If you're an avid gardener, the chances are good that you already have at least one wildflower species growing in your garden. Plants native to your area and region are the best candidates for a successful wildflower garden. I am addicted to ornamental grasses, and this is a way to spotlight those that are currently growing, by dividing the clumps and sticking them in the wildflower garden scheme. I've done it before with my zen garden designs and water features. Grasses are thrilled to stand out, and they're easy to grow in sun and shade, without much care. My collection of coneflowers, bee balm and daisies will fit right into this design.

 

How To Plan and Plant Your Design

One of the best ways to visualize the design and plants for your wildflower garden, is to look at photos of the wild and unplanned wildflower meadows and formal garden pics for inspiration.

I don't follow or promote the wildflower seed-spreading method. You are certainly encouraged to do so for a quick planting. I prefer healthy seedling and grasses that don't need to be cared for at the beginning. My suggestions are focused intentional plantings of particular wildflowers in a flower bed or planned areas in your front and backyard. And speed of the garden's growth to maturity. Most of this article considers specific and general information, but bear in mind that I'm using seedlings and larger plants in an organized plan. I do provide info when I can find it, on those wild types of wildflower meadow and prairie gardening methods. 

My plan is to plant seedlings, short groundcovers and dwarf grasses much closer together for less empty spots.

I hope you enjoy the pretty pics of natural wildflowers, prairies and meadows shown on this page to whet your appetite for designing your formal and informal plantings, large- or small-scale.

An easy way to work wildflowers into any style structured garden, or to even get away with a full wildflower meadow or prairie right in the front yard is to create a mini-meadow filled with non-meadow perennials that look pretty together. Add lots of  dwarf ornamental grasses that give the grassy look, while needing 
no help to stay neat and tidy.

Plant Flowers and Grasses for a natural meadow effect

I love all types of ornamental grasses, so that idea will fit in nicely. 

The dense root systems of the grasses dominate the upper soil and help to squeeze out the weeds. The grasses  do most of the weeding for you, simply by eliminating open soil available for weed germination.

Keep a neat edge to the planting, using irregular stones, river rock, large branches, or accessories to make it look wild, yet tidy, to others and to help keep some plants from spreading as quickly or easily. Add decorative items and tie the garden into the other flower beds or gardens you have established. I use vintage farm items around my front garden... like old cultivator blades, wire baskets, small wagon wheels, and farm implements like saws and rake heads as my decor for wild garden designs. The wheels and blades that are painted red look awesome hanging from my white picket fence over the garden beds. I would lean some up against plants or wooden buckets. A well-placed small boulder or large rock fits right in. 

Interplant with common garden favorites - including lilies, daisies, dwarf gladiolas, iris, achilleas, and  some pollinator favorites along with native coneflowers, phlox, Bee Balm (monarda), Rudbeckia (black eyed Susan), and short perennial native sunflowers. It will look more like a real garden, and less like a wild meadow that needs mowing if you include all those together.

And include old-fashioned vines. I use clematis and honeysuckle to tie many of my garden design themes together. I have a beautiful fence to work with. 
Add semi-woody plants for a very natural effect. Small shrub roses work very well in this design and look pretty with the ornamental grasses and groundcovers.





My favorite garden edging and ornamental grass is the beautiful, mounded, blue-green fescue "Elijah Blue". I have lots of them. They're evergreen, totally winter hardy, and require zero maintenance.

 

These don't grow taller or wider than a  ft.  
They're great for in-between plants, in front of taller plants, and behind ground-hugging plants.


Neat, graceful mounds, no spread, and weeds are choked out. Delicate, wheat-like stems emerge in summer. 
They don't mind a haircut, but they don't need it.



Select Species to Match the Scale of your landscape.

Use the shorter flowers and grasses in small meadow gardens. The short grasses, such as Little Bluestem, Sideoats Grama, and Prairie Dropseed are clump-formers that leave room between them for flowers. 


Plant Deep-Rooted Wildflowers with the grasses.

Many wildflowers have very deep roots that can grow down 10 feet or more into the soil, well below the grass's root systems. Might want to keep that in mind, if you're a gardenerlike me, who tends to want to regularly move stuff around or remove it. The grasses and flowers  share the soil rooting environment, and utilize water and nutrients efficiently.

Plant Flowers en masse and in drifts of color to create impact

I like this dramatic approach. Use mass plantings or drifts, with a non-competitive grass, to help keep weeds down. 



Arrange Plants to Complement one another, both texturally and in color combinations.

Select Plants for Succession of Bloom throughout the growing season.

Typically, in garden design we are told "plant the tall plants at the back and the short plants at the front".  Most gardeners tend to think that once the flowers are gone and the plant is going to seed, that the plants look "messy". This is often when we head out to the garden and dead-head the spent flowers in an attempt to clean up the garden. Instead of planting the tall plants at the back, think more of planting to create a low maintenance garden.

If you plant the shorter plants towards the middle of your garden and plant later blooming plants around and in front of the shorter plants you will always be seeing what's in bloom now and also what's going to be blooming soon as the taller plants hide the shorter plants and you'll never have to see the spent flowers from earlier blooming plants. You'll  always see what's about to bloom along with what is in bloom.

