Where to plant wildflowers?

Contents

TITLE

Some Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will my wildflowers choke out the weeds?
  • What do I do when my wildflowers are finished blooming?
  • Can I save my own seed for next year’s planting?
  • Do Oriental poppies produce opium?
  • Is there a perennial that we can plant in the spring and have it bloom all year long?
  • How do I plant wildflower seed?
  • Can wildflowers be planted among grasses or other weeds?
  • How long will it take before I have actual flowers?
  • How do I get rid of the weeds in my wildflowers?
  • How long will my wildflowers remain in bloom?
  • Do my wildflowers need fertilizer?
  • When is the best time to plant wildflower seeds?
  • Where can I get more help?
  1. Will my wildflowers choke out the weeds?

  1. Clyde Robin. Wildflowers generally don’t choke out anything, except themselves when they are planted too heavily. If the “weeds” in question are grasses, then the answer is quite simple. Grass will always win the battle, as it is much more aggressive. When wildflowers are planted into existing vegetation, that plant material is already rooted and well established. Your wildflower seed needs to sprout, and establish itself. All the while, the existing material is continuing to grow. Once sprouted, the tiny shoots are looking up at tall competition. It’s always best to plant into clean, weed free soil. Should you plant and have grasses emerge along with your wildflowers, don’t despair! You can spray the area with “Grass Getter” which will kill the grass, but not harm your wildflowers.

  1. What do I do when my wildflowers are finished blooming?

  1. Clyde Robin. Once your flowers have finished blooming, they will normally start to dry up and set their seed for the following year. If you wait till the seed has matured, it will replenish your garden for fresh flowers in the spring. You can check to see if the seed pods are mature by opening one or two of them. If the seeds are brownish or black, or if they have started to harden up, they are OK for cutting. Once cut, you can just leave them on the ground. The pods will open naturally and dump their seed out.

  1. Can I save my own seed for next year’s planting?

  1. Clyde Robin. Only if the plants are species, not hybrid. A hybrid variety (sometimes marked F1) yields seeds that will produce plants with less hybrid vigor and with fewer characteristics of the hybrid seed originally planted. Our wildflower seeds are not hybrids.
    If your plants are not hybrids, there isn’t a reason why you can’t save seed over from year to year and grow your own. Sometimes that’s the only way you can perpetuate the species. Commercial seed vendors may not handle the variety you like, and often you cannot buy old-fashioned or heirloom varieties.

  1. Do Oriental poppies produce opium?

  1. Clyde Robin. If I had a dollar every time I have been asked this question . . . .! Well needless to say, the Oriental poppy is not the same as the Opium poppy. They are greatly different even though they both originated in the Mediterranean region. The Oriental poppy is a perennial (it comes up automatically each year), whereas the Opium poppy is an annual (it must be planted each year). The Oriental poppy has no narcotic properties and may be grown anywhere, and cultivation of the opium poppy is strictly controlled in the United States as well as in many other countries.

  1. Is there a perennial that we can plant in the spring and have it bloom all year long?

  1. Clyde Robin. There’s no such thing. If you want a long show you must plant several different kinds of perennials for a succession of blooms. You’ll need to plan it so when one fades out, another comes into bloom.

  1. How do I plant wildflower seed?

  1. Clyde Robin. Wildflowers are easy from seed. If seed is to be spring planted, first find an area that receives full sun most of the day. Remove the weeds. (Try Grass Getter®.) Rough up the soil to a depth of not more than two inches. Evenly apply the seed you have purchased over the prescribed area being careful not to plant too much seed on a small plot.

    Follow the planting recommendations included with your seed. Once your seed has been planted you may cross rake to mix the seed into the top ½ inch of soil. Keep the area moist for the next 2-3 weeks. This last step is probably the most important one. Don’t let your seed bed dry out during the day. If you are having rains, let the rains keep it moist, otherwise you will need to make sure it receives enough moisture.

  1. Can wildflowers be planted among grasses or other weeds?

  1. Clyde Robin. Your wildflower seed will not survive among grasses or other weeds,even if they are small at the time of planting. Wildflowers take between 14-21 days to germinate. In that time, small grass will have grown considerably. For best results, remove all grass and weeds prior to planting your seed. (We offer an excellent grass herbicde–try Grass Getter®.)

  1. How do I get rid of the weeds in my wildflowers?

  1. Clyde Robin. All plants fall into one of two categories. They are either narrow leaf or broad leaf in composition. All wildflowers are considered “broad leaf” plants.

    It has been our experience that grasses cause the most difficulty in planting wildflowers. They are fast growing and often out-compete the lesser aggressive wildflowers for space and sunlight. Grasses fall into the “narrow leaf” category of plant material and can be dealt with by using what is called a selective herbicide (one that selects which plants to eliminate). When correctly applied it will eliminate the narrow leaf plants and not harm the broad leaf plants.

    One selective herbicide which we have found highly successful is Grass Getter®. We use it and we can therefore recommend it to you. Follow directions carefully and you should easily eliminate the grasses from your wildflower planting.

  1. How long will it take before I have actual flowers?

  1. Clyde Robin. Generally, wildflowers take between 14-21 days to germinate. Once germinated, wildflowers take another 45-60 days before first blooms.

  1. How long will my wildflowers remain in bloom?

  1. Clyde Robin. Your wildflowers will remain blooming as long as there is sufficient soil moisture for them. If you live in an arid area, you will need to provide some summer water. In more temperate zones, your flowers will not require much water until late summer. Watch them carefully. When they start to show signs of stress it is time to give a little water.

  1. Do my wildflowers need fertilizer?

  1. Clyde Robin. As a general rule, they do not require fertilizer. Most fertilizers contain nitrogen which will only cause the plant to produce more foliage. If you want to fertilize, pay particular attention to the formulation which is always printed on the package. The N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potash) should read something like 10-60-10. It is the Phosphorous which produces healthy and large blooms. “Bloom Plus”, a Schultz product, is most likely available at your local nursery. It has a formulation similar to the one suggested.

  1. When is the best time to plant wildflower seeds?

  1. Clyde Robin. In temperate zones, it is best to plant in the fall just prior to the first rains. In areas that get hard winter freezes it is best to wait until the spring and after danger of heavy frost has passed. .

  1. What should I do once my flowers have finished blooming?

  1. Clyde Robin. Once your flowers have finished blooming you can cut them down. Before cutting however, make sure that they have “gone to seed”. Look inside the flower part of the plant and see if you can detect tiny seeds. Some flowers will make seed capsules, others will just set seed inside the flower head itself. The seed should be starting to darken in color and should have some hardness to it. If these conditions are present it is time to cut them down.

