Wildflowers are one of Mother Nature’s loveliest gifts. In the home landscape they are ideal for creating colourful beds and borders, as well as offering a lower-maintenance alternative for large areas or for replacing turf grass.
A garden of wildflowers offers several benefits to both the gardener and the environment. Once established, wildflowers require less maintenance than traditional landscape plantings – less watering, fertilizing, pest control and mowing. The flowers provide nectar and pollen sources for bees and butterflies, while ripened seeds are a food source for birds and other wildlife.
Today’s marketplace abounds with choices to create a unique wildflower garden. Local nurseries and garden centres sell both seeds and plants. Retail, Internet and catalogue seed companies sell wildflowers as individual species as well as mixes that have been formulated for a specific geographic region. Many seed companies also sell mixes for a variety of special uses such as for cutting, fragrance, partial shade, attracting butterflies or pollinating insects.
Planting wildflowers requires the same type of care as traditional ornamental plants. Start with high-quality seed and select varieties that are suited to your conditions. Wildflowers will grow and bloom best when the environmental conditions meet their requirements. Sun exposure, availability (or lack) of moisture, and soil type all affect plant growth. For example, if you have a hot, sunny garden look for wildflowers or wildflower mixes that thrive in these conditions.
The next step in creating an eye-catching field of flowers is
to prepare the soil by removing weeds and other unwanted vegetation. If the soil is compacted, till lightly so the soil is loose and germinating seeds can put down roots. A bow rake is great for loosening the top layer of soil. Digging or rototilling too deep will bring up weed seeds and other plants that will need to be removed later to avoid competing with the wildflower seeds.
Scatter seeds by hand or with a small spreader. Seeds can be raked into the soil or lightly covered with soil. If sowing straight seed, adding inert matter such as dry sand or vermiculite will assist in an even distribution of seed. Water thoroughly right after planting and keep seeds and seedlings moist for about four to six weeks. Gradually reduce watering as seedlings develop. Identify and remove weed seedlings as soon as possible since they will compete with wildflowers for water, nutrients and space.
A wildflower planting, just like a colourful meadow created by Mother Nature, will look different from month to month and year to year. Annual flowers are more abundant at first because they grow and flower quickly. In following years perennial plants become established and start flowering, in addition to annual flowers that may reseed themselves.