Painting with Wildflowers
I’ve been a flower junkie for more than a quarter of a century. I am a passionate garden designer, garden tourist and student of nature. I love it all. But for me, nothing thrills more than large swaths of flowers in bloom en mass in a meadow or garden. I wouldn’t be surprised if you share my sentiment. Colorful oceans of blooms light up our brains and lift our spirits.
Swath with Abandon in the Garden
Plantings look more natural in odd numbered drifts so I always plant in odd numbers ( 3, 5, 7, 9). When space allows I include a sizeable quantity of each species. What’s the right number of plants? That depends upon the size and dimensions of your garden, of course. My rule has always been to force myself to plant at least 9 of most perennial wildflower species. If possible I’ll plant 15 or more. Planting in ones or twos of a species isn’t going to register visually as much as large groupings will. Go for the wow factor! The eye is drawn to large masses of colour and form. Of course, I am generalizing here. Certain wide, almost shrub like wildflowers such as Blue or White False Indigo (Baptisia australis and Baptisia alba, respectively ) I tend to plant more sparingly.
You and I both know that buying lots of plants gets expensive! The most convenient, economical and eco-friendly way to get that large swath look is to grow them yourself. Growing wildflowers from seed will give you the freedom to swath with abandon and it’s not hard to do!!! Learn more.
A Swathing We Will Go
One of the great joys of living with a prairie or meadow is observing the ebb and flow of the wildflowers and native grasses from season to season and year to year. As meadows mature the plants decide for themselves where they best like to grow. Over time large swaths of healthy looking plants will place themselves in beautiful, softly rounded configurations ; ovals, semi circles, swirls. You can speed up this process and at the same time personalize this natural process by swathing the wildflowers or native grasses of your choice.
Phase I – The Meadow Seeding
All meadows are a combination of wildflowers and native grasses. Once you’ve chosen the correct meadow mix for your conditions (amount of sunlight, moisture and kind of soil) you will have the amazing opportunity to paint with flowers. First, read up on choosing the correct meadow mix, site preparations, seeding your meadow and how to care for your meadow.
Phase 2: Choosing the Best Icing for Your Wildflower Cake
Now you are ready to choose the wildflowers and native grasses you wish to emphasise or “paint.” Be sure to choose species that work in your soil, sunlight and moisture conditions. Check out the Wildflower Farm Seed Selection Tool .
Which wildflowers to swath? That depend; Perhaps you are passionate about pollinators!
and Bright Orange Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
If you tend to vacation in August and adore Yellow Coneflowers you may wish to swath your vacation property meadow with the beautiful wildflower blooms of late summer.
Or perhaps you are a birder and simply adore dramatically tall Cup Plants (Sylphium perfoliatum)
that produce seed gobbled up by Gold Finches in fall.
The amount of seed for each swath depends upon the dimensions of the area. My partner in life and Wildflower Farm, Paul Jenkins, is a wiz at calculating exactly how much seed you’ll need for your swathing project. Or if you wish, Paul can collaborate with you to create an entirely custom meadow mix.
To swath or not to swath that is the question! Whether ‘tis nobler to paint with wildflowers and native grasses that sway softly in the breeze or to suffer the slings and arrows of a missed opportunity to add a personal touch to your wildflower experience! It’s entirely your choice, of course but why miss out on the fun? I say go for it!!!