In Fall of last year, I became tired of a field full of Filaree and embarked on planting a marvelous meadow of native wildflowers and grasses. The Filaree stickers are evil and they stick terribly to Maggie, our Corgi.
Here are photos showing the progress and challenges, with the first wave of flowers blooming this month. It looks like there will be many more varieties blooming in the future.
California Native Meadow Project
I started in September by killing the weeds….twice, ordering seeds in October and sowing them in the middle of November. November, just before a rain, is a great time to sow seeds and good soil contact is most important, so I just walk all over them as I go. After all the preparation of the area, I was excited to actually get started.
I wanted all California natives and found a them at S & S Seeds in Carpenteria, CA. We are at 3000 ft elevation, so get several relatively light snows from October to April, from 2 to eight inches, which melt away within a few hours or days.
Native wildflowers, by definition are at home in your area, provide months of lovely color, reseed enthusiastically, and are an interesting way to educate yourself in new varieties of wild flowers that you don’t know as well as California poppies and lupine which most people know.
Looking pretty good, huh? Blooms will be next don’t you think? …….NO!
Eight inches of snow settled gently down among the seedlings in the third week of March, apparently and amazingly, causing no damage. These are tough little babies.
Seedlings are now big enough to recognize and distinguish from the weeds. Some I did not know so looked up what the different varieties should look like and it became difficult to tell from what photos there were online. So, I started taking my own photos, identifying them and compiling a gallery of seedling photos. As weeks went by I weeded twice thoroughly, stepping gingerly between the small sprouts. I was happy that it only took an hour and a half, tops, each time.
Over and over the words I read in a very informative post by Country Mouse, “Weed and wait.” came into my head and although these words taught by Ellen Holmes, a botanist with Central Coast Wilds, applied to waiting to see what nature would bring naturally, in this case I think the words apply as well. I also think of the Mice when weeding out Mouse-eared Chickweed….can’t help it.
More snows, a total of four different times in April was a real ‘wintersowing’ test and I was glad to see that each time the seedlings appeared fine, not even looking like they had been flattened at all.
Wild flowers are dear to my heart because as a child I watched as my mother collected poppy seeds from her garden and tossed them out the car windows while we were on vacation, so “they could grow and be enjoyed by others.” Has anyone else inherited a love for wild nature from their parents?
One native grass, I could identify as Small Fescue, Vulpia microstachys. The attractive airy grass is growing tall in the center of the meadow area. Baby blue eyes and Five spot were the first to bloom, followed by California Poppies and Succulent Lupine and Bird’s eye Gilia.
The seedlings grew thicker and taller by the old log in the area. I could see it was acting as a ‘nurse log,’ probably holding moisture in reserve and it served as a focal point along with the California Sycamore.
More weeds are dominating besides the Fillaree, Erodium botrys and E. circutarium. Field madder, Sherardia arvensis, Chickweed, Stellaria media, Mouse-Eared Chickweed Cerastium fontanum and Bedstraw, Galium aparine try to take over.
In her instructions on How to sow wildflower seeds, Judith Larner Lowry says, “The most critical factor in reintroducing annual wildflowers is weed control”
I like the sunny cheerfulness of Tidy tips, a variety I don’t have here on the land. And, is there anything prettier than California poppies?
Some challenges are distinguishing which are the seedlings of the other two grasses, California Melic, Melica californica and Purple Needlegrass, Nassella pulchra that should be here.
Around the edge of the field, I have planted native and non-native plants so the meadow looks good even when the wildflowers fade. I moved a White sage, Salvia apiana and a Gaura, planted Autumn sage and some Desert willow, Chilopsis linearis, Salvia, Agastache and some Pink muhly grass, Veronica allionii ‘Blue Pixie’, Penstemon ‘Lavender Ruffles’, Penstemon ‘Margarita B.O.P and two Blue chaste trees. All these were sale plants from last Fall. Love a bargain.
There are many more flowers yet to bloom, and the Chinese Houses and Globe Gilia look like they’ll be next. There are a few seedlings I haven’t been able to ID yet and some that have not, or may not, sprout. I’m worried that I have pulled out the good grasses. a complete list of what’s sown is in the “Do you dream….” post above.
Another challenge was the bare spots in the meadow, a problem common when hand sowing. The bare spots occurred in the steepest area, a slight swale where the seeds may have been washed away. This can be corrected next Fall by terracing a bit. The washed out seeds sprouted along the path dividing the meadow from the fruit tree area.
There are design tasks to do. The paths need to be weeded and defined with an edging. A light layer of mulch may help the crustiness of the soil in bare spots and neaten it as well.
I’ve enjoyed the detail work of listing the CA native seedlings and photographing the seedlings, flowers and even the weeds. I’ve learned a lot so far and that another thing that’s been enjoyable. As more flowers bloom and more grasses are identified, I’ll post the developments here. There’s was a lovely rain today!
The Meadow project, month by month
What am I really doing in the garden in October? Planning and removing weeds
Do you dream of a natural and beautiful wildflower meadow? Finding and sowing seeding
Let’s check for progress on the meadow! Weeding and watching the weather
How to weed a meadow in the Sierra Foothills More weeding…letting the sprouts thrive
Let’s check on Fall and Winter projects! Identifying seedlings
The wildflower meadow in May Small triumphs
My California native meadow in June Starting to bloom
The midsummer meadow The peak bloom
Stomping down the Autumn meadow Neatening up
Native California meadow in the second year