Where to get native plants for a pollinator garden?

#1

I want to try to get a garden going for native pollinators, but nearby stores only seem to stock non-native plants. Does anyone know any good websites to purchase native plants at? I’m in Southern Ontario, Canada, if that helps.

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#2

I too have had poor luck at general stores. I have had better luck looking out (via online society pages) for activities held by local native plant societies- sometimes they will have sales where members split plants from their gardens and sell the extras for not much money.

One year I found that a larger scale native plant fair is held annually in driving distance for me, and so I make a “want list” over the year and then go look for things. https://vnps.org/piedmont/events/state-arboretum-garden-fair-2/

Each year they have a printed program for that sale- if I can find my old one(s) and see if there are any vendors with online presence, I will update with potential links in the next few days. There’ll be some overlap in native range since it’s east coast North America. (Last year I did not find the common serviceberry I was looking for, but did find a Canadian serviceberry there instead- that lived and may bloom next week!)

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#3

I’m not familiar with resources specific to Canada, but some general principles you can apply to your search:

  • Look for regional nurseries and growers that specialize in native plants.
  • Find regional botanical and native plant societies or organizations. They can help you identify what’s native to your region. Many have seasonal native plant sales where you can purchase plants for your garden.
  • Wildlife gardens and wildlife centers may also have seasonal plant sales. A quick search of the Canadian Wildlife Federation web site for “Plants for Wildlife” shows you may be able to find something in your area.
  • Botanical gardens, and garden clubs and societies will have plant sales. Since they’re not going to be focused on native plants, these require more preparation to know what’s native, and have a wish list at hand. Specialist groups, like rock garden clubs, may be more likely to have unusual native plants that are hard to find through commercial, retail sources.
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#4

This might be what you’re looking for: https://www.onplants.ca/

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#5

This nursery is in Southern Ontario: http://www.stwilliamsnursery.com

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#6

I have lived in a few places where the local conservation district (a county governmental organization in the US) has yearly sales where they divest themselves of extra restoration grade native plants at very low prices. That would be worth a search.

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#7

Many areas hold the native plant sales in the early spring, which is usually mid to late April in my US zone 5 area. They’re often organized by the county forest preserve or a local native garden club. Some Googling might find one near you.

For the best variety and lowest price you can’t beat growing from seed though. A lot of people think they can’t grow from seed because they envision a large indoor setup with heat mats and lights, and maybe have memories of seedlings dying from damping off or drying out. You don’t need any of that. A lot of seed does fairly well direct sown on the ground, but for the ultimate cheap goof proof method use the wintersowing technique. You make little mini greenhouses out of things like milk jugs, then sow the seed in potting mix, and put it outdoors to naturally germinate. It works well for fall, winter, and spring sowing depending on the species and its germination requirements. I’ve used the method for over ten years on hundreds of species. There are forums about it on GardenWeb, Garden.org, and Dave’s Garden. There are also Facebook groups if you use that, and a main website Wintersown.org .

A word of warning though, it can turn you into a seed addict. Before you know it you’re spending hours harvesting and cleaning your own seed to trade in large online seed swaps. You can end up getting hundreds of varieties in one or two large swaps for just the cost of postage.

Also, if you come across any local gardeners growing the types of things you’re interested in and express an interest in doing the same, they’ll probably offer up some divisions, cuttings, or seed. Gardeners are very generous people in general.

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#8

I was going to echo the seed saving/ seed starting strategy. I grow local natives, regional natives, and U.S. natives and close relatives that will serve the needs of bees and pollinators. For those with limited disposable income this is the way to go for the easier to find stuff and probably others if you spend the time looking I suppose. If you’re a seed hoarder like myself and many other seed/plant folks, you will always have something to try if you make a a habit of it. I collect seed (always using ethical practices and checking for pests, disease etc. before moving!) from established plants then propagate. I also order native seeds from reputable places online I like Johnny’s in Maine a lot and locally but more expensive is the Hudson Valley Seed library or company now I think. These places usually have some native seed offerings.

Native nurseries are really expensive in my experience but they do produce quality stuff.

Friends’ gardens are great and sometimes local plant swaps, in my case through the local cornell cooperative extension, but checking for pests is important to remember because I don’t always trust the source. I find you can get some shrubs and saplings easily this way, if you’re lucky that particular year.

@molanic, online seed swaps?! Cool! I use gardenweb and dave’s too but just for reference.

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#9

go to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Cener
use the search box to find the plant you’re looking to acquire
scroll down to near the bottom of that plant’s page and you’ll see links to reputable suppliers for that plant

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#10

also, Native Seed Network provides a vendor list: http://nativeseednetwork.org/find-seed/

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#11

I got some seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery last year. Reasonable prices. https://www.prairiemoon.com/ (I’m not affiliated in any way!) :)

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#12

These sites are not only great for browsing and shopping but also for getting growing information for natives. They show range maps and have detailed germination information. Prairie Moon not only has photos of the plants but often the seed pods and seeds as well. I use them as a reference a lot when I get seeds in a swap and want detailed germination information. Prairie Moon is in Minnesota and Everwilde is in Wisconsin, so their growing climate is somewhat similar to southern Ontario.

https://www.prairiemoon.com/
https://www.everwilde.com/

I didn’t want to take it too off topic by bringing up wintersowing and seed swapping. But, they were so wonderfully life changing for me as a gardener and frugal person that I feel compelled to tell everyone about it! For me it’s very much like how iNat was such a perfect fit for me as a nature-loving list- making photo-taking nut. I do also go on the gardening forums and try to recruit people there to iNat! There are a bunch of forums on those gardening sites for nature lovers where they post awesome photos of all kinds of wildlife looking for ids and I keep recommending iNat to them ad nauseum.

