How to Create Wildflower Gardens & Meadows
Noted for their low maintenance and wide diversity of plants, wildflower meadows are full of vibrant colors and interesting textures. The meadow approach to the landscape requires a clear understanding of a site's natural conditions, more so than say a formal perennial garden bed. Wildflower meadows are a constantly changing landscape with some species surviving year after year while others may disappear and be replaced with something new. Along with these aesthetic benefits there are ecological benefits as well, including the reduced need for mowing, the creation of a habitat for native species of animals and the fact that wildflower meadows are very effective at trapping airborne pollutants.
Site Preparation of Wildflower Meadows
The easiest way to create and grow a wildflower garden is to sow the seeds in spring in preferably a sunny spot on well-prepped ground where they will not be in competition with weeds and grasses. Wildflower meadows require extensive site preparation. Remove all existing vegetation from the planting area, this will reduce the risk of unwanted weeds and grasses invading the site. Don't till the soil too deep as unwanted weed seed can be brought to the surface and germinate in the meadow or garden. Without proper site preparation opportunistic weeds may flood the site. With proper site preparation you can reduce the number of undesirable grasses and weeds in the meadow. Though one person's weeds are another's wildflower there are certain characteristics which define them. Weeds are generally not a member of the natural plant community, have rapid growth and abundant seed production, are troublesome, destructive and not economically valuable.
Grasses and Wildflowers in Meadows and Gardens
Successful wildflower meadows generally have equal percentages of wildflowers and native grasses. Though not as visually striking at any one point in time the wildflower garden offers far more diversity in plant variety over the course of a season and a more diverse floral display than a perennial or annual bed. Be wary if the meadow in a can, while these contain some perennials which will return year after year, they will also contain many annual species which will provide quite a bit of color the first year only to die off and disappear. While annuals are fine and provide a full season of color the majority of flower should be perennials. The grasses which sprout up in the wildflower meadow actually extend the season in terms of plant interest with their colorful autumn seed heads. One disadvantage of starting a wildflower garden from solely seed is that this method takes longer to establish itself. Use a mix of seed and established plants for the best results.
Maintainance of Wildflowers Meadows and Gardens
Once a year, preferably in the fall after the seeds have dropped from the plants, mow the field with the blades at a high setting. Another option is to use a weed whacker. This will allow the plants to get an early start in the spring. It also removes any tree and shrub saplings from taking over the site.
Wildflower meadows are all about adaptation, experiment with different seeds and plants to see what works best in the conditions of your garden. Though wildflower meadow takes a bit longer to establish, they are worth the wait so be patient and nurture the garden. Soon you'll be enjoying a colorful, self sustaining, low maintenance landscape.
By: TJ Hallinan
About the Author:
TJ Hallinan is a landscape designer and builder in Massachusetts. Visit his website http://www.gardenlistings.com for wildflower information.
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