    The following season, the perennials will return normally from the root establishment as well as some small seed set. The annuals will return from seed which was produced the first year. In some harsh climates or in areas which have short growing seasons, the annual varieties may not have time to mature before a killing frost. If you live in one of the colder zones you may need to re-seed with annuals each spring to replicate first year color.

  1. Where can I get more help?

  1. Clyde Robin. Please try our own Discussion Group where we answer questions every business day. If we can’t help you, there are a lot of resources available to you on the Usenet news groups. Use your favorite newsgroup reader to subscribe to one of these.

    USENET resources on the web for gardening:

    • rec.gardens
    • rec.gardens.orchids
    • rec.gardens.roses
    • alt.bonsai
    • slac.rec.garden
    • triangle.gardens
    • pdaxs.services.gardening

    If we can’t provide you with what you are looking for, be sure to take a look at Gardenscape for a complete list of gardening companies on the web. Yahoo also has a number of resources about gardening. In addition, try the on About.com, or this personal page for a great compilation of gardening resources.

Wildflower planting dates largely depend on site location and geographic weather patterns. The planting timetable should be decided by seasonal precipitation in your area rather than by temperature. Wildflowers can be planted in the fall or early spring throughout all regions of the U.S. In the northern and northeastern geographic regions of the United States, USDA Zones 1 through 6, where extremely harsh winters are experienced, an early spring planting is recommended. In the Southern regions of the United States, USDA Zones 7 through 11, your wildflowers can be sown in early spring if desired. Note: There are risks associated with an early spring planting in USDA Zones 1 through 11. Warm spring weather and adequate rainfall will accelerate germination and seedling growth. However, if rainfall is sporadic after initial germination followed by an extremely hot, dry period, supplemental watering may be required to keep the ground from drying out and the seedling from dying. Fall Sowing In the southern and western portions of the United States, USDA Zones 7 through 11, the autumn months of September through December are the most favorable to plant your wildflowers. Many of the species will quickly germinate in order to allow the seedling enough time to establish a healthy root system before going dormant in the winter. Some of the seeds may not germinate if the ground temperature is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. These seeds will remain dormant within the soil until early spring and will begin to emerge under more favorable conditions. In the northern regions, USDA Zones 1 through 6, your wildflowers can be planted in late fall. If you decide to plant your seeds in the fall in Zones 1 through 6, the seed will remain dormant during the harsh winter months and germination will begin at the first indication of spring. NOTE: There are risks in sowing exotic garden varieties and “domesticated” species D in the fall. Freeze damage may kill these varieties if unseasonably cold temperatures persist for long periods of time.

There are around 1,600 species of wildflower in Britain and Ireland. But don’t worry, we aren’t going to list them all here!

This page focuses on the wildflowers that Grow Wild distributes through our seed kits, or has distributed in the past. If you received a kit in 2019, find out which seeds you’ve been sent.

These are a colourful and easy to grow mix of UK native-origin wildflowers. They’re researched and sourced by experts at the UK Native Seed Hub, which is part of Kew Science, in partnership with UK based seed suppliers.

How long after sowing can I expect to see flowers?

Our ‘Annual’ flowers put on a show in their first summer and quickly produce seed, dying in the process. These seeds then grow into new plants the following year. And so it goes on.

While the ‘Perennial’ flowers in the mix will wait to burst into flower in their second summer – and carry on for many years beyond, too.

The ‘Biennial’ flowers grow in their first year but don’t flower and produce seeds until their second year, although some occasionally defy convention by acting like annuals. After producing seeds, these plants usually die in the same way as an annual.

Make sure you follow this advice

Usage notice

Grow Wild seeds are not to be used in or near natural areas. Find out why.

Safety notice

Sensible garden precautions should be followed when growing wildflowers, so refrain from eating any plant not known to be edible, wash hands after working in the garden and before eating or touching lips and eyes, and see that pets and children who cannot be entirely trusted not to consume vegetation are supervised.

Grow Wild wildflowers

Agrimony

Agrimonia eupatoria

Agrimony is commonly found along roadsides, woodland edges, field edges and other well-drained grassy places. It has a long history of medicinal use, deriving its name from Argemone, a term used in ancient Greece to describe plants believed to beneficial to the eyes. The burred seed are exceptionally well-adapted to grip onto the fur of passing animals, like natural Velcro.

Autumn hawkbit

Scorzoneroides autumnalis (perennial)

Dandelion-like golden-yellow flowers appear from rosettes of leaves from June to October. The seeds are long and brown, attached to a parachute consisting of a single row of hairs.

Betony

Betonica officinalis (perennial)

The small clustered purple flowers and scalloped leaves of Betony are ideal for growing in damp, sunny or lightly shaded sites. It can sometimes be found growing in churchyards, where it was once believed to ward off evil spirits.

Bird’s foot trefoil

Lotus corniculatus (perennial)

A common meadow wild flower, the name refers to its elongated seedpods, each with a hook at the tip that looks like a bird’s foot. Its nectar provides a valuable food source for insects and is often grown by beekeepers.

Bladder campion

Silene vulgaris (perennial)

Bladder campion is named for the inflated ‘bladder’ at the base of each flower. The white flowers are clove-scented at night, attracting long-tongued moths able to reach deep into the flower tube.

Burnet saxifrage

Pimpinella saxifraga

A small, delicate plant found in well-drained, grassy places. Common names can be confusing – the divided leaves and wiry stems look like salad burnet, but this plant is a member of the carrot family and, strictly speaking, is neither a burnet nor a saxifrage.

Common or lesser knapweed

Centaurea nigra (perennial)

Thistle-like, vibrant-purple blooms, which reappear every year, once established. They provide a real burst of colour and attract bees and butterflies. Their seed heads provide food for birds.

Corn or common poppy

Papaver rhoeas (annual)

The classic poppy – vivid red with a near-black centre. It produces lots of seeds after flowering, which will germinate if the surrounding soil is disturbed. This means you may have poppies for years to come.

Corn chamomile

Anthemis arvensis (annual)

Also known as field chamomile, a mass of daisy-like white flowers with yellow centres appears on this plant from late May to September. The leaves, when crushed, give off a pleasant aroma.

Corncockle

Agrostemma githago (annual)

With attractive pinky purple flowers that are furled like a flag before they open, this hairy-stemmed wild flower is happy on most soils but grows best in a sunny, open spot.

Cornflower

Centaurea cyanus (annual)

Sow these seeds in sunny, well-drained soil and pretty bright-blue flower heads will appear on long stalks during midsummer. Look out for the common blue butterfly that feeds on its nectar.

