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Wildflowers in the landscape

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By Shirley Waggoner-Eisenman
Master Gardener Volunteer

Try something different in your yard. Many wildflowers adapt very well to the average yard, but to have happy wildflowers, you must understand their needs.
Unlike most bedding plants that have been bred to accept a wide variety of conditions, many wildflowers have evolved in more specialized situations, like light shade, acid soil, or damp ground. Use them in difficult areas of your yard. Use in shady spots, under trees (where most grasses do not grow), in a soggy area, in a dry sunny area, or on a rocky ledge. Be sure to match the wildflower to its growing conditions.
Before you begin, you should take time to look at the conditions of your yard. Look to see which spots are shady and how long the shade lingers. Discover which spots are dry, which spots are soggy, and which spots are sunny. Draw a plan and mark a site for each species. This will keep you from planting annuals in bare spots that already have a wildflower that will emerge at a later date.
Be a responsible collector by obtaining roots, seeds, or divisions from a neighbor or ordering from a well-established nursery or mail-order catalog. Do not go to the woods and dig up wildflowers because it may be illegal.
The best time to plant or transplant wildflowers is when they’re dormant or just starting new growth. Plants bought from a reputable nursery have been hardened off by growing in outdoor beds.
Wildflowers will not need fertilizer because they are accustomed to living on what’s naturally available. Fertilizer can encourage other less desirable plants that may crowd out the wildflowers you have chosen for the area. You will know that you have been successful in your wildflower plants when they start to multiply after a few years. Reproduction is a sign of an established wildflower garden. Now you can extend your garden, give to a friend or neighbor roots, seed, and divisions.
Listed below are a few wildflower varieties and the conditions under which they will grow.

Shade
Bloodroot: perennial, single-stemmed, 6 to 9 inches tall; starry white; eight-petal bloodroot blossoms appear while the leaf is still furling around the stem; a lovely double-flowered form is also available.
Columbine: perennial, 1 to 3 feet tall; the red with yellow blossoms of wild columbine grow on a wiry stem over the foliage.
Dutchman’s Breeches: a perennial, 6 to 10 inches tall; the stems have white flowers resembling tiny, inflated britches over clumps of fern-like foliage.
Foamflower: perennial, 6 to 12 inches tall; the Allegheny foamflower is a good ground cover or edging plant with spikes of small, white flowers.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit: perennial, 1 to 2 feet tall; under the hooded, green canopy is the flower column; flower is green and maroon and turns into a stalk of red berries in the fall.
Sun or Shade
Forget-Me-Not: perennial, sprawling mats that are 6 to 15 inches tall;
often found near water; blue flowers that are often the color of the sky.
Jacob’s Ladder: perennial, 10 to 12-inches tall; bears clusters of blue, bell-shaped flowers above paired leaflet foliage that looks like ladders.
Shooting Star: perennial, 10 to 15-inches tall; has pink, lavender, or white flowers that resemble a shooting star and ground-hugging leaves.
Virginia Bluebell: perennial, 1 to 2-feet tall; pink buds open up as blue flowers; leaves are oval shaped.

Sun
Black-Eyed Susan: self-seeding biennial, 18 to 30-inches tall; flowers are golden yellow with dark brown centers.
Bluebell: perennial, 6 to 18-inches tall; ground-hugging leaves are heart-shaped with blue flowers almost an inch-long.
Butterfly Weed: perennial, 1 to 3-feet tall; bright orange, yellow, pale orange and pink; the flat-top clusters attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Purple Coneflower: perennial, 2 to 4-feet tall; daisy-like flowers may be in various colors, like lavender-pink with purple, bronze, or orange centers.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.