We had so much fun this past weekend with the Winter Sowing class that I wanted to share the experience with others. The process is so simple: collect a milk jug, cut it open, fill with moist potting mix, sow your seeds and set it out in the wintry weather. All this is explained in the tip sheet Winter Sowing in Recycled Containers, which can be found here.

The tip sheet also includes lists of seeds to try, many of which are available here at Bowood. For those of you who’d like a little more specific direction, here is a short explanation of the seeds we started in the class and why I chose them. We’re hoping for grand success and I’d love it if you’d share with us your experience with these or any of the other selections. Come in for a chat if you have time or just reach out on Instagram or Facebook.


Butterfly Weed / Asclepias tuberosa

Red-orange flower clusters; perennial; blooms mid-summer; full sun; 24-36” x 12-24”

You can never have enough milkweed, right? and this one is really the prettiest of all, and most suited to a smaller or more formal perennial garden. I always include Asclepias tuberosa as an example of stratification in my Seed Starting class, which will be on January 31st and February 1st this year. (Please come!) Last year I ran a small experiment to compare winter sowing with the classic “in the fridge” method and Asclepias tuberosa delivered equally well with both methods. If you have a big garden or a meadow area, I’d suggest starting Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) instead. A large, vigorous, spreading plant, it’s the best midwest milkweed for Monarch caterpillars.


Beardtongue / Penstemon strictus ‘Rocky Mountain Blue’

Dense spikes of violet-blue, tubular flowers; perennial; blooms early summer; full sun; 24-36” x 16-18”

A favorite with the bees as well as flower arrangers, this southwest native is deer-resistant as well. Long stems, intense color and unusual seed-pods make this a great back-of-the-border plant. Although my seedlings grew into large, robust plants, they didn’t bloom in the first season. Even with adequate vernalization you may still have to practice patience to be rewarded with blooms. Penstemon is such a dependable, easygoing plant that I can wait for it.


Chocolate Flower / Berlandiera lyrata

Bright yellow, daisy-like flowers; perennial; blooms summer to frost; full sun to part shade; 10-20” x 18-24”

Though not a native like the first two selections, this is also a great plant for pollinators, cut-flower enthusiasts and chocolate lovers! Yes, the scent will delight you: the flowers open at night so their strongest fragrance is in the morning, a perfect enticement for getting out to water the garden. Rarely available as a plant, so starting from seed is your best bet. I hadn’t tried these yet, so I’ll be interested in comparing notes with you some time next summer.


Larkspur / Consolida regalis ‘Shades of Blue’

Tall spires of dainty blue flowers; annual; blooms late spring; full sun to part shade; 36-48” x 6-12”

If you like delphiniums, you might try this lovely heirloom. It’s the only annual we started but it’s well worth the effort as it reseeds so readily that you can count on blooms from year to year. It’s best to give it some open space, both for a more floriferous display the first summer and to allow room for the seed to be scattered for the next season.