Corn marigold

Glebionis segetum (annual)

These bright-yellow daisies pump out their sunny blooms for most of the summer. They look great in groups and produce a ready supply of nectar for pollinators.

Cowslip

Primula veris (perennial)

It’s not the most elegant of plant names – thought to derive from the old English for cow dung – but its delicate nodding yellow flowers are still a welcome sight in open grassland, and increasingly on roadsides, where it’s been reintroduced.

Crested dogs-tail

Cynosurus cristatus (perennial)

A characteristic grass of flower-rich meadows, crested dogs-tail is tough enough to crowd out weeds whilst still allowing your flowers to grow. Although quite short-lived, the unusual flat flower heads release huge quantities of seeds each year to keep the display going.

Devil’s bit scabious

Succisa pratensis (perennial)

According to folklore, the devil was furious at this plant’s powerful medicinal properties, and bit off the roots – hence the stubby rootstock. The violet-blue flowers look like a pincushion and provide a good source of nectar, particularly to the marsh fritillary butterfly.

Field scabious

Knautia arvensis (perennial)

Dainty lilac pompom-like flowers bloom on tall stems between July and September, which are attractive to pollinating bees. Their stems are hairy and similar in texture to scabby skin.

Foxglove

Digitalis purpurea (biennial)

If you try fitting one of these flowers over one of your fingertips, you’ll soon see why the scientific name of this cottage-garden favourite means ‘finger-like’. Its foliage can be deadly poisonous, but in controlled doses, can be used medicinally.

Garlic mustard

Alliaria petiolata (biennial)

Typical of hedges and woodlands, garlic mustard enjoys damp, shady conditions. It flowers early, from April onwards, and has garlic-scented leaves and flowers.

Giant bellflower

Campanula latifolia (perennial)

Tall spires of purple, bell-shaped flowers make an impressive display in damp woodlands, riversides, hedgerows and gardens.

Great mullein

Verbascum thapsus (biennial)

Great mullein is unmistakable, with enormous yellow flower spikes growing up to two metres tall and setting vast quantities of seed. The large furry leaves are a feature too, providing food for caterpillars including the yellow and black-spotted mullein moth.

Greater stitchwort

Stellaria holostea (perennial)

A pretty spring flower of country lanes and hedgerows, this species was once believed to cure stitches caused by too much exercise. Seed is dispersed with a noisy pop, giving it the alternative common name of ‘popgun’.

Hedge bedstraw

Galium album (perennial)

Similar to Lady’s bedstraw, but bigger and tougher. The tiny white flowers that bloom on long stems from June to September develop into smooth black fruits after being pollinated by flies.

Hedge woundwort

Stachys sylvatica (perennial)

A vigorous perennial, thriving in a range of conditions including damp, fertile and lightly shaded hedgerows and verges. The furry leaves have a pungent, astringent smell when crushed.

Imperforate St John’s wort

Hypericum maculatum (perennial)

A hairless square-stemmed plant with golden-yellow flowers, typically with five petals and black dots. It likes heavy, damp soils and is often seen in flower along roadsides and woodland edges between June and August.

Lady’s bedstraw

Galium verum (perennial)

A sprawling plant that will return every year. It produces golden-yellow flowers throughout summer, which provide food for hummingbird hawk-moths and elephant hawk-moths.

Meadow buttercup

Ranunculus acris (perennial)

Pretty yellow buttercups gently sway on top of delicate stems. They really enjoy moist soil, although will put on some kind of show in most conditions.

Meadowsweet

Filipendula ulmaria (perennial)

This moisture-loving plant puts on a display of fluffy-white flowers in high summer. It self-seeds if it’s in a plot it likes, meaning if you’re lucky it will increase year after year.

Musk Mallow

Malva moschata(perennial)

The pale pink flowers and finely cut leaves of musk mallow make a beautiful display in rough grasslands and roadsides. The flowers are attractive to pollinators too, helped at night by the musky fragrance that gives the plant its name.

Nettle-leaved bellflower

Campanula trachelium (perennial)

Large bell-shaped blue flowers make this a beautiful wildflower of hedgerows and woodland edges. The hairy leaves do resemble nettles, but they don’t sting!

Night-scented catchfly

Silene noctiflora (annual)

This sticky, hairy annual species was traditionally found amongst arable crops and in cultivated or disturbed ground. The flowers are tightly closed during the day, but open at night to release a strong scent and attract night-flying insects.

Oxeye daisy

Leucanthemum vulgare (perennial)

Just like the daisies you’d find in a lawn, although with bigger flowers and taller stems. Their white petals with yellow centres put on a show from June to August. They’re loved by pollinating insects.

Perforate St John’s wort

Hypericum perforatum (perennial)

This medicinal plant has round stems with two raised ridges and golden-yellow flowers with distinctive translucent dots from June to September.

Primrose

Primula vulgaris (perennial)

One of our earliest flowering wildflowers and a delightful sight in hedgerows and woodlands in spring. The pale yellow flowers are sweetly-scented, well worth getting on your hands and knees to enjoy!

Purple loosestrife

Lythrum salicaria (perennial)

Pollinated by long-tongued bees and butterflies and often found in bog gardens or pond margins. Candle-like spikes of pink to purple flowers appear on tall stems in midsummer.

Quaking grass

Briza media (perennial)

This beautiful grass thrives in infertile and preferably dry soil. The purple-tinged flower heads hang on delicate wiry stems, ‘quaking’ gently in the breeze.

Ragged robin

Silene flos-cuculi (perennial)

A close relative of common red campion, this annual species is distinguished by a profusion of ragged pink flowers. They enjoy damp sites, and are often found near ponds and streams.

Red campion

Silene dioica (perennial)

The vivid pink flowers of this delicate plant really perk up the mix. It likes a bit of shade and moist soil, so you’re likely to see it thrive if your growing conditions offer this.

Red clover

Trifolium pratense (perennial)

Less vigorous than its white cousin, red clover is a familiar wildflower of meadows and pastures everywhere. It is a rich provider of nectar and pollen, of particular value to our many native bumblebees.

Red dead-nettle

Lamium purpurea (annual)

This common and easily-grown annual is one of the first flowers to open in spring, providing nectar for bumble bees and other early-flying insects. The seed have a special adaptation to allow them to be picked up and carried by ants.

Ribwort plantain

Plantago lanceolata (perennial)

Not the prettiest wild flower, but it’s great for wildlife. It can become a bit rampant, but it’s an important part of the UK’s grassland so worth nurturing.

