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Not only for geraniums


by John Beaulieu (Bowl-you)

Not to be confused with winter sewing, which is what my wife, Brenda, does a lot of. Actually, this year I’m a little behind in my seed preparation and also in creating these blogs. I normally get organized right after I have done my late autumn in-ground sowing, by preparing all my name stake labels and sorting my seeds.

This year I did not sow any geraniums in-ground, only sowing my daylily seed that way. That left me more geraniums to process for winter sowing. Plus, some good friends also sent me some extra seed, so there has been a lot to organize. If you are a gardener that grows from seed, you are always planning and working all through the winter… Which is turning out to be a real old-fashioned (lots of snow) winter, at least here in Ontario.

If you don’t collect your own seed, there are many great sources of seed from the various seed schemes (exchanges) of the organizations shown above. They are all easily googled on the internet.

When I finally get around to the actual sowing (I’m about halfway through now), I use a pot that will suit the number of seeds that I have of any one variety. I will use a regular soil-less potting mix, and after evenly sowing the seed, I cover with a little more mix (about 1/4 in.) and water the seeds in with a fine spray to prevent disturbing the seed.

I have even used a bit of snow, which will melt slowly into the pot. If I’m doing this in a warm spell (not much chance this year) it will keep the mix cool, preventing early germination.

The pots are stored in my unheated portion of the garage, where they experience the ups and downs of winter. Most perennials need this cold treatment for good germination. I have found this more effective than just keeping seed in the refrigerator. Temperatures will go as low as –25 C in the garage.

Again, if there is a warm spell, I will cool them down with some snow. Any germination now would be killed by the return of cold temperatures.

Once things start warming up in April, I wheel the pots outside on nice days, bringing them back in if there are frost warnings.

I get a really good percentage of germination this way, even better than in-ground sowing. And, if a plant is going to wait for the second year to germinate (it happens), it is easier to deal with a pot, rather than an empty area in a nursery bed. Of course germination and size of seedlings will vary from species to species. I use this method not only for my geraniums, but for all my perennials.

Even while still in pots, you can see differences between related varieties. We can see above, the regular sized white form of the common Herb Robert compared to the much more compact ‘Celtic White’ variety. There are those that feel ‘Celtic White’ may be a separate species or at least a subspecies of Geranium robertianum.

This is one of my carts last summer with the winter-sown plants that are ready to be placed in the garden. Of course that presents new problems… Where to put them all? Oh well, time to dig a new bed… We will eventually get rid of all the lawn! It may mean work, but it is so nice to think ahead to a warm summer.

These last two photos are sewing, not sowing… In response to a request.

This is one of two jackets, and a wall hanging that Brenda entered in a local quilt show. Her projects are always popular and folks want to know where she found the patterns, not realizing that they are from original drawings that I made for her.

A closer look at the hosta wall hanging, one of my favourites.

More blog posts by bowl_you

Previous post: Bloomin' Erodiums

Next post: Looking back… Top 5 Geraniums



Hello John ..
great blog ...
interesting idea of using the melting snow ...

8 Feb, 2014


thank you, i know a few people who use the snow method to.

8 Feb, 2014


Gosh, aren't you organised? Very impressive. Happy to say we haven't had the melting snow option up to now...

8 Feb, 2014


do you cultivate herb Robert [the non white form]? The deep pink form is a blessed nuisance in my garden, but it does pull out easily.
Nice use of shopping trolleys too :o)

8 Feb, 2014


This is an excellent blog for us who are new to growing from seed. I don't think I will ever be as disciplined as you but I echo Steragrams comment your precision planning is very impressive. I'll be delighted to pass on the snow option. We will look forward to more as the months move on.

8 Feb, 2014


great to see hows its done on the other side of the world. good luck with it all..:-)

9 Feb, 2014


Gosh, how organised are you???
Great blog, with super tips. :)

9 Feb, 2014


Nice to see a portrait of a happy man.

9 Feb, 2014


Seaburngirl - No, I don't cultivate the regular Herb Robert, but it does grow everywhere here... I have a wooded area at the back of my one acre property where it flourishes... I don't mind it. I struggle to get the white version established anywhere. When I start it from seed scheme seed, it does not always flower in the first year to produce seed to keep it going. I keep hoping some plants overwinter to bloom the second year. I bring some in and leave some out. How can such a 'weed' be so hard to get going? I really like the much smaller 'Celtic White'!

Geranium robertianum grows all over Ontario. It is especially common on the Niagara Escarpment and up the Bruce Peninsula, where it flourishes on the moss covered limestone rocks of wooded areas. This is a habitat shared by our fairly rare ferns such as the Walking Fern, Maidenhair Spleenworts, Holly Fern and Harts Tongue Fern. I'm sure most non-horticultural folks think it is just another fern, because of the fern-like foliage.

12 Feb, 2014


Goodness, its hard to think of the hartstongue fern being rare. There's heaps of it round here but I struggled to keep even one where we lived before.

14 Feb, 2014


Steragram - The harts tongue fern is usuallyfound in only two relatively small areas in North America, the limestone rock areas of the Niagara Escarpment including the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, and in an area of New York State in the USA. I have seen it offered at several garden centres though, including a crested form. I assume that it is commercially propagated. While trying to google more about it, I came across this new area...

18 Feb, 2014


Dear Bowl You,
I imagine who ever is taking your photos is equally as happy as you are in them!
Busy Busy Busy.....
I greatly admire your industriousness and appreciate your cold climate gardening. Thank you for showing us your ways. Great learning lesson. I'll be checking out your articles and following you live from Santa Barbara, Ca, far from your reaches and too close to water much less snow!

4 Apr, 2016


I would also like to see some of your wife's sewing !

6 Apr, 2016


Dianebulley, I just added some sewing to the sowing blog for you.

19 Apr, 2016


Very spectacular!

19 Apr, 2016


Brilliant ! The times I have looked at Hostas, never thought of doing that with them.

20 Apr, 2016


The first sewing photo shows us how you and your wife compliment each other through your hobbies but the second photo is missing on my version of your blog. You seem to be equally talented.

20 Apr, 2016

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