Beat the Winter Blues

February 2015

Slideshow February 25, 2015

Plan Your Plantings!

This month we’re offering tips to cure the winter blues. Just because it’s February, and the dead of winter in most places, doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty for the industrious citizen scientist to do!

Plan your native plantings, that is. The YardMap project is focused on creating great, native habitat in your own backyard. Below you’ll find tips offered up by the YardMap team on finding native plants for your area.

But first be inspired by beautiful native plants in our gallery!

Native Plant Gallery

  • Asters (Stokesia laevis). Photo by BlueRidgeKitties.

    Asters (Stokesia laevis). Photo by BlueRidgeKitties.

  • High Bush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) Photo by Sandy Richard

    High Bush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) Photo by Sandy Richard

  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Photo by Ali Eminov

    Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Photo by Ali Eminov

  • Cleome (Cleome serrulata). Photo by Matt Lavin

    Cleome (Cleome serrulata). Photo by Matt Lavin

  • Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Photo by Nic McPhee

    Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Photo by Nic McPhee

  • Common Yarrow Photo (Achillea millefolium). Photo by Parshotam Lal Tandon

    Common Yarrow Photo (Achillea millefolium). Photo by Parshotam Lal Tandon

  • Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) being visited by a Pipevine Swallowtail. Photo by Vicki DeLoach

    Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) being visited by a Pipevine Swallowtail. Photo by Vicki DeLoach

  • Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos).  Photo by Theodore Garver

    Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos). Photo by Theodore Garver

  • Delphinium (Delphinium glaucum). Photo by Tab Tannery

    Delphinium (Delphinium glaucum). Photo by Tab Tannery

  • Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) visited by a Cedar Waxwing. Photo by: JanetandPhil

    Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) visited by a Cedar Waxwing. Photo by: JanetandPhil

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  • Stinging Lupine (Lupinus hirsutissimus). Photo by M. Dolly

    Stinging Lupine (Lupinus hirsutissimus). Photo by M. Dolly

  • Common pawpaw (Asimina trilob). Photo by Anna Hesser.

    Common pawpaw (Asimina trilob). Photo by Anna Hesser.

  • Pink and Purple Phlox (Phlox maculata). Photo by BlueRidgeKitties

    Pink and Purple Phlox (Phlox maculata). Photo by BlueRidgeKitties

  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Photo by Audrey

    California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Photo by Audrey

  • Purple Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus). Photo by BlueRidgeKitties

    Purple Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus). Photo by BlueRidgeKitties

  • Redbud (Cercis canadensis). Photo by BlueRidgeKitties

    Redbud (Cercis canadensis). Photo by BlueRidgeKitties

  • California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica). Photo by Franco Folini

    California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica). Photo by Franco Folini

  • Dune Sunflower (Helianthus debilis). Photo by Bob Peterson

    Dune Sunflower (Helianthus debilis). Photo by Bob Peterson

Things to consider when purchasing seeds

We recommend purchasing seeds from companies that are in your EcoRegion. If you don’t know your EcoRegion you can use the Local Resource Guide on our website to learn more about where you live. Purchasing seeds from a similar plant hardiness zone helps to ensure you are purchasing seeds that will be successful in your backyard conditions. Seed companies will also provide brief descriptions on their websites or in their catalogs. For instance they may say, “Grows best in southern regions where the growing season is long. Full-sun, drought resistant.” Before purchasing seeds, make sure to read this information if you are unsure of the plants’ growing range or conditions.

What are you sowing?Also, take caution when purchasing seeds if you are seeking 100% native, non-hybridized and/or non-GMO. The companies below generally have a good track record, but they do not exclusively sell native seeds. If you are unsure of whether a variety is native, you can contact the company and they will happily assist you. You can also reference our Local Resource Guide for lists of local nurseries that sell native plants.

Lesser Known Mail-Order Companies

  • American Meadows (Williston, Vermont)

    American Meadows has a great site that helps you make choices based on your planting needs. For instance, under their perennials tab they have characteristics, like drought tolerant, deer resistant, container planting, etc., to help you make the best plant choices for your yard. They do not have a “native” section, but here are some perennials to consider that fit that bill. The Fire Restoration Wildflower Mix might be a great choice to spread in a large area where you want a more “wild”, open-field planting. Phlox are another great choice for a native flower that attracts many native pollinators and they flower summer through fall season. Phlox have been highly hybridized, but the Goliath (Phlox amplifolia) and Blue Fame (Phlox paniculata) are reliable choices.

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Rareseeds (Mansfield, Missouri)

    Rareseeds offers a variety of open-pollinated heirloom crops, flowers and herbs. Here are a few native flowers that you might find helpful in attracting pollinators and adding vibrancy to your gardens: larkspur (Delphinium), cosmos (Cosmos), and lupine (Lupinus hirsutissimu).

  • Fedco Seeds (Waterville, Maine)

    If you are looking for diversity in seed and plant options, Fedco may be your ideal supplier. They sell native North American Trees like Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) and Eastern White Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), shrubs like blueberries (Cyanococcus) and raspberries (Rubus) and a variety of native flowers and herbs like cleome (Cleomaceae), which are highly prized by bird and pollinators throughout the U.S.