Salad burnet

Poterium sanguisorba (perennial)

A tough groundcover plant on infertile, chalky soils, salad burnet also grows well in gardens and pots. The leaves are cucumber-scented when crushed, with tiny deep-pink flowers held in dense drumsticks above the foliage.

Scentless mayweed

Tripleurospermum inodorum (annual)

This annual is typical of cultivated and disturbed ground, with cheerful white and yellow daisies in mid to late summer. Unlike other similar species, they produce no scent when crushed.

Selfheal

Prunella vulgaris (perennial)

This purplish blue-flowered perennial was once an important therapeutic plant – its leaves were crushed and used to dress skin wounds and syrup made with the flowers and leaves was thought to cure sore throats.

Square-stalked St John’s wort

Hypericum tetrapterum (perennial)

Also known as St Peter’s wort, this moisture-loving plant has distinctive winged square stems and pale-yellow five-petalled flowers that bloom from June to September.

Sweet vernal-grass

Anthoxanthum odoratum (perennial)

One of the first grasses to flower in old meadows and pastures, sweet vernal grass contains high levels of vanilla-scented coumarin, giving freshly-cut hay its characteristic sweet smell.

Tansy

Tanecetum vulgare (perennial)

Tansy is one native wildflowers that has long found a place in our gardens, with finely divided foliage, bright yellow flowers and a host of medicinal uses. The whole plant is powerfully aromatic when crushed, and although attractive to pollinators has traditionally been used as an insect repellent.

Tufted vetch

Vicia cracca (perennial)

Showy violet-purple pea-like flowers appear on long stems that scramble through vegetation, using branched tendrils growing from the tips of its leaves. It’s particularly popular with bumblebees.

Upright hedge-parsley

Torillis japonica (biennial)

Often mistaken for common cow parsley, upright hedge parsley flowers later in the summer and has more upright stems without dark blotches. The flowers are a magnet for pollinating insects, including hoverflies and small beetles.

Viper’s-bugloss

Echium vulgare (biennial)

This eye-catching, bristly-stemmed plant stands out on chalky grasslands and clifftops thanks to its vivid bright blue flowers, which bloom from June to September. It’s also a great food source for butterflies, bumblebees and honey bees.

White campion

Silene latifolia (perennial)

This hairy and often sticky annual or short-lived perennial has white flowers, each with five deeply-notched petals. They can cross-pollinate with red campion to produce a beautiful pink hybrid.

White clover

Trifolium repens (perennial)

A familiar sight in lawns, meadows and road verges, white clover provides a banquet of nectar for pollinating insects. It provides rich grazing for farm animals too, so has been sown by farmers for hundreds of years.

White dead-nettle

Lamium album (perennial)

At first glance, this plant looks like a stinging nettle, but if it has large white flowers, the leaves won’t sting you. The nectar at the base of the tube-like flowers provides an important food source for bumblebees.

Wild basil

Clinopodium vulgare (perennial)

A surprisingly tough herb, able to compete with vigorous plants in open grasslands, scrub, woodland edges, hedgerows and other places, usually on dry, chalky soil. Unlike culinary basil, which originates in southern Asia, our native plant is hairy with tiers of beautiful pink flowers around the stem. The leaves are pleasantly scented – whether they smell of basil is a matter of opinion!

Wild carrot

Daucus carota (biennial)

The mostly off-white, flat, umbrella-like heads of flowers are pretty, but don’t expect a bumper crop from these. The roots smell of carrots but, unlike the cultivated ones, are thin, wiry and woody.

Wild marjoram

Origanum vulgare (perennial)

Loved by butterflies, this popular kitchen herb has oval leaves and dark purple buds which burst in to clusters of sweet-smelling pink and purple flowers. Sow it in a well-drained, sunny spot.

Wild thyme / common thyme

Thymus polytrichus (perennial)

Like the familiar culinary thyme, which hails from the Mediterranean, our native thyme is pungently scented and enjoys baking in hot, dry and sunny sites. The pink flower spikes are attractive too, and a magnet for pollinating insects.

Wood sage

Teucrium scorodonia (perennial)

Wood sage enjoys lightly-shaded sites where its soft downy leaves can spread across the ground without too much disturbance. The leaves are slightly scented when crushed, with small spikes of yellow-green flowers in late summer.

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium (perennial)

This hardy plant is found frequently in meadows, grasslands, along roadsides and among hedges. It has dark green, feathery leaves and clusters of delicate white flower heads which give off a strong perfume when in bloom – between June and August.

Yellow rattle

Rhinanthus minor (annual)

If you turn this unusual-looking yellow flower upside down, the upper lip looks like a nose, hence its name, ‘nose flower’ in Greek. The flower base later forms a capsule filled with loose, rattling seeds when ripe.

The 3 P’s Of Establishing Wild Flowers Successfully.

Planning, Preparation & Patience

Planning.

It may be possible to buy a packet of wild flower seed simply spread it on some grass and see the wild flowers flourish. In most cases though this approach will fail.

There are different types of wild flowers and different sources. It is not the case that one is right and the other is wrong. The following will hopefully give you some ideas as to the different approaches.

There are two main types of wild flowers Annuals and Perennials.

Annuals are generally very colourful such as Poppies, Cornflower and Corn Marigold but they will flower only once and can be difficult to get to re-grow in following years.

Perennials take longer to get established but will come back year after year after they have flowered.

It may be possible sow a combination of both annuals and perennials and get the best of both worlds.

Grass or No Grass

The next thing you have to decide is whether you want to sow wild flowers on their own or with grass. Wild Flower perennials look best when they grow and flower with grass as a backdrop. If there is no grass then the wild flowers can look like a large patch of weeds when not in flower. On a small area sowing just wild flowers can create an attractive wild flower border. On larger areas sowing grass with the wild flower perennials will give a more natural look.

Wild Flowers generally struggle to compete and get established. Some thought therefore should be given to where you’re going to plant them and the level of competition that is there at present. For the best chance of success you need to be able to remove as much of the competition as possible. Therefore you may need lead in time to be able to do that before sowing new seed.

What & Where to Buy

There are many organisations and companies now selling Wild Flower seed and it can be confusing sometimes as to what you are buying. The market falls roughly into three segments.

  • There are companies like us who sell a range of Wild Flowers best described as native ones. This means the Wild Flowers have been grown and produced in the UK and are native to the UK.
  • There are a few companies who have successfully developed a range of wild flower mixtures based on the species from around the world. These create diverse meadows and often have waves of single colours.
  • There are also many companies selling packets and boxes called wild flowers with little description as to what is in the product and where the wild flowers come from.

