And the seasons they go round and round…..

miriam large(!)sept 18 018For reasons that really don’t matter, I was in a snitty stressful place this morning. Nonsensical mutterings and stressful sighs peppered my walk out to the flower fields. I first encountered some late blooming Black-Eyed Susans and straightaway cut them into my bucket, my spirits immediately lifting a rung. Then came an 80 foot row of Purple Coneflowers in various states of exquisite deterioration. large sept 18 015

 

 

 

 

I honed in on their giant orange coneheads, funky pink petals and even scored a goodly number in perfect states of bloom.

Perfect Purple Coneflowers in the seed production field at Wildflower Farm

Perfect Purple Coneflowers in the seed production field at Wildflower Farm

Once again in a matter of moments I was back in the zone; that heady cross between concentration and meditation that comes over me when I garden deeply . I never mean to lord it over you dear reader that I live in paradise. I just want you to understand the depth of my gratitude for this life; this beauty.large sept 18 005

Here then are late blooming wildflowers and native grasses gathered over the last few days. We are expecting our first frost tonight. Just as nature does, soon we’ll be seeding our wildflowers…..

Rough Blazingstars bloom in the fall.

Rough Blazingstars bloom in the fall.

 

Rattlesnake Master in the foreground and Showy Goldenrod in the background.

Rattlesnake Master in the foreground and Showy Goldenrod in the background.

Sky Blue Asters

Sky Blue Asters

 

Rudbeckia triloba or Brown Eyed Susans

Rudbeckia triloba or Brown Eyed Susans

New England Aster

New England Aster

Stiff Goldenrod with a soft blue background of Little Bluestem native grass.

Stiff Goldenrod with a soft blue background of Little Bluestem native grass.

Big Bluestem's blooms resemble turkey claws.

Big Bluestem’s blooms resemble turkey claws.

And the seasons they go round and round.

And the seasons they go round and round.

 

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Change is hard…or is it?

Most of the people who call into Wildflower Farm to discuss Eco-Lawn want to know one thing right off the hop:  I have a water-sucking, summer-browning, mow-intensive lawn already, what am I supposed to do with it?

When we advise them to simply cut their current lawn as short as possible, lay down a bit of compost, spread Eco-Lawn seed right over top then sprinkle on some compost, they are flabbergasted.  But, for most people, that’s the process.  It’s not instant but overseeding in spring and fall for a few years will get you to 100% Eco-Lawn.

Photo: http://www.extension.org/pages/27488/preferential-flow-of-manure-in-tile-drainage#.VBBj5GNF_Pw

Photo: http://www.extension.org/pages/27488/preferential-flow-of-manure-in-tile-drainage#.VBBj5GNF_Pw

 

For Those With Clay
If the soil in your lawn area is compacted clay, there is a little bit of extra work.  Compacted clay is nearly impossible to penetrate.  Water, roots, and insects all have a tough time getting through.  In these cases, if you want to grow a lawn (of any kind, not just Eco-Lawn), you will need to loosen the top three inches of soil, add an inch or two of compost then rake to even out the surface.  In loosening three inches of soil you are likely going to bring weeds to the surface so fall prep and seeding is suggested.

 

 

 

Photo: http://www.angieslist.com/companylist/us/mn/plymouth/diversified-drainage-reviews-195190.htm

Photo: http://www.angieslist.com/companylist/us/mn/plymouth/diversified-drainage-reviews-195190.htm

 

For those with Poor Drainage
If you have an area that absolutely never dries up, no lawn will work.  If it dries up for at least a few weeks in the summer then Eco-Lawn will work well for you. If it stays wet I suggest you plant some water loving wildflowers (like Joe Pye Weed, Culver’s Root, Red Milkweed, Golden Alexander, and New England Aster).  Check  our  Wildflower Farm Seed Selector Tool for a complete list of wildflowers for soggy sites.  If you really want grass there, consider putting in some drainage tiles to divert water away from this area.

 

 

 

Some Helpful Hints
As you’re prepping the soil (removing weeds, churning up heavy clay, etc), remember to rake everything smooth.  Because unless you want lumps and bumps everywhere, a smooth seed bed is necessary to start with.

Fall is the ideal time to overseed and to start brand new lawns.  The temperatures are cooler (and not getting any warmer for a while), there is generally ample rainfall and morning dew (minimizing the watering you have to do), and there is less competition from weeds as most wait until spring to germinate. Check out our seeding times chart for your ideal fall sowing window. Or just remember to plant when temperatures are consistently between 55 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 – 25 degrees Centigrade.

