Advise newbie on specific seeds?

Royal Oak, MI(Zone 6a)

Okay, so I've tried sowing seeds every couple of years (you know, in those little seed starter things), but they usually die from my neglect or ineptitude. This year, I think I have the time to do it right. I've gone through the catalog at and found several plants that should fill in some problem spots of mine. The rest of my garden is mostly shade, so working in dry sidewalk borders and full sun beds is just hard. Here's what I think I want to order:

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Fairy Snow'
Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila'
Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila
Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia
Iberis gibraltarica
Astrantia major 'Primadonna'
Aquilegia 'Crimson Star'
Allium christophii

Have any of your own seeds to recommend? Does anyone have any advice on when to sow any of these particular seeds? I'm definitely reading notes from the catalog but would love to here personal experiences. Have you had really bad luck with any of them? Have you had better luck just throwing them out in the garden instead of sowing in a jug? All comments welcome =)

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Hmm. If you are planning on planting in sun, you might want to rethink the astilbe and aquilegia. Your weather is hotter than mine if I remember my time at Houghton Lake well enough. I have to put both of those in at least part shade. I only did the WS thing for the first time last year. Mucked it up royally but am going to try again this year. I planted mostly poppy seeds which was rather dumb as you can broadcast them, but I wanted to put Preen on the ground to keep the weeds down and that would also prevent the flower seeds from germinating. I have many of the plants you mention, but I bought them as plants. I especially love the astrantia. Mine is over 5' tall to the top of the many many blossom branches. With little red buttons on each end. Not too sure about this. Huge bush, tall, and little button flowers. May have used the wrong fertilizer. Fish fertilizer that maybe made the green big but did nothing for the blooms. Well, you will find some wonderfully skilled WS here at DG. Just wanted to acknowledge your note and say Hi.

Royal Oak, MI(Zone 6a)

Haha, actually the astilbe is for next to my primulas. I do mostly shade because of the huge oak trees we have. I just thought I'd try growing my own babies. I do think most of the plants I picked will do well for the areas I have, I'm just unsure on getting them from seeds to plants.

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Fairy Snow' - dry part-shade bed beneath oak
Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila' - next to primulas
Aquilegia flabellata var. pumila - dry part-shade bed beneath oak
Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia - sunny bed beneath lilac
Iberis gibraltarica sunny bed beneath lilac
Astrantia major 'Primadonna' - sidewalk border in front of oak and pine tree
Aquilegia 'Crimson Star' - sidewalk border in front of oak and pine tree
Allium christophii - maple tree ring next to street

And hi =) Here's a pic of the maple tree ring I'm going to re-work, but the sidewalk border is in the background to the right. They all get strong afternoon sun, since the sun sets across the street and there's nothing to block it. I also don't water the front areas like I do my hostas in the back.

Thumbnail by Eleven
(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Gotcha. I can see why they name it "royal oaks'. Looks like you have a bunch growing already. I finally converted my garage to a greenhouse when I retired and bought six shop lights, plywood for tables ,etc. Problem is planting more seeds than I can put in my garden. Also wanted to get around the 'hardening up' process. Ended up hauling 20+ flats outside each day for about a week or so anyway. I know what I did wrong with the WS, and will correct that this year. Only thing is that I think I should WS in say Feb. I have a cold frame that is portable that sits on the back deck. I will use that to keep my jugs from getting blown all over the yard like last year. Also holes -- musn't for get holes for drainage. Another big mistake. I want to try sweet peas. I would think you could broadcast the aquilegia. I have it coming up all over up here and I know that seeds have been carried from bed to bed by wind and creatures. Espcially the little Blue/White Winky series. Nice well behaved little columbine. Seems less prone to illness that some of the others barlow and clementine series. I love columbine.

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

You mentioned your jugs blowing around in the yard last year. you must have had a lot of wind? How much potting mix did you have in each milk jug? You all didn't have any snow last year? Maybe if you go back over some of the posted messages where people have posted photos of their Wintersowing projects, you will pick up some ideas from those pictures. Did you mix water with your potting mix? Usually if the winter is so harsh, the soil will freeze solid inside those milk jugs or containers, providing more weight. Don't forget to put a lot of drainage holes in the bottom of your containers and holes around the neck of the milk jug or whatever container you use. You do not put the jug lid on, they need to be able to get moisture and air. Did you tape the milk jug around the middle? I sat my milk jugs inside a plastic milk crate. You can find them in thrift stores, even Walmart or Target . I was able to buy a few of them at a thrift store for $1.91 each. You will pay more than that when they are brand new. I've seen some wintersowers sit their milk jugs inside cardboard boxes, line up next to your house. I've also seen one picture where the person ran a rope among all the handles of the jugs to keep them from blowing away. The first year mine sat under the weight of 55 inches of snow. Put them out in the cold world and forget about them until Spring comes but keep an eye on them to make sure they don't dry out. Look back over the wintersowing thread at people's photos and I'm sure you can gain some ideas from those pictures. I've seen people plant in slurpee cups or these plastic deli containers. The weight of the proper amount of soil should keep them from blowing around unless you've had a very strong wind.
I'm sure when it gets later on in the day, more people will respond. Look over Trudi's website for more ideas. Don't give up, WS is fun, economical and you learn a lot about seeds in general. It will become addictive; I warn you. Start out with no more than you think you will use. When those seedlings are ready to be planted out in the flowerbeds, it can be frustrating knowing you have to plant all of those seedlings in your flowerbeds, in the right places where they will survive in the proper light enviornment. Try again in late Dec or early January. It's fun! Hope this helps.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Thanks Pippi. I have been following the winter sowing thread and have found most of the things I did wrong. I had put the containers up against the house (no snow) and the wind just whipped around the corner, caught them and they tumbled over around the corner in a jumble. The trays were out in the snow but no holes. As the snow melted they filled with ice. I suppose I could have left them that way til they dried out but suspect the seeds would have rotted.

I didn't tape around the milk jugs, just made a little 'catch' to keep the top down. I did leave the cap off. I figured about 2" of soil was enough. True? I used seed soil, not regular soil so it was especially light. And only spritzed it, not mixed it with water.

Anyway, I have saved jugs and will give it another go this winter.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

My only comment is that for most alliums, the seed has very fresh. You probably don't want to use old seed or procrastinate planting it (like I do).

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

corralling your containers in cardboard boxes really help with the wind. many times when we get a good snow fall, i'll shovel the snow right on top of my containers too...

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