Starting a Wildflower Garden
Starting a wildflower garden is like approaching any other type of flower garden. First you must take stock of the conditions you have. Do you have lots of sun, lots of shade, or some combination? Where and at what time of the day? Do you have damp areas or are your grounds high and dry? Is it rocky or do you have wonderful loam?
Next consider what it is you want to achieve with your wildflower garden. Do you want an area to attract local wildlife? Do you want to attract pollinators to a vegetable garden and/or offer a place for predatory insects to live to protect that vegetable garden? Are you wanting a cut flower garden of native wildflower species?
Are you trying to save precious resources by landscaping with native flowers and plants that are drought tolerant and relatively low maintenance? This becomes important if you have limited time but want a lovely garden. Or are you interested in the conservation of wildflower species that are adapted to your local conditions?
(Note: With that last question I am NOT in any way suggesting that you go into the wild of your area and dig up precious endangered species or dig up wild plantings at all. True wildflower plantings in the wild are becoming more rare as our subdivisions increase and our towns spread. By no means should we aggravate this problem by taking from the wild. In the case of wildflowers listed by the government as endangered, it is illegal to remove them.
The only case where this may be excused is in saving some particular stand from the bulldozer. In such as case, get permission from the owner, get some helping hands and have a real expert on hand with advice on how to save the plants such as what to dig and time of year to dig. As with all things legal, seek appropriate advice.)
The questions above are to help you determine what you have and what your goals are for your wildflower garden. Take your time figuring it out.
Now we are ready to begin planting, right? Oh, you probably thought you just opened a package of wildflower seeds and scattered them on the ground. Viola! A wildflower garden would appear that you had to do very little with to continue to enjoy year after year.
Unfortunately, we actually have to consider what type of seed we are buying. Some seed packs will be largely grass seeds with few wildflower seeds thrown in. Some will have wildflower seed but be mostly some type of filler such as inert vermiculite.
Some packs will have a combination of annual wildflower seeds and normal annual flower seeds, what some would call exotic as they are not native to America although you may see them in any flower garden.
Notice these are annuals with little in the way of perennial seeds. Granted some of these annuals will reseed wherever you plant them but these will not provide the on-going perennial wildflower garden you desire. They do give you the quick color and coverage you may desire this year.
You can find these types of packs with seeds of wildflowers that will do well in your region. Expect to pay a bit higher price.
Then there are the packs with only native American seeds. They will be available with mixtures created on a regional basis.
Now, since we are mostly addressing American wildflowers here, we do need to make note that some flowers we have in our flower gardens started out as a wildflower somewhere else. Indeed, as pointed out in the book Wildflower Perennials for Your Garden, “regal lilies from the mountains of China, snowdrops from the Caucasus, caladiums from South America, and calla lilies from Africa” may be in our own flower gardens. Elsewhere they are considered wildflowers and thus our own American wildflowers could be considered flower garden plants or even houseplants some place else. So calling something a wildflower can mean different things in different places.
So you are ready to place wildflowers within your garden but what type of