Extra watering at the drip line will help Eco-Lawn's roots grow and avoid competition with the tree.

Extra watering at the drip line will help Eco-Lawn’s roots grow and avoid competition with the tree.

Eco-Lawn works very well under trees in deep shade.  The key to establishing Eco-Lawn  under trees is to water well at the DRIP LINE of the tree.  Watering at the base of the tree is a common misconception. The drip line (or where the major water-sucking roots exist) is located below the edges of the tree’s canopy.  You see, trees extend their most needy roots to reach where water from a rainfall will land as it drips off the tree’s outermost leaves.

 

 

 

There is so much more information and many more helpful hints on our website and if  you’re thinking about switching over or starting from scratch, I encourage you to give it a read.  Still not convinced?  Contact us and we’d be happy to help.

 

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“Sod off!”

keep-calm-and-sod-off-16I’ve started watching a new show on Netflix.  Suggested for me because I’m a devout Sherlock fan and watched the excellent, but gruesome, Hannibal series, was a show called Luther.  Being a British show, you get to hear some of their quirky lingo, some of which my Grandmother (born and raised in England) still uses today despite being a Canadian citizen for close to 50 years.

So last night after a day unpacking from a short summer vaca, picking the tomatoes that ripened while I was away, and hand-pollinating my corn, I sat down with some blueberry pie and resumed where I left off in Luther – episode three.

I’m half-way through the show when the head of the police department yells at Luther, the main character. “Sod off!” she says as he walks out the door.

And then it occurs to me. It’s time to overseed my lawn! And also, since when is yelling at someone about grass supposed to be threatening?  But that’s a debate for another day.

 ~~~

Choosing Grass Seed

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An interesting look at the history of the lawn (I know, I know, interesting and lawn history in the same sentence seems, well, impossible. Trust me though, it’s a good read).

There is SO much choice out there today.  Years ago when the ‘lawn’ became a thing (see American Green for the details) there wasn’t much variety in either species or retailers.  Today, though, it can be daunting.

My advice: know your space, know yourself, and know the company.

Know Your Space
In short, this means the soil, sun, and moisture your area receives.  Use this to gauge the type of product you should be buying.  Some work well in only certain conditions while others are much more versatile.

Know Yourself
What do you want?  How much time do you have to devote to your lawn?  And then there are those pesky water rates (which are only increasing, by the way).  What kind of product are you looking for – something that looks great when the sod is rolled out and terrible when a typical summer drought swings by; or something long-term that has a better chance of survival during that same drought?

Know The Company
Who are you buying the seed from?  What guarantees can they make?  What do other people say about them?  Do they have a good reputation (environmentally, socially, etc)?  What other products do they sell (i.e. can you tell they’re making a conscious effort to be environmentally responsible throughout the company)?  Do your homework and take what you read on the Internet with a grain of salt – remember, anybody can say anything they want online.  Call the company and speak with someone about their products.  If no one answers, maybe take that as a sign.

 ~~~

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Coated seed is just half the seed for a greater price.  You’re paying for half seed and half coating. (Psssttt, it doesn’t actually perform any better than non-coated seed).

2. Price matters…sometimes.  Look at the ingredients listed on the bag: if you’re paying a heck of a lot more for something the company calls, “Other”, put the bag back.  If you don’t know what’s in the bag, put it back.  Good grass seed should be all grass, no weeds and no filler.  A good quality grass seed will be a little pricier but you’re paying for the product, not stuff put in to make the bag look fuller.

3. Look for certification.  Yes, grass seed can be certified and this bounces right back to the price debate above.  Certified seed is more expensive but you’re paying for quality.  Certified seed undergoes yearly testing to determine germination rate and how well it performs under various circumstances.  If the germination rate is below 85%, the seed does not meet standards and will not be certified.  So when you buy certified, you buy quality and there are numbers on papers to prove it.

