Central Florida gardeners will soon a have a new location to see and explore Florida’s native wildflowers and grasses. A no-mow wildflower meadow is being installed at the Orange County UF/IFAS Extension’s Exploration Gardens in Orlando, funded by the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration Garden grant. The meadow will be approximately 2,700 square feet and will include 25 species of Florida native wildflowers and grasses. Eventually, it will connect two sections of a planned native tree walk.
In a first for Florida, a project to manage naturally occurring wildflowers – versus displays that have been planted – has been recognized for its success. The Florida Federation of Garden Clubs recently gave a “Paths of Sunshine” award to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5 for successfully protecting and nurturing a natural wildflower display along a stretch of State Road 520 in east Orange County.
Some of the plants that are common to our home landscapes are actually invasive species, many of which are now widespread in Florida’s natural areas. Removing these species from your landscape and replacing them with native alternatives can help prevent the spread of invasive species and will provide suitable food and cover for native wildlife. We suggest some “alter-natives” for your landscape.
If you’re looking to dress up your landscape this summer, consider these native species, which adapt readily to home gardens and provide weeks of blooms.
Chris Waltz, volunteer extraordinaire and wildflower-gardening enthusiast, was inspired by people saying they can’t grow natives because they live in an apartment, condo, or other small space. He started thinking: They grow houseplants and annuals; why can’t they grow natives the same way? The result? A “pollinator garden in a pot.”
Establishing a wildflower garden from seed is easier than you’d think, and now is the time to get started. We’ve made it easy for you with these resources.
‘Tis the season for seed collecting. As you return to the garden after the last two months of unbearable heat, biting bugs and sweat, you’ll probably encounter a lot of overgrown stems. Cut those back to their base to freshen up the plant for winter. Trailing species, such as beach sunflower and Gaillardia, can also be whacked into submission and will probably bloom again by late November.
“Fall is for planting” has been the unofficial promotional campaign of the nursery industry for many years. This slogan applies to sowing seeds of native wildflowers and grasses as well, at least here in Florida. Establishing a planting of wildflowers, whether as a garden or converting some turfgrass to a low-maintenance area, is very laudable, but it first requires a reality check.
You may know this group of plants as “rattlesnakemasters.” Although not widely grown for landscape use, these perennial plants can be found across Florida in a variety of habitats. I love the diversity of these plants, as well as their interesting flowers that occur in summer and fall. They are always a little hard to describe because the heads are comprised of many tiny flowers, but their unique blooms, which may last for several months, are best captured in photos.
Wildflower gardens add a natural look to otherwise ordered landscapes. But that natural appearance will become weedy if weeds are not controlled. Unlike the infomercial tagline, “set it and forget it,” doing so in any garden, let alone a Florida wildflower garden, often results in a weedy mess. Weeds that commonly occur in wildflower gardens vary widely across the state. Here are simple suggestions for controlling any weed occurring in a wildflower garden.
Have a small area where you want to plant wildflowers? Concerned about weeds? You should be, even in planting sites where weeds don’t seem like they will interfere with establishing and managing your wildflower garden. An abundance of weed seeds can lurk in the top few inches of soil just waiting for some sort of disturbance. And from the weeds point of view, disturbance can range from tilling the soil to eradicating existing vegetation with an herbicide.
If you have added wildflowers to your landscape, you’ve probably learned how adaptable they are to a wide range of environmental conditions. Although it is a challenge to introduce wildflowers to a dry site, many species will adapt and flourish once established.
In your wildflower garden this fall, the butterflies, bees and wasps are still busy gathering nectar and preparing for migration or dormancy. Goldenrods, asters, dotted horsemint, liatris, meadow beauty and Indian paintbrush are in their glory now. Take time to enjoy your garden up close and watch the changes of fall.
Some wildflowers wait until summer to emerge and begin faster growth to take their place in the fall garden. Check your garden for new arrivals such as coneflowers, blue curls and sunflowers.
Although summer’s heat keeps many of us inside, it’s a busy time for wildflowers. Thousands of butterflies, bees, wasps and other insects visit flowers to obtain nectar. It’s also the changing of the guard, when lovely delicate spring bloomers such as coral bean, Coreopsis and skullcap are replaced by sturdier heat-loving species.