How about some weird wildflower seeds?



Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Before Christmas, my husband and I had dinner with the wildflower queen herself, Miriam Goldberger, and her husband Paul Jenkins. We see them once or twice a year, because their company, Wildflower Farms, based in Coldwater, Ontario, has a Buffalo distribution center. After the events of 9/11/01 and the subsequent anthrax scares, it was no longer possible to mail seeds from Canada to the U.S. without paying inspection fees that could add $75 to the cost of each pack of seeds. In order to serve their U.S. customers and stay competitive, Wildflower Farms has a US-based warehouse and distribution center.

Cover2As many of you may know, Miriam published a lovely book about wildflowers, Taming Wildflowers, in 2014. If you follow her on Facebook, you know she posts images of gorgeous wildflowers in her Ontario fields all year round, even in winter. And some of us (not me, sadly) visited Wildflower Farms as an extra garden bloggers’ Fling trip last June.

Finally, I was able to connect Miriam and Paul with artist Jenny Kendler last summer, and they provided all the seeds for Kendler’s Community Seed Station project, in which Buffalo residents could obtain milkweed and other seeds aimed at pollinators from centrally located kiosks.

I’m pleased to say that Miriam and Paul left me with a huge box of seeds. Even after I gave some away as holiday gifts, others to a public school project, and a big bunch went to a friend who creates sustainable, wildlife-friendly landscapes, I still have quite a few packs left. And some of these are varieties I’ve never (or rarely) heard of. For example:

Jennifer Anderson, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Jennifer Anderson, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Canada Tick Trefoil (Desmodium canadense):
These are tall, pretty plants, kind of a like wild sweet peas. Indeed, they do belong to the pea family.

Public domain
Public domain

Sideoats Gramma (Bouteloua curtipendula)
This is a beautiful blue-green drought-tolerant grass. It’s actually listed as endangered in Michigan.

Photo by George H. Bruso
Photo by George H. Bruso

Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa)
Here’s another endangered plant (in some areas). It gets very tall and has yellow flowers in high summer. Some varieties have been used for what we now call “cleansing;” it’s often mentioned in 19th century literature as medicinal.

You can look up more information about these, and I have lots of other interesting varieties, including the more common asclepias, heliopsis, and rudbeckia varieties. Would you like some? Leave a comment about how you’ll be using wildflowers this year. I’ll give 6-10 packs to about 10 of you (depending on when I run out), chosen at random.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I have part of my very large yard that is a pain to get to and mow. I’d much rather have wildflowers growing there! It is really a lovely part of the yard–good drainage, full sunlight, but not really usable space. Wildflowers would totally make it “usable” if for no other reasons that the beauty and the flowers for the wildlife.

  2. Great images and of course great blog. Will be my first spring thinking of starting from seed in the garden! Please include me in the draw.

  3. Oh these sound lovely. We garden in Piedmont NC just south of Chapel Hill. I have a new garden – no lawn, no pesticides and I am in process of adding more grasses and perennials to the new garden, attracting birds and moths and butterflies. I have both sun and shade , dry and damp locations. These items would become jus great so please add me to your list

  4. Sign me up please, and thanks!
    We bought former farmland bordered by woodland, and in both wildflowers and grasses are being reintroduced. Although we are planting many things, there are many former natives that are going into larger beds (nearer the house) and the wild areas (down near and in the wooded areas.) Also working on diversifying the woodland shrubs, which are mostly gooseberry and multiflora rose right now. The former is fine but the latter I am battling….

  5. I’d love to be in the drawing! I use wildflowers for the pollinators, my yard’s a Best of Texas Backyards and I always manage to find somewhere to squeeze something new in amongst the native staples. I’m in north Texas with heavy clay right smack in a little strip of blackland prairie.

  6. Please include me, too! I have been trying to add more native and pollinator-friendly plants in my garden, but they can be hard to find. sometimes seed is the best way to go.

  7. These native species will be great additions to three residential gardens where natives are the focus in prairie regions of Indiana. Thanks for any types you can share.

