It’s that time again…

Unmowed Eco-Lawn

I love the look of unmowed Eco-Lawn. Oh yea, did I mention you don’t have to mow once a week? Or once a month? Once a year to put it to bed in the fall is all you need. However, if you WANT to mow it, you certainly can, just be sure to cut it at least 3 inches high. This is not your putting green grass, it’s your roll around with the dog, lay and watch the clouds, enjoy a picnic kind of grass.

You there, grass grower! How’s it going? Have you taken a look at your grass lately? Or did you give up in July (officially recorded as the hottest July ever since 1880)?

Whether you’re spending time and money keeping your lawn green or precious energy staring out the window at the brown patch you used to call a lawn, you’re not living your life the way you should be.

In Canada we have just begun prime grass seeding time. That’s right, despite what all of those TV ads tell you, grass actually does better when it’s started in the fall (in Canada, the third week of August to the end of September).  For all other places in North America, check out Eco-Lawn’s seeding times chart.

Why Fall?

Fall provides the best of both worlds: warm temperatures and ample sunlight, not to mention the reliable rains and less competition with weeds.  These are perfect conditions to get those roots into the ground in preparation for winter.  Come spring, if you’ve done everything right, a little overseeding is all you need and the lesser spring rains can take care of most of the watering for you.

If you live in an area that doesn’t really receive “winter” as we do in the Northern States and Canada, be sure to take advantage of the cooler periods: November, December, January.  The seeds will thank you for it: just like our Canadian skin after a long winter, it will burn without some protection. And no one needs that.

Seeding and Overseeding

Seeding grass is a fairly simple concept with a few caveats. Especially when you’re seeding Eco-Lawn.  Essentially it’s the same process as other grass seeds but if you really want it to take off, there are a few considerations.

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Cut it or don’t…up to you!

1. Remove existing weeds, grass, and debris.

2. Loosen the soil about 3 inches deep.

3. Rake smooth.

4. Sprinkle compost (1/4 inch layer) in area.

5. Apply water.

6. Spread seeds according to the bag.

7. Water again and press seeds into soil by walking over the area.

Watering is a bit of a controversial subject.  If you water too aggressively, you will push the seed around into an uneven pattern. If you don’t water enough, your seeds will dry up. If you water on a hill, you can easily wash all the seeds down to the bottom. Be smart about watering, apply it lightly and for longer periods of time rather than in short bursts.  Drive those roots downwards and keep the area moist until germination happens.  Upon germination, water less frequently but still keep on top of it.  Proper care during these stages of a grass blade’s life are critical.

If you didn’t notice, a lot of seeding a new lawn is preparation. Probably 90% of the time you will spend establishing a new lawn will be preparing for the seed to be sown. And it’s well worth it.

Overseeding isn’t much different except the prep work isn’t as intense.  When you overseed, you are taking new seed and spreading it into the existing lawn.

Before overseeding, use a fan rake to get rid of debris and built up that accumulates at the soil surface.  Wait until it rains in the fall (or apply water yourself) and throw down some compost and seed.  Take a long walk through your lawn area, ensuring firm contact with the soil and the seed. The existing lawn will bounce right back up, not to worry.

The Shameless Eco-Lawn Plug

Picture1Here it goes: Eco-Lawn works well in the dry climates in the southern States, survives the well-below-0 winters throughout Canada, and can take a heck of a lot of water without drowning (if you live in an area prone to those conditions).

The added benefit is that it is also drought tolerant.  Once established and given the chance to drill roots a foot into the ground, it will source its own water.  The thin blades create a mass of thick lawn that shades the soil surface, keeping moisture closer to where it’s needed.

The seven different species work in harmony, avoiding the traditional monoculture sold by most lawn seed brands. The result is a lawn that is healthier and more apt to fend off an insect or disease attack. And grubs? Not likely, since you won’t need to water constantly to keep it green.

It’s your time to shine, Canada (and a number of States, too).  If you’re not sure about it yet, give us a call – we’d be happy to help you out!

And, of course, our website has a tonne of information for all of your inquisitive minds.

Enjoy the last bit of summer and, of course, HAPPY SEEDING!

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A Special Visit to Wildflower Farm

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  Nothing in the world beats a walk through nature – be it a forest, botanical garden or your very own wildflower paradise. Here at Wildflower Farm we are privileged to walk among wildflowers each and every day.

This week’s Wildflower Farm vlog (video + blog) features 18 wildflowers and native grasses wrapped in an experiential bow.  As you tour Wildflower Farm’s many gardens and meadows I hope you will enjoy the extraordinary beauty of these hardy North American wildflowers.

      My partner Paul and I continue to dedicate our lives to providing the wildflower seeds that grow your wildflower meadows and gardens and the knowledge and experience to help you succeed.

