The little meadowscape test plot I seeded in February is blooming! I used a seed mix of specifically Willamette Valley native flowers and planted a few species from pots including Roemer’s fescue, Western milkweed, Douglas aster and meadow strawberry.
So far it has been incredibly low maintenance – though I did careful site preparation (hand weeded the area and topped the soil with a 2″ layer of weed-free planting mix) and did precise weeding while the plants were in seeding stage. I have watered it just three times over 6 months. The plants that are thriving are the more drought tolerant species. For instance, Western buttercup germinated very well but the plants are still very small, while tarweeds, yarrow and the aster are huge.
Right now two species of tarweed (Madia), large flowered collomia (Collomia grandiflora), Lotus purshiana and Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) are flowering. Of the 15 species in the mix, 12 germinated and grew.
While it’s a small amount of land, just a strip along my driveway, it counts towards qualification in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program. Indeed the habitat appears to be appreciated so far. It’s the only place in my yard I have seen a native butterfly at work (a skipper) and there are many bee species present including ground bees this spring that nested in the bare spaces between seedlings.
Seeding a wildflower mix is often considered a cheap and easy way to deal with bare ground. While it can be appropriate for some sites, as one of my clients commented, it’s really ‘advanced gardening’. The seed mix needs to be selected carefully (and beware, many so-called wildflower seed mixes are anything but – they contain exotic and even invasive plants) and require good plant identification skills to weed.
Succession will happen – the mix of plants will change over time as annuals die out, may or may not reseed and perennials mature. Plots of only wildflowers can look like hell in winter. (At least to the uninitiated!) In the Midwest, where I have done many tall-grass prairie eco-restorations, dried seed heads and grasses are considered excellent winter interest. In Portland, not so much. Maybe they will be more appreciated as more of us become aware of the value of native plant species in home gardens – that they are a tool in staving off the biodiversity collapse that is in motion. For now they may be an acquired taste but incorporating grasses, design elements like evergreen framing and of course educational signage helps. I especially like the Xerces Society’s ‘Pollinator Habitat’ sign.
|Farewell to Spring||Clarkia amoena|
|Blue-eyed Mary||Collinsia grandiflora|
|Large flowered Collomia||Collomia grandiflora|
|Wooly sunshine||Eriophyllum lanatum|
|Biscuit root||Lomatium nudicaule|
|Bird’s foot trefoil||Lotus purshianus|
|Common madia||Madia elegans|
|Heal-all||Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata|
|Western buttercup||Ranunculus occidentalis|
|Willow dock||Rumex salicifolius|
|Prairie burnet||Sanguisorba annua (S. occidentalis)|