Planning summary

1. Decide how long you want the wild flowers to last.

2. Decide where in the garden you are going to put the wild flowers and how much competition is there.

3. Decide where you’re going to source the product from and how important the type of wild flower species are to you.

Preparation

All three of the P’s could have stood for preparation. As we have already said wild flowers do not like to much competition to start with. It is often suggested that perennial wild flowers will do best on poor soils. This is not because they will not grow on more fertile conditions but that species that you do not want such as docks will make better use of any fertility.

Sowing time.

Mid March through to Mid May. Mid August through to Mid October. If sowing Cornfield Annuals in the spring, ideally they should be sown by Mid April. They take 10 to 12 weeks as a minimum from sowing to flowering.

One key to success in sowing in the spring is that seed will need warm conditions and moisture before starting to grow. The key to temperature is soil temperature which takes some time to warm up. The best soil temperature for seeds to start germinating is 7-10°C which is usually reached by mid to late March across the UK. Soil temperature is not the same as the general temperature.

Ground Preparation

You need to prepare the ground so that you have a good, even, level seed bed before sowing.

The more competition you have got rid of the better chance of success. If you have the time you should leave the ground fallow for a while before planting. This will encourage the large existing seed bank to germinate. You can then kill of or remove that before planting the seed.

Wild flower seed is generally very small and does not want to be planted too deep. Ideally broadcast the seed on top and roll afterwards. If you cannot roll the ground simply walk all over it, the aim is to push the seed into the ground rather than bury it.

Seed rates

Cornfield annual mixes at 2 grams to the square metre

100% wild flower seed mixes at 1.5 grams to the square metre

Grass & wild flower seed mixes at 4 grams to the square metre.

After Sowing

Our advice generally is not to water. Let nature take its course. Clearly if it does not rain for weeks after sowing then you may want to consider it. But in those conditions it takes lot of water before there is enough water at the very top of the soil to germinate the seed.

The key thing to remember with preparation is that once having sown the wild flowers there is very little you can do to remedy anything. If you are looking to sow a long term meadow then wait until you have the preparation right before sowing rather than rush to sow the seed.

Preparation Summary

  1. 1. Clear the ground of competition and create a good seed bed.
  2. 2. If possible leave time to encourage the existing seed bank to germinate then kill that off as well.
  3. 3. Choose the appropriate seed rate, do not over sow.
  4. 4. Wait until the ground conditions are warm enough
  5. 5. Broadcast the seed on top and roll.
  6. 6. After sowing wait for it to rain.

Patience

Gardening is one of those frustrating things where you can do everything right and it can still go wrong.

If sowing a Cornfield annual mix then you are going to find out fairly quickly if it is working or not. Sow in April and by the end of June you may know if it has worked.

A perennial wild flower meadow is a longer term investment. Many of the perennial species are slow to establish and may not start to appear until the second or third year.

Some species such as ox eye daisy and wild carrot are tall and can dominate early on in the meadows life.

The key point would be with a wild flower meadow early in its life as Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army might say Don’t panic!

It may be that it has all gone completely wrong and you need to start again.

But do not rush to rip it up. Time will naturally change the balance of the meadow. You can also change it by when you mow or cut it down. Mowing it earlier say in July may sacrifice some of the flowering season but it may suppress some species that you may not want.

There will be times when meadows fail and need to be restarted but do not rush to do this give it some time. The risk is always you start again and end back where you are now in a few years time!

If you need any more information or advice then please feel free to contact us at [email protected]

Copyright MAS Seeds March 2015

Native Plants

What exactly are native plants?

They are usually defined as plants recorded as growing wild in an area at the time that scientific collection began in that area. Other plants are considered introduced. The scope of Wildflowers covers several Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin). Plants included on the website are native to one or more of those states (some may also be native to states outside the scope of this website).

From a more subjective viewpoint, gardeners need to consider what native means to them. Some people are satisfied as long as the plant is considered native to North America or the United States. Others may feel that they only want to use plants native to the state in which they live. Yet others may want plants to be native to their immediate area (the region or county in which they live). Each gardener must decide what they will accept as native.

Some of the native wildflowers have become “domesticated” over the years and there may be cultivated varieties available that differ from the species. Again, each gardener must decide if they will be a “purist”, growing only naturally occurring species, or if they will accept these cultivated varieties. The website features only naturally occurring species.

A Note of Caution

The interest in native plants is growing, but a plant’s nativity does not make it automatically a great garden plant. Every native plant will not be a good match for every garden. Some native plants can be aggressive in their growth, so that factor must be considered, especially if the plant will be placed in a small garden. If naturalizing is the goal, however, plants that are aggressive growers or self-sowers could be considered desirable.

Not all native plants are attractive and that should be taken into consideration. This is a subjective decision that each gardener must make. Another subjective choice, but a far more serious one, is the matter of poisonous plants. Among both introduced plants and natives, there are plants that may be harmful to some degree and a few that are deadly. It is not the intent of this website to list which plants are poisonous. In some cases, the poisonous nature of a plant has been noted, if the plant is particularly toxic. However, if a plant is not designated as poisonous, it is not automatically a ‘safe’ plant. Safety should always be a concern in the garden. Don’t select a plant without knowing more about it, whether it is a native or introduced plant.

Misconceptions about Native Plants

There are some commonly held misconceptions about native plants. It is often stated that native plants have fewer disease and insect problems. This is not necessarily true. Some native plants have few problems while others are constantly plagued. We have higher expectations in a managed landscape. A native plant suffering from a disease or insect in the woods, may go unnoticed. The same plant in a traditional landscape may give a poor appearance.

Another misconception is that native plants are adapted to the area so they will have superior growth. In terms of cold hardiness, this is true. However, when we look at soil conditions we see a different picture. Many of the soils in suburban and urban sites are disturbed; they may be primarily subsoil (which is inadequate for plant growth) or a subsoil/topsoil mix. Mycorrhizal fungi that are found in undisturbed soils may be missing. These fungi help native plants absorb water and nutrients from the soil, leading to better growth. So we may have a native plant in an altered environment. This doesn’t mean that native plants can’t be grown in urban and suburban sites. It means that we must do what we can to make those sites as appropriate as possible. We should expect the possibility that the plant will not reach its full potential (in terms of size and flowering) in these sites.

A third misconception is that native plants are always more desirable than non-native species. Poison ivy and poison sumac are natives, but they are far from desirable. Some natives are aggressive growers, spreading rapidly. They may overwhelm a small yard or may not fit well in a traditional landscape. As with any plant group, careful selections need to be made.