     Which wildflowers are right for you? You’ll discover the wildflowers designed by nature to succeed in your landscape when you visit the Wildflower Farm seed selector.

Dreaming of a wildflower meadow? Let’s make it happen!

Fall is the BEST time to start wildflowers from seed. 

Need some help? We’re just a call, a text or an email away.

 866 476 9453

info@wildflowerfarm.com

 

 

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The Scree

Boy, it was a hot one this week! But, while we were melting, the scree garden flourished.

The Wildflower Farm’s scree garden was built using large boulders, gravel, and sand.  The plants that thrive there need no water and love the sun.  As an added bonus, they’re perennials that will survive our Canadian winters.

Step 1 - moving big rocks into scree

The first step was building the base. Large boulders are placed using the tractor and finagled until the size and shape was just right.

If you have, or want, a rock garden, these are the plants you’ll want to add.  Like many wildflowers sold at the Wildflower Farm, you’ll need to start these seeds in the fall.

Pasque Flower

You’ve seen this here before.  It’s one of my favourites and is the first to bloom in the spring scree.  Not only are the purple (or white) flowers luxurious to look at, the seed heads are incredibly intricate. Not to mention, incredible important food for the early spring pollinators.

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Pasque flower in the early spring scree garden.

Prairie Smoke

While the Pasque Flower is going to seed, Prairie Smoke is opening up.  A tiny red flower that puts on a heck of a show come summer.  The name “Prairie Smoke” is fitting.

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Prairie Smoke blossoms turn into delicate-looking whisps, resembling smoke from a distance.

Blue Flax

Flax seed is all the rage these days and your rock garden could use some, too. The bright blue flowers sit atop a skinny stem that reaches up to two feet in height. En masse, they are a burst of colour you don’t often find in the garden (blue isn’t the most common of flower colours).

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Blue Flax – eye-popping blue colour.

Harebell

The Wildflower Farm’s scree garden has a few patches of this light purple cup-shaped flower.  In my garden at home, they just showed up.  Content to grow right next to a cedar bush and a rock pile. The smaller bees and flies love to crawl inside the flower and I’ve often seen them take shelter during the rain.

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Harebell will flower all summer. Re-blooming over and over again to provide delicate colour to the driest of gardens.

Winecups

For areas that need more of a cover, give winecups a try.  They are a bit slow to start but once they get going, you’re in for a treat! At the Wildflower Farm’s scree garden, they are known as the sea of mallow. And it’s easy to see why.

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Bonus: blooms all summer.

Dotted Mint

One of the most interesting wildflowers to look at: it really doesn’t seem like it belongs in North America, let alone Canada. But, alas, it lives, and thrives, here.  This flower will provide a focal point in the late summer scree.

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Perfect for the hot, dry landscape of the Wildflower Farm Scree Garden. A butterfly favourite.

If you have a dry, sunny spot where nothing seems to grow, give some of these a try. You’ll be surprised at just how much colour and interest you can add to a space you thought would be barren forever.

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My Wildly Floriferous Life

Gathering wildflowers on a beautiful summer day! It's a tough job but Somebody has to do it.

Gathering wildflowers on a beautiful summer day! It’s a tough job but Somebody has to do it.

This morning is a great example of my insanely beautiful life here at the pollinators’ paradise we call Wildflower Farm. Just yesterday on Facebook, one of Wildflower Farm’s loyal friends asked “What’s in bloom right now at the Farm?”  How better to answer her question than with a big fat bouquet filled with many of wildflowers in bloom right now. I couldn’t fit every single wildflower and native grass in bloom into the bouquet. You’ll find list of the species in bloom that didn’t make it into the bouquet at the end of this blog post.

Butterrfly Milkweed, Oxe-Eye Sunflower, Purple Monarda and Dark Purple Capsule-shaped Purple Prairie Clover!

Butterfly Milkweed, Ox-Eye Sunflower, Wild Bergamot and the capsule-shaped Purple Prairie Clover!

Allow me to introduce you to each of the wildflowers in this bouquet. Monarda fistulosa  or Wild Bergamot  sporting soft mauve, crown-shaped blossoms, the blooms and leaves smell minty and indeed Monarda fistulosa is a member of the mint family. It’s a super accomodating plant that stays in bloom for many weeks and grows happily in full sun or part shade. Veronicastrum virginicum or Culver’s Root, it’s easy to spot the tall white spires of this plant from a great distance! Bright yellow Heliopsis helianthoides or Ox-Eye Sunflower is an absolute workhorse in the garden.

I am absolutely enchanted with Amorpha canescens or Leadplant! This native shrub is in its glory this time of year sporting purple flower spikes flecked with gold!

Look at the stunning purple spikes of Lead Plant flecked with gold!!

