This is something new that I just learned about this year. Apparently some seeds, usually perennials, need what's called "Cold Moist Stratification" in order to germinate. Normally in nature seeds of these plants lie dormant over the winter, and it is only after a period of freezing and rain that they germinate in the spring. If these types of seeds don't experience this treatment they won't break out of their tough shells. Here is a great explanation of stratification.
I decided to try the "winter sowing" method. There are pansies and johnny jump ups in the round take out container and lavender in the seltzer bottle. The seltzer bottle is inside a pot with rocks in the bottom just so it won't blow away. I poked drainage holes in the bottom of both, then filled them with soil and planted the seeds. I also poked ventilation holes in the tops. As it gets warmer, I'm supposed to make these holes bigger and bigger but it hasn't gotten that warm yet. It was probably a bit late to start them at the beginning of March, but as you can see on the 5th there was still snow, and it has been pretty cold all through the month so hopefully it will still work.
The anise hyssop also went in a small container, but got a little different treatment. The seeds were so tiny I practically needed a magnifying glass to see them, so I wrapped them in a moist paper towel and placed that inside the container. I read that the hyssop needs light for germination so I carefully put them under just one layer of paper.
Unfortunately, last weekend I checked on them and they were very wet, so I got the bright idea to unfold the paper towel and leave them in the sun to get light. Not such a smart move, since of course I proceeded to forget about them, the sun dried the towel and the wind blew it off the table. *sigh* I lost all but three seeds. I will probably only need two plants since I know that hyssop can grow really huge so hopefully they'll germinate! You can see it here on March 13th with the other two containers, all set to get frozen outside overnight.
Today was the first day I saw anything green in any of the three containers. It looks like one of the pansies sprouted! I hope more grow in the coming weeks.