We've been doing our winter sowing for the last few weeks, a few milk jugs at a time, and I'm overdoing it as usual, I think I said I'd do 15 jugs this year- and at last count I'm up to 19, and I have a few more things I'd like to start that way. If you've never heard about winter sowing, it's really very cool, and handy. The basic idea is that you put seeds outside in mini greenhouses- made out of milk jugs mostly, and then allow them to scarify (which is softening the seed coat) by freezing and thawing, when the weather is perfect, they will sprout. I use Kevin's instructions, and they are really good- though I've found that because he's located in a balmy zone 5, and I'm a zone 3a on a good day, I have to adjust times, I'm about a month later than he is. I'm not really sure that it matters, because my plants are not likely to start growing before it's really truly above freezing anyhow.
I've had pretty good success with a few things, sweet peas did not really work out to be any earlier than the ones I planted as seeds. Some things did really well though- Bachelor's Buttons, Cosmos, Calendula, Larkspur and Bells of Ireland all did really well last year. This year I've got some new things- I have no idea if they will work or not, but here's what I've got planted so far: Big Bluestem, Yarrow- white flowered, Echinacea Purpura, Gypsophila- 'London Market', Calendula, Nigella 'Persian Jewels', Bachelor's Buttons, Monarda 'Lemon Mint', Cleome 'Rose Queen', Cosmos 'Bright Lights', Cosmos 'Sensation mix', Scabiosa 'Mourning Bride, Lavatera 'Silver Cup', Larkspur 'Giant Imperial Mixed'. Still to come: Creeping Thyme, Oriental Poppies, Angelica, Matricaria, Joe Pye weed and Lovage.
I think that should be enough flowers- I love cut flowers, and always grow zinnias as well- but directly from seed, as they don't transplant well - they always bloom in August for me- sometimes late July, and I think that's early enough. I'm not growing sweet peas at all this year- as the seed pods are poisonous, and N really loves to nibble outside and peas are a favorite for that- and sweet pea pods are just too similar to edible peas. Also similar and poisonous are Lupins, which I love, but will wait a few years to plant- apparently they winter sow really well too.