Look at the stunning purple spikes of Lead Plant flecked with gold!!

Parthenium integrifolium or Wild Quinine, is a beautiful white wildflower that  blooms all summer and into the fall, growing in in full sun or part shade.

Sturdy Wild Quinine blossoms visited by native sweat bee during photo session

Sturdy Wild Quinine blossoms are visited by a native sweat bee during the photo session!

Asclepias tuberosa or Butterflyweed, this bright orange Milkweed loves full sun and sandy soil and, of course, is an essential food source for Monarch Butterflies. Look how beautifully it works as a cut flower!!!

Butterfly Milkweed is an essential food for Monarch Butterflies! Love that orange!

Butterfly Milkweed is an essential food for Monarch Butterflies! Love that orange!

Silphium perfoliatum or Cup Plant is a tall, majestic, wildflower with bright yellow flowers. Its thick square stems combine with sturdy leaves to form a cup that holds water for the birds. Monarda punctata or Dotted Mint grows triple decker blooms of soft pink and white.  Rudbeckia hirta or Black Eyed Susan are the classic cheery yellow and brown wildflowers that grow in sun or shade.  Agastache foeniculum  or Anise Hyssop smells and tastes like licorice.  Ratibida pinnata or Yellow Coneflower offers bright yellow droopy petals on very thin stems.  Pycnanthemum virginianum or Mountain Mint is an essential plant for bee keepers; this lovely member of the mint family has white flowers. Attention summer drink mixologists! Mountain Mint tastes rather like spearmint and works well in  mojitos!

Coneflowers close up! Yellow Ozark Coneflower, Pale Purple Coneflower and Purple Coneflower float atop this very full mid-summer bouquet

Coneflowers close up! Yellow Ozark Coneflower, Pale Purple Coneflower and Purple Coneflower float atop this very full mid-summer bouquet

A Carnival of Coneflowers! Echinacea purpurea or Purple Coneflower, is there anyone not acquainted with the effervescent purple coneflower? Echinacea pallida or Pale Purple Coneflower is a tall, long-blooming tall member of the coneflower family.  Echinacea paradoxa or Ozark coneflower is both goofy and elegant with its giant conehead and huge yellow petals.

And here are the beauties are also in bloom in my mid-summer wildflower gardens and meadows that either didn’t fit into this giant bouquet or don’t work well as cut flowers: Artemesia  ludoviciana or Silver Sage is an elegant silvery ground cover for sun or shade. Bright yellow Coreopsis lanceolata or Lanceleaf Coreopsis; Gallardia aristata or Blanket Flower -  everyone knows this bright red, orange and yellow wildflower! The low growing and elegant native grass, Sporobolus heterolepis or Prairie Dropseed.  Astragalus canadensis or Canada Milkvetch has soft yellow lupin-like blossoms. Verbena stricta or Hoary Vervain sports bright purple blossoms. Eryngium yuccifolium or Rattlesnake Master is the ancient ancestor of the blue sea holly.

Gravel and rock garden plants are amazing! Very few of these beauties function well as cut flowers but they are truly the ultimate drought tolerant plants grow in full sun in pure gravel! Ruellia humilis or Wild Petunia  is a great rock garden plant that thrives in gravely soil and full sun. Callirhoe involucrata or Purple Poppy Mallow, its cousin Callirhoe digitata or Fringed Poppy Mallow and another cousin Callirhoe bushii or Bush’s Poppy Mallow.

Supporting Beneficial Wildlife!  Remember, each of these wildflowers has a long standing mutually beneficial relationship with pollinators and beneficial insects.  So, if you are planning on starting or expanding your wildflower garden start with our Wildflower Seed Selector Tool  to choose the wildflowers that will grow successfully in your site conditions. It’s easy to grow all these beautiful wildflowers from seed! And this fall is the best time to start your wildflower seeds.

It's ridiculously easy to grow your own wildflowers.

It’s ridiculously easy to grow your own wildflowers.

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Let’s Go, Pollinators

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Antheraea polyphemus, a giant silk moth. Wingspan reaching around 15cm to give you an idea of size.

 

It has been a whirlwind of activity in the gardens these past few days.  As a lover of “creepy crawlies”, I don’t think my camera has had more than five minutes rest this week.  Even at night, I am finding things – some of the best things, actually.

But let’s get to the point: it’s bug season.  In fact, our Canadian bugs have been busy since April when the Pasque flowers started blooming.  I liken our bugs to our gardeners: it doesn’t take much to get them out and about once the snow starts to melt.

And, like us, they’re living it up in the summer heat.  Wildflowers are great attractors of native pollinators (and the non-native ones, too).  Have a look at what’s happening around the farm these days.

