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.
Flowers and Grasses for a natural meadow effect
I love all
types of ornamental grasses, so that idea will fit in
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
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
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
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.
Deep-Rooted Wildflowers with the grasses.
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.
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
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
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.
Songbirds and Pollinators
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.
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.
are some guides and design plans to help you choose.
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