For the More Advanced Gardener, Perennials 101
If you love the idea of starting a wide range of your own perennials from seed, be prepared to do a bit of searching for some of the more rare and unusual types. A good starting point is your local Heritage Perennials Dealer.Garden centers generally bring in a fresh stock of packaged seeds in early to mid winter. In recent years the selection has grown tremendously. Brands such as Thompson & Morgan, Plants of Distinction and Unwin’s include all kinds of unusual and interesting perennials that you may have trouble finding as already-started plants on the garden center benches. In other words, starting your own plants is one way to have something truly distinctive in your garden!Packaged seed is generally sold with both the common name as well as botanical name clearly marked on the package. Hardiness zones are not always indicated, so sometimes a little extra research before purchasing will save you loads of grief the following spring. Also watch for a “best before” date on the envelope, or a harvest date. If the seed is more than a year old, it’s best to avoid buying it.Many kinds of perennials are man-made hybrids, and will not come true from seed. This is one reason why you won’t find packages of ‘Stella de Oro’ Daylilies or named selections of Hosta and Bearded Iris. Seed from these plants will seldom produce offspring that resemble the parent plant. Hybrids are usually increased by other methods, such as division, propagated from cuttings or even cloned in a tissue culture laboratory.Once you’ve grown everything offered on those seed racks, the next option is to find mail order sources for more unusual seeds. Most mail order companies now have extensive websites, and many offer secured online ordering. Here is a short listing of suppliers with a particularly good selection of perennial seeds:
For an extensive and regularly-updated list of seed and garden catalogs, head to the Canadian Gardening Magazine website and click the link for Catalogues.
Seed Exchanges are another way to find neat stuff. Some botanical gardens offer this as a perk for their members, including Edmonton’s Devonian Botanic Garden.
The granddaddy of ALL seed exchanges is that of the North American Rock Garden Society. The plant listing changes radically from year to year. The main focus is alpine and rock garden plants, but it always includes a whole lot more. Rock garden enthusiasts usually have their thumb squarely on the most interesting and unusual plants on the planet!
STILL CAN’T FIND IT??!! Then try an online search using Google. If you search by the botanical name for the plant, then also include the word seed – it’s quite likely you’ll find a supplier somewhere out there!