Attract Songbirds and Pollinators

Wildflowers provide food, and combined with the grasses, create habitat for wildlife. Early blooming flowers provide spring nectar for butterflies. 
By integrating the principles of ecology with those of garden design, you can create attractive, ecologically-sound wildflower gardens. These gardens will require no fertilizers, pesticides or irrigation to keep them healthy and vibrant. Even during severe heat and drought, wildflower gardens continue to perform while other plants succumb to the weather.

Meadows and Prairie designs are not for everyone. 
I find natural open-design meadows and mini-prairies too big and needy for my style, and the consideration of neighboring properties. I'm an urban gardener, within restraints of ordinances and aesthetics. If my property were private and large, I wouldn't think twice. Another consideration is that I retired my mower, dug up every blade of grass, and installed flower and ornamental gardens. The prairie design is not practical, because I'll never mow again, but I would sometimes be required to do so as the growing season progresses. My remedy is to design a few small garden areas and beds using the prairie and meadow concepts.. The wildflower design would be easier, and I would choose low-growing and non-invasive plants that don't spread far. Mine is a more structured approach. Unless I'm gifted with a few acres to design. The best way to be successful is to observe and use nature's methods, because we can't force plants to grow where nature has not intended for them to grow. 

Here are some guides and design plans to help you choose.

Click to download the vintage 1935 publication, "Wildflowers and Ferns : hardy plants
 in rare, unusual and beautiful varieties for your wildflower garden. In .pdf format
 -  Aiken Nurseries, Henry G. Gilbert Nursery



 

The following are manageable and easily-created gardens that can be grown as individual beds
 within a broader landscape. Multiply the design to cover larger areas. The prairie habitat design 
incorporates more choices and fragrant plants, in order to appeal to birds and butterflies.

Download these free Prairie Garden Design Plan in .pdf format
-Plan includes the large illustration shown at the top of the page, suggested plant list and planting instructions

Just click the pics below.

Shortgrass meadows work well around homes keeping in mind the sun requirements for the plants. 
The plants in shortgrass meadows also work well at the front of a large meadow if you are designing the space for visual impact and effect.

If you have an ornamental privacy fence around your property, it's easy to use that as a guide for more formal wildflower gardens- plant tall against the fence, medium heights with smaller plants between them, and short plants and groundcovers in front. Formality has its place in urban and small-space gardens. It's most desirable to grow an open wildflower meadow or prairie for the best effect, but the average backyard gardener can have the best of both worlds by creating the style and look, but not create more work. 

If space, garden design and neighbors are no object, you can have a zero maintenance wildflower or prairie landscape in about 3 years. Fertilizing and watering is not necessary for a mature meadow landscape. Neither is weeding. The plants do their own work to block weeds. I do not cover burnings in this article, as I'm concentrating on urban gardens within a designed landscape. I also hesitate to talk about burnings with gardeners who might be in high fire risk parts of the country. The process of controlled burning is complicated, and exacting methods are used for the safety of you, the environment and your property. Not to mention the safety of all creatures living in or near it and using it as a habitat.

Mowing is usually not needed or done until mid-spring of the third year. It is important to remove the mowed material to expose the soil surface and encourage soil warming. Do not mow after new plant growth has reached 1 foot or taller, because it could damage some of your desirable landscaping plants.

Swaths

If your garden design idea is for lots of flowers in standout colors, create swaths of flowers. You can sow a wildflower or meadow seed mix, and overplant with ornamental grasses and more mature  wildflower plants. A variety of wildflowers and over-planting with ornamental grasses will ensure that there are no  empty areas when the flowers grown from seed are done for the year.

Combining Meadow Types

Your future meadow could be a small, open, sunny patch in a corner of your yard, along the sides of a path, or it could be several acres. 
Creating a wildflower meadow requires good planning, proper site preparation, the right seeds and plants for the type of soil that the plants will be growing in, and some periodic, well-timed  maintenance. As your meadow becomes established, it will begin to mature and bloom in the second and third years of growth, and you will have created a natural ecosystem right on your property that is sustainable, requires no watering or fertilizers, and needs only minimal maintenance

Combining tall and shortgrass meadows can create a layered effect and, if done properly, can bring in an abundance of wildlife. Keep your tallgrass meadow at the back and your shortgrass meadow at the front so all species may be seen from your viewing area. Remember that if you plant a tallgrass meadow to the west or north of your shortgrass meadow, seeds from taller plants may blow into the shortgrass meadow planting, and over time, your shortgrass meadow will become a tallgrass meadow.

No matter what type of meadow you choose to sow it's a good idea to include trails or paths through your wildflower meadow so you can tend, pick, and enjoy it up close. 

 

 

Resources:
HGTV
Wildflower Gardens
Wikipedia
Better Homes and Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

garden design plans -courtesy of BHG

 

Detailed Site Directory-->


Quick Links

Vintage Garden Graphics--->

 


Content, graphics and design 2020 marysbloomers.com/eyecandee.com 
All rights reserved

 

This site uses Watermarkly Software