4. Don’t think you can’t switch over.  You may have a lawn now or you may not.  Your current lawn situation may be somewhat disheartening and it only gets worse when your water bill comes.  Don’t think you’re stuck with what you have – there are options!

~~~

And now for the shameless Eco-Lawn plug…

eco-lawnlogo

I’m not going to tell you it’s the best product out there because, as I said earlier, anyone can write anything on the Internet.  I am going to tell you that thousands of people across Canada and the US have been extremely happy with their Eco-Lawns.

These people enjoy less watering, green grass in August, and the extra time they have to do the things they really want to be doing because mowing the lawn every Saturday is not on their ‘to do’ list.

Eco-Lawn has a long list of benefits that range from your bank account to your watershed and repeat customers are more than happy to tell us they’ve converted their neighbours to Eco-Lawn just by growing it out front where it can be seen.

If you want the super short, ‘putting green’ lawn, Eco-Lawn is not for you.  If you want something sustainable, non-GMO, and low-maintenance that will save you time in mowing and money in watering and fertilizing, consider Eco-Lawn.  Or at least consider reading a bit more about it and about seed certification.

And, cut or uncut, it doesn’t look half bad.

EcoLawn6

ecolawn2-uncut

In the end, you will choose the product you believe is the best and I sincerely hope you are happy with your purchase, no matter what it is.

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Polite Wildness: Well Behaved Wildflowers for Small Spaces

Prairie Dropseed and Pale Purple Coneflower utilized in a formal walkway

Prairie Dropseed and Pale Purple Coneflower utilized in a formal walkway

Often after I give a talk a woe-be-gotten gardener will wait patiently to speak with me only to confess that as much as she’d love to grow wildflowers she doesn’t have space for their wild and wonton ways. I am always happy to inform her that there is a small army of well-behaved perennial North American wildflowers that do not sprawl via underground rhizomes or self-sow aggressively.

Clump-forming and oh so polite Prairie Dropseed works beautifully in formal, contemporary designs.

Clump-forming and oh so polite Prairie Dropseed works beautifully in formal, contemporary designs.

The advantages of using native plants in formal designs or small garden spaces are plentiful! Drastically reduced need for inputs: no watering – once established; no fertilization or deadheading required, no soil amendment required at any time! In addition, the ecological benefits are compelling; wildflowers attract the beneficial insects that destroy bad bugs and support native pollinator populations including the beloved Monarch butterfly.

Pasque Flowers (Anemone patens) are a welcome sight in a small, urban garden.

Pasque Flowers (Anemone patens) are a welcome sight in a small, urban garden.

 Personalized Gardening Solutions  – Whatever kinds of conditions you are facing, even extreme ones like compact clay, pure beach sand or nutrient depleted soils, the Wildflower Farm Seed Selector Tool is a shining beacon of helpfulness.  http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=66 Simply input your conditions and you’ll get a list of all the wildflowers and native grasses that thrive in the exact conditions of your site.

The following clump-forming native perennials perform equally well in compact urban gardens or formal gardens. Each species will bloom for a month or longer, has attractive foliage and is extremely garden-worthy in all respects.

Spring time Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), Pasque Flowers (Anemone patens), Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon white & pink) Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis), Native Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Beardtongue (Penstemon grandiflorus)

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) partners well with late blooming tulips in the Springtime garden.

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) partners well with late blooming tulips in the Springtime garden.

 Summer Sweet Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), Butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa), Red Milkweed (Asclepius incarnata), Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea), Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)

Sweet Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) form larger and larger clumps each year.

Sweet Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) form larger and larger clumps each year.

 

Tennessee Coneflower is shorter than other Coneflowers and blooms for several months!

Tennessee Coneflower is shorter than other Coneflowers and blooms for several months!

Late Summer Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) , Ozark Coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa),  Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea tennessensis),  Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pnychnostachya) , Meadow Blazing Star (Liatris ligulistylus), Culver’s Root, (Veronica virginicum)   Ironweed (Vernonia  fasciculata ) , Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)   Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernuum) , Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) , Wild Quinine ({Parthenium integrifolium), Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia syphilitica) , Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

New York Ironweed (Vernonia) produces stunning spikes of rich purple blooms.

New York Ironweed (Vernonia) produces stunning spikes of rich purple blooms.

 

Rich blue spikes of Great Blue Lobelia add drama to a large or small formal border.

Rich blue spikes of Great Blue Lobelia add drama to a large or small formal border.

Fall Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera), Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), Stiff Goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepsis)

Showy Goldenrod is a clump-forming, non-aggressive addition to the fall garden.

Showy Goldenrod is a clump-forming, non-aggressive addition to the fall garden.

Sky Blue Asters are airy, self-contained pockets of color for the fall garden.

Sky Blue Asters are airy, self-contained pockets of color for the fall garden.

Delusions of Shrubbery Several tall, wide and well-behaved wildflowers are firmly convinced they are well-behaved shrubs – Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis) , White False Indigo (Baptisia alba) , Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa )  - All have lush, attractive foliage and showy blooms .White and Blue False Indigos bloom in early summer and Wild Senna in mid to late summertime.

White False Indigo's striking purple stems and white blooms add drama in the early summer border.

White False Indigo’s striking purple stems and white blooms add drama in the early summer border.

 

shrub-like Wild Senna adds exotic bloom and foliage to the summer garden.

shrub-like Wild Senna adds exotic bloom and foliage to the summer garden.

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“They’re not weeds!”

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Ironweed

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Butterflyweed

Some rather lovely plants have had the unfortunate experience of being named some sort of weed.  Butterflyweed, milkweed, ironweed, and Joe pye weed to name a few.

At Wildflower Farm we sell the seeds for seven wildflower species whose name contains the word ‘weed’.

 

In fact, a weed is only a plant that is growing where you don’t want it to.  So while your neighbour may be on a rampant mission to eradicate all common milkweed in his yard, you are planting more every year.  Your neighbour’s milkweeds are weeds and yours are not.  To each his (or her) own.

It’s a common occurrence at our house when the weedwhacker gets fired up…

“Don’t cut down my flowers!”

“You mean the weeds growing in the driveway?”

“They’re not weeds, they’re black-eyed Susans!”

