neighborhood garden for july 24, 2010






What are wildflowers? There are many definitions including:

·        a free gift from nature,

·        a plant that has not been hybridized by growers,

·        a plant that developed by itself to fit in a particular area,

·        a surprise that appears anywhere to fill a barren area.

          We see them year around in abundance, meadows, roads, railroad tracks, near ponds and in the wood. They seem to require nothing from people to survive.

          There is a trend these days for a number of people to allow only native wildflowers in their gardens. One reason is to save them from development, and another to cut down on labor, pesticides, and water.  Some consider them a history lesson on what their ancestors found when they came West.

          One of my favorites is the Oxeye Daisy. Once you have one it will fill in space, fend off its natural enemies, and adapt to your garden. In June , it can be seen in meadows, ditches, and along the woods. Our use of herbicides has cut the number we might find.  Our ancestors had a number of remedies in the search for “cures”. Like many other “wildies”, it produces much seed. To move it I pull up the plant with mature seeds and shake it in the new area. In a week or so there are numerous babies up ready to root down for the following spring. When about 2 inches tall I pick out 4 or 5 plants about 2 feet apart and hoe the remainder. This is very easy to do when they are small. Next June I will have clumps about 2 feet apart and many blossoms to pick.  They live a long time in a bouquet.  The blossoms will float in a shallow dish for a low centerpiece.  Try a blue, low platter like dish.

          If you need a big, bold plant for a background that requires no care, the Verbascum thapsus will fit.  The native can get six feet tall and is loaded with bloom spikes 12 to 18 inches long of bright yellow. Hybridizers now have shorter, daintier plants only about 3 feet tall with pastel flowers that require more care. 

          At one time Mullein was used as a treatment for leprosy. This is a biennial but you can have blooms every year if you let the seeds fall to the ground and then come up in the fall so that the plants are in their second year of growth. If you have an area of poor, gravely, even a stony hillside, the native Mullein will feel at home.

          Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp) is one that has been extensively “worked on” by hybridizers.  They make excellent cut flowers, lasting a long time. A native of the Midwest it has traveled all over in hay and shipped with livestock.  Many species that have a dark center are called Black-eyed Susan. Sometimes they are called Gloriosa Daisies. There are annuals, perennials, and biennials.  Many will stand erect during winter with seeds available for birds.  One of the first ones I remember is Goldenglow, which may grow 10 feet tall. There were huge clumps against buildings in dry Colorado .  In contrast there is Toto, a dwarf about 10 inches tall with bright yellow ray flowers and darkest center.  So you can find a very vigorous plant of any size to fit your space. Both Rudbeckias and Echinacea are called cone flowers.

          Actually all of the flowers we grow in our gardens were all wildflowers that were noticed by someone who took them home. The Daylilies we have in so many sizes and colors were first like the orange one we see in the ditches. In Asia they were food. The flower buds used as a vegetable with the flowers eaten fresh or in soups, and the tips of the roots have swellings that can be washed and peeled, resembling Water Chestnuts. When the Europeans took them home they became garden flowers.  Colonists brought them to the United States -an orange (Hemerocallis fulva) and a yellow one (Hemerocallis flava). You can now choose size from dwarf to 4 feet or even when you want them to bloom. Hemerocallis flowers are a favorite of the Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.

          In my gray garden are the low Pussy Toes (Antennaria) usually found in dry gravely areas.  The leaves hug the ground and the blooms are only 5 inches high. Blooms are soft and fuzzy that are supposed to look like kittens paws.  Some hills in Nebraska are covered the “toes”. Some plants are male or female plants.  The seeds are tiny with parachutes.  American Painted Lady Butterflies lay their green eggs under the leaves.  Pussy Toes spread by stolons above ground or underground rhizomes.

Copyright 2010





          The heavy rains we have had this spring state-wide has produced an unusually heavy crop of Mushrooms in the lawns, flower beds, and gardens The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Horticulture reports that “Mushrooms growing in lawns or mulched beds are fruiting bodies of fungi growing on decomposing organic matter in soil, such as an old tree root; or on wood ship mulch. Most Mushrooms are harmless to the turf, unless they are one of the fairy ring Mushrooms. They will disappear when the organic matter decomposes or conditions are less conducive to Mushroom production. Homeowners should remove Mushrooms to reduce the risk of children eating them. Some types can be poisonous.”  To remove the Mushrooms just rake them out of the lawn or garden, or step on them. If in mulch beds, use your rake to fluff up the mulch. Your mulch should be fluffed every year for maximum effectiveness. If not fluffed, it will mat and not provide the insulating air spaces. 

Source: UNL Extension Horticulture “Hort Update for the week of 7/2/2010”

Reference: “Mushrooms in the Lawn” from K-State Research and Extension. (