Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Wild for Wildflowers (page 2 of 2)

by Michael MacCaskey

Sowing and Growing

It is important to minimize weeds before planting. Avoid cultivating the soil, as it brings long-buried weed seeds to the soil surface. If cultivating is essential, keep it as shallow as possible.

Mow or cut existing weeds. Water the area, and wait a week or so for regrowth to begin. Then choose a soap-based herbicide or a flame weeder to kill the plants. All three methods kill existing weeds without disturbing the soil. (While the latter two are acceptable to organic gardeners, repeat treatments will be required.) Lightly scratch the soil surface with a rake to prepare for planting.

Mix small seeds with washed sand or vermiculite to make sowing easier and to help get even distribution. Use one (for larger seeds) to four (smaller seeds) parts sand with one part seed.

Scatter the seeds over the area as evenly as possible, first walking in one direction and then in the perpendicular direction. Press the seed into the soil with your footsteps. If you're seeding a large area, use a partially filled water roller (available at rental yards).

It's inevitable that some weeds will appear in your new planting. At first, it will be difficult to distinguish them from the wildflowers. But pull any grasses, and be highly suspicious of any plant that's growing much faster than everything else.

Wild for Wildflowers These selections are hardy and well-adapted by Michael MacCaskey Roadside wildflowers grace highways throughout the U.S. Wildflowers are pretty and charming, and they grow with a minimum of fuss and bother. They are hardy

The best time to harvest wildflowers for bouquets is 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 leng desired. Don't remove all the flowers, though — leave some to make seeds for next year.

18 Top Wildflowers

While most kinds of wildflowers can be stunning in an arrangement, these are easy to grow from seed and they make plenty of long-lasting flowers for cutting. Buy them as components of a mix or individually. Annuals bloom their first season, scatter seeds and die; seeds of those native to your region are more likely to come back. Perennials may not bloom the first year, but they live from year to year, regrowing from the same plant. Some plants are perennial in some regions and annuals in others.

Here are some common wildlfowers to try in your yard.

  • African daisy (Dimorphotheca sinuata)
  • Baby's breath (Gypsophila elegans)
  • Bachelor's-button (Centaurea cyanus)
  • Bishop's flower (Ammi majus)
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
  • Blanket flower (Gaillardia grandiflora)
  • Calliopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)
  • Clasping coneflower (Dracopis amplexicaulis)
  • Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata )
  • Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus )
  • Dwarf red plains (Coropsis tinctoria atkinsoniana)
  • Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena)
  • Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
  • Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera)
  • Oxeye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)
  • Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea )
  • Shirley poppy (Papaver rhoeas )
  • Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)

Michael MacCaskey is the former editorial director of National Gardening.

Photography by National Gardening Association

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