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As a Chicago gardener, I can’t wait for a charming array of flowers to take over the city. I’ve already spotted colorful tulips at neighbor’s houses and weeping willows making its transition to the sunny climate. I’m sure our cosmos and tiger lilies are eager to decorate our backyard garden, just as a renewed membership to a botanical garden will decorate our days in this season of blossoms.

There is one note worth mentioning: no matter where you are in Chicago, beautiful flowers can and will be seen all over, in the smallest of neighborhood spots and in the most majestic of places. All one has to do is master the art of flower viewing, which simply translates to keeping your eyes open for the beautiful things in life.

So, where to start?

In the search for lovely flowers, some well-known places to start are The Lurie Garden in downtown Chicago, The Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Garfield Park Conservatory in Garfield Park, The Morton Arboretum in Lisle and Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

You must remember though, sometimes the best places for those newborn or sibling shots amongst flowers can be right in your backyard. Think community gardens: schools, sidewalks, parks, restaurants. Here are a few gardens we love:

Kilbourn Greenhouse

3501 N. Kilbourn Ave., Chicago

Kilbourn Park features native Illinois flowers and delicious edible plants. Perhaps the Garden Buddies program, its annual plant sale or its harvest festival featuring hands-on crafts, organic gardening demonstrations and cooking demonstrations will inspire your family to take flower-watching to the next level: gardening!

Wicker Park Community Garden

1425 N. Damen Avenue, Chicago

Spread across 10,000 square feet of space, is a home to beautiful blooms, birds and pollinators. This neighborhood garden allows for daily walks, pictures and hands-on activities through the Wicker Park Garden Club.

The Bahá’í House Of Worship For North America

100 Linde Ave., Wilmette

The harmonious temples inspiring unity in humankind are surrounded by gardens featuring Chinese juniper trees and two dozen varieties of flowers, including magnificent arrangements of more than 10,000 tulips.

Cornell Oasis Community Garden

5491 S. Shore Drive, Chicago

This is the place to truly understand wildflowers. As you take a stroll the woods, you can gaze at the ferns, woodlands and wildflowers, all while spotting a variety of butterflies and birds which lead to the oasis’s 42 garden plots.

Rainbow Beach Garden

3111 E. 77th St., Chicago

This is beautiful garden, whose heart lies in the history of its creation dating back to the depression era, is home to beautiful blooms and paths that will leave you amazed.

To find your local community garden visit: chicagocommunitygardens.org.

Life on a Beautiful Background

Growing Wildflowers for a Backyard Cutting Garden

Having a cutting flower garden is what I consider the height of luxury. Just walk to your backyard and clip an instant gift for yourself and friends. Y’all? A FREE gift that people think is SO amazing? Yes, please. I love making myself and others feel special, and my bank account loves that I am not buying expensive presents to accomplish that.

If you don’t already garden, then let me share a secret–growing things is magic, pure and simple. Put a seed in the ground, add water and light, then something grows. It’s so amazing. Glorious. Soul-searchingly lovely to see. I read once that making a list of what I am thankful for is a scientifically proven mood-lifting habit. I love this tidbit even more–the more basic your notes of gratitude, the more mundane or essential, the more satisfaction you get from making this list of gratitudes. It sounds silly, but each day, I try to remember to be grateful for breathing and for the magic of placing a seed in dirt that will turn into flowers. It feels so nice to marvel at beautiful growth where there was once nothing. My simple garden reminds me what matters in life.

Ashley Palmer prompted me hard to write this post. She said she’d never considered that you could just grow flowers like the beautiful ones you buy at the farmer’s market (Which I still buy those too; I have a flower problem.). I guess I started learning from my mom. She had amazing hydrangeas, but mostly her garden stayed outside. My friend Whitney’s mom Carla, she is the one who brought me my first cutting flower seeds–zinnia seeds she had collected from her previous year’s garden. Not only did Carla teach me about growing your own flowers, but she taught me about plant sharing, another great passion of mine. That’s a whole other blog post. I love that you can just be walking along in your life, doing your own thing, then BAM, you learn about growing flowers. I hope this post does that for someone.

Most mornings, I go into my garden with my sweet daughter, Harriet. We put our boots and woven hats on, and head to the raised beds hand in hand. We decide on someone who may like flowers from us (anyone with a heart and no serious floral allergies), and Harriet points out the ones to clip. It’s been a really precious ritual for us. I tell her, “It makes people feel good to get flowers. Who should we cut some for?” Sometimes it’s Grandma or her babysitter, sometimes it’s Daddy. And often, it’s just us. We deserve flowers too. If you want to add this simple, glorious pleasure to your life and home, below are my tips to get started.

Quick Step Guide to Wild Flowers:

1. Find some dirt. Flower bed? Plot of earth you won’t be mowing over? Pot of dirt? Raised bed? Yes to any of these! Wildflowers tend to like light, but read the seed packet directions to make sure your dirt is in the right light for your seeds.

2. Rough that dirt up slightly. Run a small rake over it or use your fingers. Just scruff it.

3. Sprinkle wild flower seeds. May I suggest zinnias or cosmos? I did a variety pack this year, and still those are the best growers for me, here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

4. Lightly swish the dirt around again or sprinkle a very thin layer of dirt over the seeds.

5. Water them! And keep them watered over the next few weeks (or maybe you’ll get lots of April showers!).

A few follow up notes:

*Check your seed packet for how long it takes for them to germinate. Zinnias take about two months. It’s nice to know how long you should expect to wait before seeing sprouts.
*Check seed packets for the right time to plant…I think about planting flowers around March/April.

Finally you guys, growing things changes every year. Growing zinnias or tomatoes or anything is never the same each year because the weather is always different. Cold winters, hot winters, dry springs, certain pests…these things all can affect your garden, and you just have to take a deep breath and be cool about it. It’s life. Sometimes it grows, sometimes it doesn’t. Do some research and try again. I just know every time I get my hands dirty and my heart outside, it’s a better day. And typically I end up with flowers. I hope you do too.

Growing Wildflowers

The beauty of wildflowers is they’re easy to grow, colorful from spring until fall, they provide color for years with little maintenance, and they attract wildlife such as butterflies and birds to your yard.

Here’s how to select and grow the right wildflowers for your area.

Types of Wildflowers

It’s best to grow the right type of wildflowers for your location. Wildflower seed mixes re often created for different regions of the country. These mixes are a blend of annual and perennial flowers and come in packages ranging from small tins to huge sacks. Although growing all one type of wildflower creates a more dramatic look, growing a mixture is insurance that some of the flowers will thrive. Annual flowers will dominate the mix the first year, and some may self-sow for a second year of flowers. Perennials will take over from the second year onward.

