• The wildflower meadow in May

    by  • May 9, 2011 • Meadow project, Plant Profiles • 11 Comments

    May Meadow

    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.

    2010-9-25 The September start; weeds removed in marked area 30x30

    2010-9-25 The September start; weeds removed in marked area 30 x 30 feet in size

     

    California Native Meadow Project

    2010-11-9 Newly planted meadow

    2010-11-9 Newly planted meadow in November 2010

    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.

     

    2011-2-20 February snow

    2011-2-20 February snow

    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.

    2011-3-14 Meadow showing a bit of green

    2011-3-14 Meadow showing a bit of green

     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!

    2011-3-21 Meadow under 8 inches of snow

    2011-3-21 Meadow under 8 inches of snow

     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.

    2011-4-5 Baby blue eyes blooming and grasses, Vulpia microstachys growing taller, 4-5 inches

    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.

    2011-4-7 Dusting of snow, one of four snows in April, temps are 35 degrees

    2011-4-7 Dusting of snow, one of four snows in April, temps are 35 degrees

    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.

     

    2011-4-20 Orange Poppies, yellow tidy tips, Blue lupine, light Baby blue eyes and five spot in the first wave of blooms

    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?

     

    2011-4-20 April Meadow

    2011-4-20 April Meadow

     

    2011-4-20 Vulpia microstachys seedheads, one of three sown

    2011-4-20 Vulpia microstachys seedheads, one of three sown

    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.

     

    1-4-20 Nurse log shelters a thicket of seedlings

    1-4-20 Nurse log shelters a thicket of seedlings

    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.

     

    2011-4-20 Orange Poppies, yellow tidy tips, Blue lupine, light Baby blue eyes and five spot in the first wave of blooms

    2011-4-20 Orange Poppies, yellow tidy tips, Blue lupine, light Baby blue eyes and five spot in the first wave of blooms.

     

    Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, is one I've never seen....pretty!

    Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, is one I’ve never seen….pretty!

    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”

     

    Poppies are fewer and the flax starting to apear and fill in

    Poppies are fewer and the flax starting to apear and fill in

    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?

     

    2011-5-4 Bird's Eye Gilia, Gilia Tricolor, another new one for me!

    2011-5-4 Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia Tricolor, another new one for me!

    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.

    2011-5-4 Pink muhly grass(non native) along with a thick mass of wildflower color

    2011-5-4 Pink muhly grass(non native) along with a thick mass of wildflower color

    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.

    2011-5-4 Best of the May meadow flowers

    2011-5-4 Best of the May meadow flowers

     

    Thickest seeding by the log, which probably holds moisture

    Thickest seeding by the log, which probably holds moisture

    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.

    Barest spot on the steepest slope.

    Barest spot on the steepest slope.

     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.

    2011-5-7 May Meadow

    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.

    2011-5-5 California native meadow in May, the ideal image in my head and now in reality!

    2011-5-5 California native meadow in May, the ideal image in my head and now in reality!

    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

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    11 Responses to The wildflower meadow in May

    1. May 9, 2011 at 8:51 pm

      It’s a terrific start to a wildflower meadow. It must feel great to see all your hard work starting to pay off. From those I’ve known who’ve tried to maintain one, keeping things weeded ended being hardest chore. Maybe your grasses will fill in a bit and help crowd out the undesirables?

    2. May 9, 2011 at 8:51 pm

      It’s a terrific start to a wildflower meadow. It must feel great to see all your hard work starting to pay off. From those I’ve known who’ve tried to maintain one, keeping things weeded ended being hardest chore. Maybe your grasses will fill in a bit and help crowd out the undesirables?

    3. May 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      Congratulations on your success!

    4. May 10, 2011 at 11:01 am

      very very very impressive!

    5. May 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      It looks fantastic! Take lots of pictures when the Chinese Houses bloom, because that’s probably the peak. Or at least it was for me – the Chinese Houses left so many dead brown stems behind when they finished blooming that my garden hasn’t looked as good since. The Globe Gilia are still hanging around, though – they last quite a while.

    6. May 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      It looks fantastic! Take lots of pictures when the Chinese Houses bloom, because that’s probably the peak. Or at least it was for me – the Chinese Houses left so many dead brown stems behind when they finished blooming that my garden hasn’t looked as good since. The Globe Gilia are still hanging around, though – they last quite a while.

    7. May 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm

      It turned out beautifully. I sow lots of California poppies here in Georgia, kind of a “it’s five o’clock somewhere” attitude.

      • May 11, 2011 at 10:20 am

        James, thanks. I’m so happy with how it’s turned out, even with a few bare spots. I sure will be happier if I can see the other two grasses appear. It’s been some work, but I’m determined not to let the weeds take over in this area again. I will out-last them! 🙂

        Thanks, Brett, …Lisa I’ll be looking forward to seeing the yarrow, flax and even the non native Ox-eye daises grow and bloom.

        I will, Gayle! I haven’t had Chinese Houses before, or Globe Gilia. Thanks for the tips..dead brown stems don’t fit into the imge in my head! I’ll be looking forward to seeing the yarrow, flax and even the non native Ox-eye daises grow and bloom. Fun!

        Hi Nell Jean, I’m glad you can grow poppies there…so beautiful.

    8. laura dyken
      May 11, 2011 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you for your photos of early wildflower growth, they are tremendously helpful! I planted in specific areas thinking that would help me locate them when the weeds became active. I didn’t recognize many young plants and probably pulled a few beauties along with the oxalis and filleree. That won’t happen anymore now that I have a wonderful photo reference guide.

      • May 12, 2011 at 10:00 am

        Thanks so much, Laura. You can surely see the problem. I have ‘weeded’ out wildflower seedlings before thining they were weeds. In doing the photo gallery it made me more familiar with what the good guys look like!

    9. Pingback: Happy is the meadow planter | Sierra Foothill Garden

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