In late spring the Staff and Horticultural Committee of the Board of the Botanical Garden decided to plant a wildflower meadow parallel to Melbourne Road, to provide a natural buffer to the road and, most importantly, to attract a greater number of pollinators and birds to the Garden site.
A group of Board members, volunteers, staff, and meadow professionals from J.W. Townsend Landscapes selected the plants for this bed. Priority was given to plants that are good pollinators, are aesthetically pleasing and have enough structural integrity that they do not flop over. The plants included 20% grasses and the remaining 80% is a combination of annual, biennial, and perennial flowers. The flower selection is primarily native plants. There are exceptions to provide flowers for color, interest, and increased pollinator activity during the first and second years of the garden’s growth.
Brian Yoder, from J.W. Townsend Landscapes, presented background information to the Garden Guardian volunteers about the wildflower meadow. He explained the process of preparing the area for the garden which included the prudent use of herbicide to kill the existing Bermuda grass, lespedeza, and other invasive plants that out compete the desired meadow plants.
The soil was tested and revealed that the soil lacked the needed phosphorus for the plants to thrive. To avoid erosion, the thatch was left in place and a (no-till drill) aerator was used to plant the meadow seeds.
A meadow evolves as it ages. During the first growing season a meadow depends on annuals for structure, flowers, and seasonal interest. When you explore the wildflower meadow you will see the garden’s annual flowering plants: partridge pea, cosmos, zinnias and annual coreopsis. At the end of the first season some of the perennial flowers and grasses will probably only be between 1 – 6” tall.
Experts consider the 2nd growing season to be the gangly adolescence of a meadow’s evolution. Annual flowers are limited to those plants from the prior year which re-seeded in the meadow, like partridge pea. Therefore, biennial plants were added into the seed mix to fill in the second-year gap. In this case, Queen Anne’s Lace & some of the coreopsis were selected.
In the third growing season, the perennials shine! Three grasses (Little Bluestem, Purple Top and Side Oats Gamma) and 19 different perennial species such as Milkweed, False Indigo, Aster, Hyssop, Mountain Mint, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Sunflower, Goldenrods, Blazing Stars, Beebalm, Vervain and Yarrow will be the stars of the wildflower garden. This variety of plants guarantees an extended season of color and interest in the meadow, for the benefit of both pollinators and people.
The Garden Guardian volunteers were presented with this information as part of the educational component provided to them prior to working in the Garden on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. These same volunteers will be providing the hand weed control. If you are interested in volunteering, visit our website.