Saturday, March 23, 2013
The most natural looking of garden displays is one of native flowers. Once established wild flowers become a self-sown feature merging beautifully and harmoniously together.
These days the common garden flowers are highly bred exotic and usually foreign varieties. But these require lots of care and attention compared to native flowers that mainly look after themselves. Importantly--native flowers bring a beauty and fragrance of their own. They also attract a diverse wild life--insects, birds and other animals. These visitors help to restore the natural balance by keeping garden pests in check.
The real beauty of native flowers is often not appreciated as local habitat has often been degraded by unnatural interference. So gardeners sometimes incorrectly identify their native flora as weeds. Real weeds have special characteristics beyond the common description of a weed being 'a plant in the wrong place.' Remember, weeds are difficult to manage in the garden precisely because their natural competitors have been removed and because cultivation keeps the ground disturbed and open for colonisation. Where conditions are more stable the native floras of woodland, meadow, or grassy bank, will eventually take over. Give wild flowers a chance and the weeds will find it harder to get established.
There is an important difference between planning the bedding and borders (with the usual battle against weeds), and in preparing for native flowers. Beds and borders are wholly an artifical feat of garden sculpturing, somewhat like planning the inside of the house, but this time done in the garden. You are matching planting positions in your borders for plant stature, color and effect.
Alternatively you could simply sow wild flowers seeds, or roll out a wild flower seeded mat. A mix of meadow or hedgerow flowers is naturally beautiful and importantly it attracts wild life. There are special seed mixes to attract birds, butterflies, bats etc... Leave seed heads on for winter. If you have a tree canopy you could sow a woodland flower mix.
But with wild flowers you should aim to plan natural habitats in your garden rather than the plant sculptures or beds and borders. Therefore you create sites of shade, sun, moisture and dry; grass prairie, or tall herb, and many more are possible. Habitat creation is where the main effort goes. Some habitats like bog gardens over dry soil need to be specially created.
Indeed creating habitat in your own garden is very exciting because the exact result is far less predictable but always truly amazing. With wild flowers you give back to nature some of what has been lost.
The benefits extend beyond the flowers to the native insects, birds and other animals that normally live and feed in the habitats you have created. Some of the plants you once thought of as weeds now reveal their unique beauty and you see them in a different light.