There was a time when our country was once full of Wildflowers and wildflower meadows with many beautiful varieties of flowers that supported our pollinators…birds, butterflies, bees, ladybugs and all. But since the 1930s, due to our population growth and development, we have seen a loss of much of our ´unimproved grasslands´ that support our wildflowers and many that are left are fragmented. And the results as we know, well, we have seen what has happened to our Monarchs and their population decline.
Lady Bird Johnson, a gardener at heart, knew the importance that these wildflower meadows and pollinators played in supporting our food source and ecosystem. So, on her 70th birthday, being a good Texan, she and actress Helen Hayes established the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 on 60 acres of land in East Austin, Texas. Paraphrasing Mrs. Johnson, she said that it brings the natural world and the man-made world into harmony. And as gardeners, I think that is part of what we are trying to do in our own gardens!
Now, I’m no Lady Bird Johnson but I started to wonder how WillowDale Cottage could be a ´wildlife habitat´ and yet not have a wildflower garden. So, I decided to create something that has the same feel in my own garden. After much research and a fairly mild winter for working, it began.
I selected a site that drains well and has enough sunlight and doesn’t irritate my husband by getting in his way! I proceeded to clear all the debris: rocks, branches, and bags of shredded leaves that I saved for this year´s garden compost. I dragged off the large branches and saved the smaller ones to make a low fence to define the back of the garden. Pulling all the winter weeds took some time but it is important to start your garden free of weeds. I raked the area down to an inch and now I’m waiting for the soil temperature to reach 55 degrees…google SOIL TEMPERATURE MAPS. When the time is right, I will sow my seeds with a mix of sand to help identify the soil coverage. It is important that the seeds have good contact with the soil and the best way is to walk on cardboard or not pressing the seeds into the soil. Once that is completed, my watering will begin along with trying to be patient for some seeds can take up to 8 weeks to germinate…important to read the back of your seed packet. In the meantime, I will dig up perennials like bee balm, verbena, milkweed, and black-eyed Susan that are now growing in shade to transfer to my wildflower garden. I will add a bird bath, my solitary bee boxes, and maybe even an arbor with a honeysuckle vine. And hope that when I build it, they will come!!!
When reading about wildflowers, I found they have quite a history from strange and often dangerous herbal cures to black magic and legends of love. Even Columbus in 1492 sailed in search of spices, many from wildflowers to season and preserve food, and to cure European diseases. But my favorite legend is about the world´s most-loved wildflower ´Forget-me-not´ with its clusters of sky-blue flowers. A medieval German knight was picnicking on the bank of the Danube with his ladylove. He descended the bank to the water´s edge to gather some blue flowers when a flash flood suddenly appeared and pulled him into the churning river. And as he was swept away, he tossed the bouquet to his ladylove and said ¨Forget me not! ¨
When starting this project, I visited many, many websites. But if you decide to start your own wildflower garden, I would recommend one excellent sight ´Planting Wildflowers/American Meadows´. You should know that not all wildflowers are natives, but they are considered hardy and self-reproducing, some annuals and other perennials. They are easy to grow like coneflowers, zinnias, Shasta daisies, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, bee balm, blanket flowers and so many more. And, year after year, your Wildflower Garden will continue to bloom bursting with colors and attracting pollinators that´s everlasting and beautiful!♣