Another option is to plant wildflower seed mats. These contain a mix of annual and perennial flower seeds woven into a 5-foot-long mat. Just lay the mat over cultivated ground, water, and watch the flowers grow. The mat eventually decomposes. It’s much simpler and less messy than sowing seeds, and it’s great for creating small wildflower patches. The mats also come in themes, such as butterfly garden mats, that are filled with flowers to attract our winged friends.

When To Plant Wildflowers

While late summer and fall are the best times of year to plant many wildflowers, early spring also is an option, especially for wildflower mixes dominated by annual flowers. Also, if you live in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 6, sowing in spring insures perennial wildflowers will be well established to survive a harsh winter.

On the other hand, some warm-season native wildflowers, such as Texas bluebonnet and Indian blanket, need to be planted in late summer and fall for best growth. The winter rains and cool temperatures allow these plants to become established before spring. However, that shouldn’t stop you from buying and giving these seed mixes to friends and family members this holiday season. The seeds, if stored in a dark, cool room, should be fine until sowing.

Planting Techniques

Be creative when planting wildflowers. While the most popular method is a meadow in the backyard, wildflowers can be grown in median strips along roadways, between fruit trees in the yard, or even as a replacement for your lawn in difficult to mow sections. Wherever you grow them, take time to prepare the soil first.

Wildflowers grow best in full sun on well-drained soil. The planting area should be only lightly cultivated. Don’t cultivate the soil deeply or you’ll bring up weed seeds that will compete with your wildflowers. Consider tilling a second time, one to two weeks after the initial cultivation, to kill any annual weeds that may have germinated. You can also use a flame weeder or an organic herbicide to kill the weeds before seeding. In small areas, try hand removing perennial weeds, such as dandelions and burdock, to reduce competition.

Once the soil is prepared, mix the wildflower seeds with sand or vermiculite to distribute them evenly. Use one (for larger seeds) to four (smaller seeds) parts sand to one part seed. When seeding, walk first in one direction, then in the other to get complete seed coverage. In small areas, walk over the planting bed several times to press the seeds into the soil. In larger areas, use a lawn roller. Once the seeds germinate, remove any obvious weeds, such as grasses. At the end of the season, mow down the wildflower patch to reduce weeds and spread the seeds from annual flowers. Next spring the flower show will return on its own.

Wildflowers Indoors

While just enjoying the wildflowers as they bloom is perfectly fine, some gardeners like to cut the flowers for indoor arrangements. The best time to harvest wildflowers for bouquets is in early morning. Use sharp clippers to cut off stems and to cut away leaves and dead or dying parts. Later, recut the stems at an angle to the length desired. Don’t remove all the flowers, though; leave some to make seeds for next year.

Grow a Wild Flower Meadow

With perennial wildflowers, it’s wise to stick exclusively with natives, which will become the permanent anchor plants in your wildflower meadow and will slowly elbow out more short-lived annuals.

“Native plants are best for native critters, but beyond that is the fact that native plants are adapted to the local soil and environmental conditions. So, they don’t need additional water and fertilizer,” says Donna VanBuecken, executive director of Wild Ones (www.for-wild.org), a national organization that promotes landscaping practices that preserve or restore native plant communities. “If your objective is to heal the Earth, then the goal is to build a biodiversified native community that includes plants, insects, butterflies and other wildlife.”

You can buy perennial plants from a native plant nursery or grow your own, which is a fun project in itself. Two methods work especially well: sowing seeds in a specially prepared nursery bed in the fall, and rooting stem-tip cuttings taken from established plants in the spring. A third option is to adopt plants rescued from places being cleared for new construction — a tactic VanBuecken uses. Organized plant rescues also are conducted by numerous native plant societies, which now exist in almost every state. If you’re rescuing on your own, always get permission from the landowner first, and dig plants in the morning so you can spend the afternoon transplanting them into the ground

In addition to blooming wildflowers, a sustainable perennial meadow should also include grasses. The best ones are native warm-season bunch grasses or sedges that stabilize the site and make great neighbors for perennial wildflowers. “There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between grasses and flowers,” says Alan Wade, who has worked with Midwestern native plants at Minnesota-based Prairie Moon Nursery for 22 years. “Grasses alone can fail after 10 years or so, and flowers by themselves usually have a lot of weeds.” In terms of planning, it’s best to shoot for an equal mix of grasses and flowers, allowing some leeway for preferences your site may reveal to you over time

I wait until I begin plugging in perennials to establish grasses. With few exceptions, seeds of warm-season bunch grasses, such as little bluestem, germinate best when planted directly into the soil in spring. Spring also is an excellent season to transplant egg-sized plugs of grass cut from wild stands with a sharp knife. Once you know what to look for finding donor swaths of native grasses is pretty easy

After the little perennials and grasses are in place comes a season of hand weeding. By this time, you’ll start recognizing both the weeds in the site and the plants you want to grow. To minimize disturbance to young wildflowers and grasses, pull weeds when the soil is wet, and get them while they’re small.

From this point on, you can maintain your little meadow by cutting it down once a year with a weed trimmer, or you can use loppers to nip out individual plants as they fail and stockpile the debris. I like to clean out the debris, because neatness counts in my meadow. As space opens up in winter, chop through the pile of withered plants and return them to the site as mulch. Then wait until early spring to mow so the plot can provide shelter and habitat for birds and other small critters through the winter.

Tips from the Pros

“Create several little meadows as opposed to one big one. “Most yards are filled with soil brought in from different places, so it’s possible that plants that do poorly in one area may thrive in another. Later on, when the plants seed out, they will relocate where they want to grow.” — Donna VanBuecken, Wild Ones

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“While sowing seed, cover a few places with pieces of carpet or tarp. Later on, you can use these unsown places as weed indicators. Plants that match those in the weed indicator plots are weeds, not the wildflowers you sowed.”

“Dominant species will change over the years. Celebrate the changes and the diversity, but don’t be afraid to edit as needed.”

“Become sensitive to your site. Watch it for a year, mow it from time to time, and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.”

Restoring a Field

In some fortunate situations, the land already hosts a good basic population of meadow plants — like a thin stand of native bunch grasses and wildflowers — so the main task is hoeing out weeds and replacing them with a diversified guild of native plants. Keith Bowers, president and founder of Biohabitats, a Maryland-based firm that restores dry and wetland landscapes across the country, tells of one such site where his team plugged in a few plants and added bird feeders and perches, so that birds would bring in seeds from adjoining land with good stands of desirable wildflowers.