 

The Honeybee
These are the non-native pollinators I was referring to.  Honeybees actually come from Europe but were brought over many many years ago, about four centuries ago, actually. Nevertheless, they continue to be used by farmers to pollinate crops. Colonies exist outside of those managed hives and they find a happy place on the Farm with the spiderwort.

The Bumble Bee
Bumbles are awkward, heavy bees. I was watching one zip around the coreopsis in my garden the other day.  Now I’m not sure if this particular bumble was heavier than average but every flower it landed on seemed to almost buckle under the weight. Fortunately, there are sturdier plants that they love to peruse. Take, for example, pretty much any Echinacea species and the milkweed.

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Butterflies
In my home garden (mainly devoted to vegetables), I have left several common milkweed plants to grow between the rows.  I pluck out the ones that come up between the veggies where I don’t want them to grow, knowing that in a few years, I will likely abandon the vegetable garden completely, in favour of the milkweed.  The monarchs that I attracted last year are not here this year (yet – I’m remaining hopeful).

However, the coreopsis, although a little too lightweight for the bumble bees, serves as a great little spot for the pearl crescent.  I usually see these small, nimble butterflies in pairs.  The females often sitting atop the flowers and the males on the lookout for a female. Neither the butterfly nor the caterpillar are considered a garden pest and really, are just fun to watch.

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Moths
Sometimes I accidentally forget to turn off the outdoor light before packing it in for the night.  This isn’t always a bad thing, though, as moths are attracted to the bright light and will often stick around until the next morning.  I’ve found several species of sphinx moth this year, which was rather exciting (for a bug nerd).

In the gardens at the Wildflower Farm, I was fortunate to come upon this couple, uhm…well, you know.  Think about it this way: every insect noise you hear in the garden is a male attracting a female for the purposes of reproduction.

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The Virginia ctenucha moth is a day-flying moth (unlike most which prefer the cover of night).  This couple have found a protected spot amidst the cup plants (Silphium perfoliatum). I really love the iridescent blue body of these moths and how it contrasts so sharply with the orange head and black wings.

The dark colour and pointed shape often have folks confusing them for wasps.  Indeed, they are called a “wasp moth” but moths, including the ctenucha, do not have stingers, can’t bite (don’t even have mouths that open), and are completely harmless! The scariest part of this moth is trying to pronounce its name (ten-ooch-ah, if you’re wondering).

Beetles

Beetles aren’t often thought of as pollinators. Zooming in on this photo of a flower longhorn beetle reveals a good amount of pollen stuck to the head and legs.  It was actually quite a challenge getting a good photo of this beetle – they were zipping around the milkweed plant, bumping into the flowers and leaves and this one finally landed long enough for me to snap the picture.

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What’s buzzing in your garden? Leave us a comment!

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DIY Wildflowers – So Simple

Brilliant purple Spiderwort (Tradescancia ohiensis) takes centre stage in this DIY wildflower bouquet.

Brilliant purple Spiderwort (Tradescancia ohiensis) takes centre stage along with Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) in this DIY wildflower bouquet.

Easy Pickings!!

We’ve reached that magical time of year in the wildflower garden when The Picking Is Easy! This very morning I crafted two simple and colourful wildflower bouquets.

Have a look!

The bouquet includes just five kinds of wildflowers, two kinds of foliage and some big fat green Blue False Indigo seed pods.

The Wildflowers included are: Ozark Coneflower or Echinacea paradoxa, Pale Purple Coneflower or Echinacea pallida, Culver’s Root or Veronicastrum virginicum, Spiderwort or Tradescantia ohiensis, Wild Quinine or Parthenium integrifolium,

The foliage contributors: Blue False Indigo or Baptisia australis and Stiff Goldenrod or Oligneron rigidum

I was on a roll so I whipped up this big fat bouquet next!!

DIY: Easy mid-summer wildflower bouquet

DIY: Easy mid-summer wildflower bouquet

This colourful summer daydream includes: Black Eyed Susans or Rudbeckia hirta; White Yarrow or Achillia millifolium; Oxe Eye Sunflowers or Heliopsis helianthoides; Lead Plant or Amorpha canescens; Purple Prairie Clover or Dalea purpurea, Pale Purple Coneflower or Echinacea pallida and Canada May Flower seed pods or Maianthemum canadense.

Check out this close-up of the Purple Prairie Clover. You can see the gold flecks on it and on the purple spiked Lead plant behind it.

Check out this close-up of the Purple Prairie Clover. You can see the gold flecks on it and on the purple spiked Lead plant behind it.

Wild Lily of the Valley sports snazzy striped seed pods.

Canada May Flower sports snazzy striped seed pods and is a brilliant shade ground cover. Look for the seeds in early 2016 from Wildflower Farm!

 

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