The native perennial species of our meadows — milkweeds, asters, Joe Pye weed and others — will make one more offering in fall, as if they haven’t given enough already. They will offer up their seed.
Gardeners can nurture the next generation by collecting some of it, and propagating more of their favorite wildflowers. But there’s a little wrinkle.
“Everything about sowing native seeds is counterintuitive to what people have been taught in horticulture,” said Heather McCargo, who founded the nonprofit Wild Seed Project in Maine in 2014.
Sowing wildflower seeds requires a shift in the how-to mind-set centered around the late-winter-into-spring ritual of sowing vegetables and annual flowers, she said.
Native Plant Trust.
“Everybody wants to just toss seeds into the landscape, but the life of a wild seed is fraught with risk,” she said. “Most land where it’s too wet or dry, or where a bird or mouse eats it.” The majority of seeds dispersed that way never become full-grown plants.
But if you collect seeds in a timely manner and sow them in a protected way — using basic tactics like rodent-proofing the nursery bed with mesh sheeting — “you can have a plant from each seed,” she said. A small pinch of seed can yield 50 or more plants for your garden, or for a community planting at a school or park.
those that are close to the way nature made them, as hybrids and certain cultivars created by selection may not produce consistent results. Some will be sterile, good neither for sustaining pollinators nor for propagating. If a neighbor has a meadow, ask for permission to collect seed. And wherever you collect seed, do not gather more than 5 percent of any population of a plant in a single season, Ms. McCargo said.
A shortcut for those getting started: Wild Seed Project sells seed appropriate for fall sowing, starting in mid-September. Other sources of ethically produced, wild-type seed include Prairie Moon Nursery and Prairie Nursery.