I was not so lucky when I wanted to create a wildflower meadow in an abandoned field. My land was covered with tall fescue, a grass too big and rowdy to share quarters with wildflowers. Not wanting to use herbicides, I hitched the disc onto the tractor and shredded the stuff to bits. Then I sowed corn poppies, envisioning a beautiful field of flowers the following spring. It didn’t work. The soil was too poor to support the flowers, and the fescue came back with a vengeance.

Not willing to give up, the next fall I planted a soil-building cover crop, crimson clover, mixed with bachelor button seeds. The planting made a great show in spring, but I was still seeing quite a bit of fescue. After a few more drags of the disc, I sowed a smother crop of sulphur cosmos mixed with nitrogen-fixing crowder peas. The land liked this regimen so well that I repeated it for another year. By then, the fescue was gone, and I was able to begin planting native wildflowers

I used the “kitchen-sink” approach, throwing in seeds of everything I thought might work. I also dug in asters, goldenrods, broomsedge and other natives I found elsewhere on my property and plunked them down in the meadow. I had to sell the place while the meadow was still a work in progress, but after three years of interesting effort, it was coming along quite nicely

Fall-sown cover crops rarely winterkill in Zone 7 (average minimum winter temperatures between zero and 10 degrees), but in climates where they do, they offer an excellent way to prepare a field for wildflowers. Oats work great for this purpose, and the dead plants can be left in place as a weed-suppressing mulch. If the site needs more work to control invasive species, plant it with buckwheat in summer. When preparing space for a restored prairie (the Midwest’s version of a native wildflower meadow), Wade often spends two years on site preparation before sowing seed or plugging in plants. “Weed competition is the main reason new meadows fail,” he says

The best times to plant seed are spring and fall, and each season has advantages. Wildflower seeds often do best when seeded in the fall, while warm-season grasses germinate best when sown in spring. On the other hand, weed competition is greater in spring, less in fall. The choice is yours

In both seasons, Bowers says good seeding technique is important. “Except for some cool-season grasses, the seeds don’t germinate well unless they are buried beneath a quarter inch of soil.” You can press the seeds in place with a roller, or do it using human power by walking over the seeded area while tamping around with the backside of a shovel

Whether you use seeds or plants (marked with sticks or plant labels), the main task the first season after planting is mowing. Mow the infant meadow every three weeks or so at a height of 4 to 8 inches. You can use your lawn mower if the blade can be set as high as 4 inches, or you can use a string trimmer. Evenness of cut is not as important as regularly topping back the plants, which will include those you planted as well as numerous weeds. Mowing keeps the weeds from setting seeds, encourages the flowers and grasses to stay low, developing roots and crowns, and keeps enough light coming through to coax slow-sprouting seeds to life. Limit weeding to battles with superweeds such as bindweed or Canada thistle, which should be sliced off at ground level with a sharp knife.on’t pull them, which will disturb little seedlings while dragging more weed seeds to the surface.

In the second year, management of a wildflower meadow involves weeding, weeding and then more weeding. You won’t disturb the soil if you use a pair of pruning shears to cut weeds off at ground level. Switch to a knife to cut around the base of big, woody weeds. For tap-rooted weeds such as dandelion or dock, use a fishtail weeder, also called a dandelion fork.

Maintenance Mowing

In its third season, weeding a wildflower meadow of any size becomes much more casual, and you won’t need to mow until fall. “A regular lawn mower won’t work. You’ll need a weed trimmer with a blade attachment,” Wade says. Or, you can go low-tech with a swing blade or machete. Be prepared to encounter stems as much as an inch in diameter and chop down everything to about 4 inches. The main reason to mow a young meadow in the fall is to disperse seed over a wide area, which is an easy way to support the reseeding process naturally. After four or five years, you can switch to spring mowing, which preserves wildlife habitat through winter and allows you to enjoy the show as wind riffles through dried grass, birds snap up seeds and snow turns plant skeletons into white sculptures

It is also good to burn a mature meadow in early spring, though other considerations — such as safety and air quality — make mowing more practical for most people. As for the debris that accumulates when you mow, you can gather it up or let it lay. Tallgrass prairies or wetland meadows may produce so much debris that it will smother little plants, but meadows composed of low-growing species don’t usually need to be raked after mowing

By this time, your meadow may make suggestions for refinement. “Dominant species will change over the years. Celebrate the changes and the diversity, but don’t be afraid to edit as needed” says Cheryl Lowe, horticulture director at the New England Wild Flower Society’s Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Mass. Maybe you’ll want to increase populations of some plants (hint: root some stem-tip cuttings), or get rid of some you don’t like. “Once you put a meadow in, the process doesn’t end,” Bowers says. “That’s where it begins.” You consider what you have, think about where you want to go, and little by little, you get there. Look around you. Nature works this way all the time.

Learn from Your Local Landscapes

What plants should you put in your wildflower meadow? Instead of using the pictures on a package of wildflower seeds as your vision, get familiar with natural wildflower meadows in your area. Keith Bowers of Biohabitats calls these “reference ecosystems,” and he thinks they offer the best possible lessons in learning to read your land and its latent possibilities. Alan Wade of Prairie Moon Nursery agrees completely. “Look for local, natural landscaping groups and get advice from other people in your area. Contact the Nature Conservancy to find out about local natural areas you can visit,” Wade advises. Take along a good wildflower field guide, such as those published by Knopf for the National Audubon Society. The more wildflower meadows you actually experience, the more inspired you will be to proceed thoughtfully with your own.

Wildflower Resources

You can find local sources of native wildflowers and grasses through local native plant societies, or through the supplier database maintained by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Go to the , click “Explore Plants,” then “Suppliers Directory.” From there, you can search by state, region or by site criteria. Suppliers range from large companies to people who sell seeds collected from their own land. A close match between the source of seeds or plants and their permanent home is ideal, and it’s always best to plant seed soon after it has been harvested. Another place to check is your local office of the U.S.epartment of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS; there is an office in every county). Sometimes local organizations work with NRCS to make free wildflower seeds available to help citizens do their part to improve various types of wildlife habitats

To learn more about wildflowers and grasses native to your area, the following regional companies (and many more) maintain Web sites that feature extensive information about native wildflowers and grasses (most with great photos).

Ernst Conservation Seeds

Native American Seed, Junction

Plants of the Southwest

Plants of the Wild

Prairie Moon Nursery

Shooting Star Nursery

Western Native Seed

Wildflower Farm

Wildseed Farms

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