For anyone interested in the online seed swaps there is a whole forum on GardenWeb for seed trading where you can do individual trades or participate in various kinds of large groups swaps. Gardenweb goes way back and has a wealth of old posts to read through too. I think Dave’s Garden has some seed trading areas too, although I haven’t used that site since they locked off some areas behind a paywall. Garden.org is the newest of the bunch and is actually run by Dave of Dave’s Garden. He started it after leaving Dave’s Garden. A few years ago he programmed a new kind of group seed swap system there that is pretty awesome and the only one I’ve used for a few years now.

For those unfamiliar with online group seed swaps in general here’s the basics. A bunch of people sign-up with the host of the swap after reading the swap rules which vary. Participants send a bunch of their seed packets to the host, and then the host redistributes the seeds, packs them up, and mails them back the participants. Some swaps are completely random where you have no idea what you will get. Some have themes like veggies only or commercial seed only. Some have participants aka players set up wishlists and then other players look over the wishlists and set aside seeds specifically for that player based on their wishlists. Some swaps are one to one where you get back the same number of packets that you sent in, others are more loose. Players can trade their own harvested seed, commercial seed, or seed they got from others in trades/swaps. There are usually rules on how the seed must be labeled and how old it can be. There is also usually a lot of chatting on the forums among the players and sometimes games to win extra seeds from the host.

The new seed swap system at Garden.org is kind of unique. You upload and keep an inventory list of seeds you have and then designate what you want to offer in the swap. You can browse the other participants offers over the months or weeks leading up to the swap and wishlist their items. The actual swapping portion lasts about a week usually. During that time everyone is issued a set number of tickets each day at the same time with which to purchase/dib seeds from their wishlist. When your own seed is purchased/dibbed you get more tickets to spend. This happens everyday for a week and the set number of tickets that everyone gets increases every day. At the end of the swap you get a list of the seed that you “purchased” and “sold”. Then you pack up your sold items and ship them off to the host who redistributes them and sends you back your bought items. With this swap system you only get what you picked out yourself and only have to send in as much as you want to offer. Veteran swappers often offer a lot more than they take back. While newbies only have to offer up one thing and can get back A LOT. Like I said earlier gardeners are a generous bunch. With this system the people offering the most variety of desirable seeds get more tickets earlier and therefore have the best selection to choose from. It’s pretty fun and a bit of an adrenaline rush racing to dib those seeds faster than the next guy!

One important note I should mention is to always read the rules of a swap before joining. Keeping the deadline dates in mind so that you aren’t holding up a swap is important. You don’t want to get booted because you were MIA. Also some hosts are comfortable shipping seeds internationally and dealing with customs, but some are not.

Sorry to those totally uninterested in this. I’ll get off my soapbox. I’m done with my evangelizing for the day. :)

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#13

Thank you all for the information! I’ll look into it, and hopefully I can get a nice native garden up by this year or the next.

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#14

We expect pictures. :-)

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#15

I mainly just know seed sites, but these might be helpful for some. The ones I know of specifically for native seeds have been posted, so here’s a few more seed sites that may or may not be useful:

http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net - Seed bank with seeds from around the world. Useful in that it’s not just flowers or US-centric, but the availability of seeds changes throughout the year depending on what they have on hand.

https://www.selectseeds.com - specializes in heirloom seeds and plants, and has a section devoted to natives. Not sure if they ship to Canada, or how expensive it is.

A few pointers for seeds:

  • many perennials will not flower the first year from seed, though some will, like agastache. Others go through cycles, while others continue on through reseeding. Native annuals or ones based on native species are usually annuals in name only because of this.

  • Many perennials need to be wintersown or stratified in order to encourage germinating, while others just germinate whenever they feel like it. I use the baggie method since it saves on space, and I can pot seeds up when they germinate.

  • try to get a good idea for when to start your seeds if you’re starting indoors or in a greenhouse-type deal. You want to sync your seeds with the season.

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#16

Yes! also important to mention that plants like agastaches (and most plants in lamiaceae really in my experience) will quickly go from one robust plant to a whole bed filled up with plants unless you remove seed heads (or invite a flock of goldfinches and chipping sparrows who are the happiest customers with my agastache to eat non-stop during seeding!) or weed out the plethora of seedlings you’ll soon have. This isn’t a problem, at least in my gardening style, but if you were hoping for “a plant here or there” you’ll soon have more “here and there” than you may have intended!

Also, agastache is very easy to move (either mature or seedlings) while lupines for example, don’t like their roots bothered and may not survive a move.

This is extra unsolicited information I realize so I don’t want to blather on too much but I thought it relevant and something I wish someone might have mentioned to me in the earlier days of my gardening with such fantastic robust plants!

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#17

In southern Ontario I think : http://www.stwilliamsnursery.com/ is the best.

But https://www.onplants.ca/ is great too, located in Flambourough not far from HWY 6.

There is also Native plants in Claremont (N Pickering)
http://www.nativeplants.ca/

Also the North American Native Plant Society
http://nanps.org/
has a few spring plant sales in Toronto area, as well as a seed exchange (through mail).

I’m forgetting some I think…And if you are near Hamilton/Burlington there will be native plant vendors (including many of the above) present at the April 27th RBG plant ‘faire’:
https://www.rbg.ca/plant-faire

And there are plans in the works for an all native plant sale in the fall (Hamilton area again).
And I have a bunch of seeds left from my own garden too (I send many in to NANPS).

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#18

PS: Guelphs Seedy Saturday is this weekend, I think. I have another commitment so won’t be bombing with my native seeds but may be worth a look. May be some natives for grabs.

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