  8. I harvested some milkweed pods last fall, still have to separate the seeds and stratify. Our community garden has had its ups and downs over four seasons, but this year looks promising. We’re going to try some naturalizing in the hard clay around the raised beds. Well, maybe a little amendment, but it just encourages the bindweed.

  9. My husband and I have a couple of acres in northwest New Jersey that we’re slowly but surely transforming using permaculture principles. Since we keep bees and have a 4,800sf vegetable garden, we’re always looking to attract pollinators. Plus we’re shrinking the still-sizeable lawn a little every year by introducing native plants and perennials to the property, so your weird wildflowers would be a great addition!

  10. Please enter me in the drawing. These seeds would be for my partner, who just bought a small farm in the Wilmington, NC, area. He would like to turn one of the front fields, near the entrance, into a beautiful wildflower meadow. Thanks very much for the opportunity.

  11. I’d like to enter on behalf of the Memorial Park Block Club in downtown Niagara Falls. This year will be our inaugural “Black Squirrel Garden Walk.” This garden walk is a neighborhood attempt to (i.) strengthen community bonds, (ii.) highlight the beautiful architectural details of our historic homes and (iii.) show the outside world that our neighborhood is both safe and beautiful. In essence, our garden walk wants to show that older neighborhoods in Niagara Falls matter and are worth saving. We will be doing plantings in public spaces and provide materials and labor to some less fortunate neighbors so they can create their own gardens.

  12. I’ve been looking for some wildflowers to plant in a sunny bed by the front of my house! Those pictures look so fabulous.

  13. Please enter my name in the giveaway. Our community must fill in a small farm pond in our common area. I have been asked to make the area a wildflower patch. We could use the seeds to add to our planned diversity. Thanks

  14. Wild senna is amazing, and underplanted. 4 weeks of blooms covered in dozens of bumble bees you can hear 20′ away. Awesome fall color. Highly ornamental, long, black seed pods that last the winter. Amazing plant. Did I mention it’s amazing? Miriam is good, too. 🙂

  15. I can use some wildflowers to help the urban pollinators here in Cleveland! I have a south-east facing front yard that I have been dreaming of turning into an urban meadow of sorts. Please keep me in mind for a pack or two of seeds.

  16. Don’t mean to cast a wet blanket over all this enthusiasm (though you might find use for it to boost germination), but all of you should check out more local sources of native wildflower species. Local phenotypes of any given species can differ markedly from one another and are always better adapted to be successful under local conditions, whether that means staying within reasonable bounds or just plain surviving.

    • Well, for us in Western New York, it does not get much more local than Southern Ontario. And the descriptions of these seeds make clear their regional applications.

  17. Oh, I see I may be too late! But I’d love to receive some seeds. I got rid of my yard a few years ago and replaced with natives. I do look for plants that will add interest and color. Thanks for a great gardening blog!

  18. What lovely wildflower plants that would enrich any location. I live in the
    Welsh Mountain area of Lancaster County, Pa. I would plant the seeds and
    then share the plants with my garden club members and the folks of the
    Welsh Mountain to help beautify this area who have various native type
    gardens. Thank you for sharing with others.

  19. I don’t know if these wildflower seeds would do well where we live in Washington State (near the Canadian border on the coast), but if so, please add my name to the drawing. My husband and I have just retired (from living overseas for 27 years), and we’ve bought a 9.5-acre parcel to set up an organic farm. We’re committed to sustainable landscaping and plan to have no ‘yard’–only wild landscaping with native plants.

  20. I’d love some! I have a site under a huge maple that at once gets lots of sun and (because of leaf cover and root competition) very little water. Lawn grass survives, barely, and is unsightly. I plane to till very shallowly, add a few inches of soil, and sow wildflowers, see what survives. You can help! Thanks!

  21. Hello Elizabeth,
    Thank you for a lovely read and what a generous, communitarian thing to do!
    I live in a townhouse with restrictions as to what we can plant in Southeast Denver CO
    but it’s always fun to read the gardening blogs. I’m so happy to have found Garden Rant and always enjoy your posts. I think gardeners are simply among the nicest and kindest folks in the world and loved the sharing aspects of these comments.
    Good luck to all, this post and comments brought a huge warm smile to my Winter-weary old face and thank you all for being out there and accessible!

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