’t fathom why anyone would steal a plant that was easy from seed and widely available.

“They think it is Indian tobacco.” she said.

So I went on-line and found out that Indian tobacco does have some legit herbal uses but the effective dose is not that much lower than the toxic dose and it is not something that, personally, I think people should be experimenting with. Especially if their botanical skill are such that they cannot tell great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), one of our most distinctive wildflowers, from Indian tobacco (L. inflata). However, if Indian tobacco is what is wanted, I would much rather they buy seeds from me than they vandalize a public garden.

Great blue lobelia in the garden at Beaux Arbres.
Great blue lobelia in the garden at Beaux Arbres.

At the Herbfest 2014, last summer, I could have sold any amount of sweet grass, had I had any for sale, and several folks asked me if I carried white sage, as well as inquiring about Indian tobacco. I am obviously not up on what is trending in herbs. I brought several species of native dye plants — wild indigo, false indigo and pokeweed — and found nobody was interested. I did sell some pokeweed plants – to someone who knew it was a handsome landscape species.