  • High Mowing Organic Seed (Wolcott, Vermont)

    High Mowing is known for growing and selling “organically” grown vegetables, flowers, herbs and cover crops. Here are a few flower varieties from their website that you might consider adding to your gardens this year: sunflowers (Helianthus) of which most are native to N.A., coneflower (Echinacea), and California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica).

  • Johnny Seeds (Winslow, Maine)

    Johnny Seed is a cooperatively owned seed company and if vegetable seeds are your thing, this company gets five stars! For an edible, medicinal herb consider Common Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) but we warned that this mint family plant will quickly take over. For those interested in Xeriscaping (minimal water gardening) you might be interested in their Xeriscape Mix which has a variety of wildflowers that will need minimal attention.

  • Larner Seeds (Bolinas, CA)

    Larner Seeds has an assortment of native shrubs, grasses, flowers and trees. If you live on the west coast and appreciate a mow-less lawn that displays colorful seed heads that attract birds, consider the Pacific Reed Grass (Calamagrostis nutkaensis). Birds and pollinators would be delighted by their selection of native shrubs like redbud (Cercis canadensis), sagebrush (Artemisia) and milkweed (Asclepias). If west coast natives are your passion, this site is your destination.

  • Sustainable Seed Co. (Round Valley, California)

    A wide variety of organic seed can be found at Sustainable Seed Co. The regional mixes (California, Midwestern, Northeastern…) are a nice option for wildflowers that will benefit native pollinators all over the United States. Bewarned that these mixes are not 100% native, some of the flowers are considered “naturalized”. For fun botanicals that produce flowerheads all year long, consider adding marigolds (Tagetes) to your garden. These natives have gorgeous yellow, orange and red hues that have an added bonus of repelling harmful nematodes in your soil.

  • Territorial Seed Company (Cottage Grove, Oregon)

    Like Fedco, Territorial is the west coast version of the mail-order distributor. If you are only looking for natives, read descriptions closely as they also sell many unique “tropical” options. They have an assortment of trees, shrubs and flowers. Often overlooked is the native Common pawpaw (Asimina trilob), which produces a delicious custard fruit and is the only source of food for the Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillars. Or, the good old cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos), which, unbenounced to many gardeners, does not require “flooding” to grow and harvest fruit, but needs very sandy, acidic soil for a successful harvest. They are a great option for sandy container planting!

More widely available, familiar companies

  • Burpee (Warminster, Pa.)

    Burpee have a some native flowers and perennials. They also sell an assortment of heirloom vegetable seeds that are open pollinated. Columbines (Aquilegia) are native to the U.S. and Burpee sells a variety, many of which have been hybridized through breeding. The Blue Star Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea) might be your best choice for the most true to the wildflower version and hummingbirds find them irresistible. Asters (Asteraceae) are also highly hybridized but look for the Purple Dome Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) for a great native flower that attracts and feeds native butterflies while being resistant to deer damage. For a drought-resistant, shade tolerant perennial, consider planting ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza).

  • Seeds of Change (Rancho Dominguez, California)

    Seeds of Change may be your best option when looking for seeds in stores like Lowes, Home Depot, Agway and other garden stores. Though they are owned by the larger Mars Inc., they do have a variety of seeds that are native, organic, heirloom and/or open pollinated. Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a good choice if you are looking for a delicate, multi-flower head that is a favorite among butterflies and native pollinators. If you are looking for an easy to grow, edible herb that attracts all your neighborhood bumble bees, consider establishing Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Watch out! They will quickly take over areas as they prolifically reseed.

  • Sprout

More Helpful Resources

Find Your Ecoregion & Plant Hardiness Zone

YardMap’s Local Resources Page

For a Database that can be searched for native seed suppliers

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Native Seed Mix Ideas based on Bioregion

The Xerces Society

This Month’s Articles

Plan Your Plantings!

Slideshow

Vote for a BirdSpotter Winner!

Slideshow February 19, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend

Take Action February 11, 2015

Watch Your Feeders For Science!

Take Action February 4, 2015

6 Comments

  1. Native American Seed. . . Helping people restore the earth. Offers seeds native to the plains and prairies, Including native wildflower mixes for shade.

  2. Joan Bullock says:

    Theodore Payne Native Plant Foundation in Sun Valley, CA, told me they will be offering native species of milkweed this month. They also advised that milkweed often sold by garden centers is not native and will disrupt the Monarch butterflies’ breeding cycle. The Foundation can be counted on for native California plants and information about the plants.

  3. Patty Trnka says:

    Prairie Moon Nursery near Winona, MN sells native wildflower seeds and plants. Their catalog (print and online) is very user friendly as they identify easy to grow varieties, deer resistant plants and the amounts of moisture and sun needed.

  4. Randy Archambault says:

    The Plantsmen Nursery, located outside of Ithaca sells native plants. They are growing native milkweed for our organization, Wild Ones.

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