~~~~~

So as I was driving this past weekend and I saw what looked like Joe pye weed growing in the ditches and up on the banks that run alongside the road, I wondered to myself, how many people drive past here and see these purple beauties growing here? And how many just look and see a weedy slope?

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Joe pye weed flowers attract lots of hungry insects. Soldier beetles especially love the later season snack as they gear up for mating season.

And this week, during some more than exciting dog adventures that included mini toads and more deer flies than I could count on both hands, I saw more Joe pye weed running along the sides of the trail.  Intermixed with some monarda, white yarrow, black-eyed Susan, and evening primrose, the Joe pye weed looks right at home.

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monarda, black-eyed Susan, common evening primrose, and white yarrow

 

More than likely, the Joe pye weed is helping to stabilize the trail banks that lead to an ephemeral stream that had a bit of water after our five days of rain.

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The faint purple of the Joe pye weed and the yellow goldenrod that have taken over the low lying banks of the walking trail keep the soil from eroding.

 

About Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)

Growing 6-10 feet tall, Joe pye weed will bloom summer into fall.  Grows well in full sun and part shade, requires minimal maintenance, and a dry to medium soil (like I said, it’s growing on its own in the hot, sunny, dry slopes alongside the road and in the fairly moist areas alongside the trail).

Another great feature – butterfly magnet!  Offering a late season pollen and nectar snack, Joe pye weed will be a welcome stopover for many native insects as they gear up to mate, fly south, or overwinter here.

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This great spangled fritillary spent some time hopping between a few Joe pye weed flowers before settling down here for a snack or maybe just a rest.

 

Finally, a few weeks back, Ann sent us a photo of the Joe pye weed she has growing in her backyard.  She bought two 6 inch plants from Wildflower Farm four years ago when live plants were still available.  Today, her plants are, well, a little bit taller than 6 inches and they are beautiful!  Way to go Ann!

 backyard o7 14 001

What native plants do you have growing in your gardens?

 

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EVIL ME!!! Enabling Your Wildflower Addiction…..

Glorious Yellow Coneflowers and Prairie Blazingstars!!!

Glorious Yellow Coneflowers and Prairie Blazingstars!!!

Window Shopping for Wildflowers

If, like me you’ve got an addiction to the beauty and low maintenance ways of wildflowers you’re constantly scoping out native plants to feed your wildflower need. Late summer is loaded with wildflower beauty!!  Allow me to enable your wildflower addiction with the following 10 wildflower recommendations:

Wildflower Workhorses

These beauties demonstrate enormous vigor and versatility. All are long-blooming and happy to grow in sun or shade. Not fussy in the least, these easy going plants thrive in sandy soil, loam and even compacted clay.

Oxe-Eye Sunflowers bloom prolifically all summer long and make excellent cut flowers.

Oxe-Eye Sunflowers bloom prolifically all summer long and make excellent cut flowers.

Oxe Eye Sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides) Bright eyed and bushy tailed these perennial native sunflowers bloom their hearts out for you all the live-long summer.

Monarda, Bergamot or BeeBalm - are all common names for Monarda fistulosa.

Monarda, Bergamot or BeeBalm – are all common names for Monarda fistulosa.

Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) Thriving on neglect, these pollinator magnets smell delicious. Their soft, mauve blossoms belong in every garden.

You can't go wrong with Wild Quinine!

You can’t go wrong with Wild Quinine!

Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) I’ve often confessed my allegiance to Wild Quinine in my many public speaking presentations and in my book, Taming Wildflowers and with good reason. Thick, wide, cream-coloured blossoms on a sturdy stem make Wild Quinine the perfect plant to include in any garden or vase. Wild Quinine serves equally well as the primary design element in an all-white garden or soft colored bouquet or as a background blossom that highlights brightly colored flowers. I LOVE Wild Quinine.

Yellow Coneflower are stunning in the summertime garden!

Yellow Coneflower are stunning in the summertime garden!

Yellow Coneflower  (Ratibida pinnata) Magnificent plants in the summertime garden, Yellow Coneflower’s cheery bright yellow petals brighten a late season garden immeasurably!!

Wildflowers for Super Sunny Sandy Spots

There’s something magical and downright impressive about plants that grow in pure gravel. With zero need for watering, these high performance plants are perfect for rockeries, scree and sand dune gardens. Here are a few of my favourites:

A colourful wave of pink delight - that's Wine Cups!

A colourful wave of pink delight – that’s Wine Cups!

Wine Cups (Calliroe involucrata) If you enjoy cascading waves of bright pink flowers that bloom all summer long in the blazing heat and never require watering then you will adore Wine Cups! Deep tap roots help wine cups bloom prolifically all summer long. I grow them in my hilly rock garden, also called a scree. If I had a stone wall in a sunny spot of my garden I’d plant wine cups and enjoy their pink cascading waves of beauty enhancing my handsome stone wall all summer long.

Delicate Dotted Mint thrives on neglect.

Delicate Dotted Mint thrives on neglect.

Dotted Mint (Monarda punctata) Happy to miraculously grow in pure gravel, I am blown away by Dotted Mint’s oh so subtle interplay between soft pink and cream petals. Check out the complexity of its three-tiered blossom – a masterpiece of floral engineering. Dotted Mint is a structural marvel. How awesome!!!

After the first hard frost Little Bluestem's colour turns to a subtle shade of dusty pink.

After the first hard frost Little Bluestem’s colour turns to a subtle shade of dusty pink.

Little Bluestem's blades are blue, green, grey and a bit of turquoise in just the right light.

Little Bluestem’s blades are blue, green, grey and a bit of turquoise in just the right light.

Little Bluestem  (Schizachyrium scoparium)– My go-to decorative native grass, Little Blue Stem contributes visually to any and all gardening styles. If you have a relaxed, meadow style garden plant Little Blue in swaths. I’ll often design it into sleek, highly structured decorative grass gardens and include swaths of bright orange Butterfly Weed which grows to approximately the same height as Little Blue.  I see hints of turquoise in Little Blue’s handsome blue, green, grey blades. In fall Little Blue transforms into an ethereal dusty pink mass that sways in the wind.

Loam and Damp Dirt Lovers

If you’ve got luscious dark and loamy soil you owe it to yourself to grow swaths of these three exquisite wildflowers:

Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata) Ironweed boasts the richest, boldest deep purple flowers imaginable. End of story.

Ironweed has very strong stems and a stunning purple flower.

Ironweed has very strong stems and a stunning purple flower.

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia syphilitia) Great Blue Lobelia sports blue spikes that are vastly easier to grow than its finicky sibling the red Cardinal Flower. And who doesn’t appreciate blue in the garden?

Great Blue Lobelia is beautifully easy to grow!

Great Blue Lobelia is beautifully easy to grow!

Dramatic purple spikes of Prairie Blazingstar, the tallest of the Blazingstar family.

Dramatic purple spikes of Prairie Blazingstar, the tallest of the Blazingstar family.

Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya) Like all Liatris, Prairie Blazingstar blooms from the top down. This gorgeous purple spike offers drama and vivid color in the summer garden.

To find more wildflowers that will love your soil, sun and moisture conditions you’ll appreciate this handy wildflower seed selector tool:

Get Growing!!!

Plant wildflower seeds in late fall and let nature do the heavy lifting!  When wildflower seeds fall to the ground, their shells get roughed up all winter then they can successfully germinate in moist, warm spring soil.  Nature programs many wildflowers to require winter sowing or cold moist stratification before they’ll begin to grow. This fall simply plant wildflower seeds into a pot or into the ground and let snow and freezing temperatures do the rest. Or, instead, you can replicate winter conditions by planting wildflower seeds in a damp growing medium in small pots. Refrigerate the planted seeds for 4-6 weeks then place them in warm, moist, spring like conditions and they’ll germinate for you!!! If you’d like to learn more about germinating wildflowers from seed check out the chapter on “Making Wildflower Babies” in my book, Taming Wildflowers.

small taming

 

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