Wildflowers are not wild, they are native. It is unfortunate that they are referred to as "wild" when they are quite tame.
A few are energetic and a bit aggressive, but for the most part they are well-behaved according to Alicia Bosela, Ironweed Native Plant Nursery. She even has some favorites that are "front yard worthy."
Why plant things that grow along the roadside or in the woods? Many people consider them just weeds and wild plants not worthy of cultivating. Besides being attractive, they provide food and shelter for native animals, particularly pollinators, are adapted to the environment, have greater resistance to insects and disease, and provide balance to the ecosystem.
There is a wildflower for every need and environmental requirement: yard/meadow/woodland, wet/dry, and full sun to full shade, and vining. Survey your yard while the summer garden still is fresh in your memory. Make a list of what areas need filling in with a native plant survives our weather and that attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinators?
Does your yard need to make the privacy screen more attractive or trellis covered? Aggressive grower Carolina Snailseed vine (Cocculus carolinianus) is the answer. Its growth rate is redeemed by heavy clusters of bright red berries in the fall that birds love.
For a mixed sun/shade moist area introduce Blue Aster (Phlox divaricate) that produces a 12 inch mat of pink-purple flowers. Or, Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) that reaches 1-4 feet tall with snapdragon-like perennial tight clusters of white to pink bloom. The acid and moist lover that blooms July-September, was planted late, forgotten during our drought, and yet reached 2 feet and finished blooming last week.
Do not limit your choices to the more commonly planted. Bosela recommends including some rare plants such as 1-2 feet tall Southern Prairie aster that blooms late summer to fall and whose stems provide winter interest. Also, under-utilized Downy Wood mint, Massing Mountain mint, Joe Pye weed (tall background plant), Mouse Ear Tickseed, Beardtongue (pollen-free iris-like), and iris. Iris and Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) are ideal for ditches and stabilizing soil. The latter is a member of the coffee family and reaches 6-12 feet.
Include native shrubs such as small tree/medium shrub Carolina Buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana) that blooms May-June; gray, and rough-leaf dogwoods; and viburnums for small gardens.
Reliable sources: Ironweed Native Plant Nursery (ironweednursery.com, 270-250-3587), prairienursery.com, Sunshine Farm and Gardens (sunfarm.com, 304-49-2208).
Things to do
"Garden as if you will live forever."
-- William Kent, late 17c.architect
n Garden - Secure ties on climbing rose canes to prevent whipping in winter winds. Place chicken wire around shrub roses and fill with dry leaves. Continue to plant spring bulbs and order summer bulbs. Remove cool weather chickweed as it energetically grows this time of year. Perennials that have not been planted need to be soaked before doing so.
n Lawn - Mow at 2.5 inches as needed. Treat for broadleaf weeds.
n Trees - Fertilize trees and shrubs once they are dormant, except those that have recently been planted. Do not use a lawn fertilizer, it contains too much nitrogen. Top dress evergreens with 0-20-20 for root growth. As long as the ground is not frozen, you can plant. The size of the root ball to the plant is important. Select a plant whose root ball larger than the shrub will be healthier and experience less stress than visa versa. Cut nandina berries just as they begin to show color, to retain them for a longer time. Let dry naturally and spray with a fixative or hair spray.
n Vegetable garden - Pick up windfall and harvest in-tree fruit to deter rodents. Prune grape vines, cutting new vines back to 18 inches. Once soil samples are taken and cleaned it up, add amendments according to the Extension Service recommendations. Plant asparagus crowns. Make soup of excess pumpkins and freeze.
Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun's gardening columnist, at firstname.lastname@example.org