Establishing a new wildflower bed

Lincolnia, VA

I live in Northern Virginia (Zone 7). I'm converting an area of my lawn to a wildflower bed and am trying to determine what I can expect in terms of flower growth this season. I laid newspapers over the grass and then covered that area with soil. I've listed the species planted below. I've gotten conflicting information from Master Gardeners, the seed company, and other research I've done regarding when flowering might occur. Essentially, I'd like to know: Can I expect any of these to flower this year or will I need to wait until next year? If they won't flower this year, what can I plant that will hold the dirt in place and prevent weeds in the meanwhile? Keep in mind that I'll be working with seed either way. Since I'm covering turf grass, there's a layer of decomposing grass under the dirt you can see in the picture meaning that I won't be digging holes in the bed. I haven't planted any of these seeds yet.

Thanks for any help!

1. Helianthus annuus (Sunflower 'Sunspot')
2. Helenium autumnale (Autumn Sneezeweed)
3. Aster novae-angliae (New England Aster)
4. Solidago canadensis (Canada Goldenrod)
5. Verbena hastata (Blue Vervain)
6. Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot)
7. Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
8. Achillea millefolium (White Yarrow)- will be planted in the whisky barrel
9. Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove Beardtongue)
10. Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) - will be planted in the whisky barrel

Thumbnail by Hank_B
central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Are you planning on just direct sowing the seeds?

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

The only one I'm sure of is the penstemon, I had Husker's Red. It didn't flower for me the first year from seed. Also, I germinated it by the Deno method chilled, 40 days in the fridge in a damp paper towel in a baggy. Tom Clothiers site has a whole separate section on germinating Penstemons, they vary tremendously depending on type.

Tomclothier.hort.net

Good luck!

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Did you throw dirt over live grass?

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

He said he put newspaper down first then dirt(that's how I start all my new flower beds)...the paper may not have degraded enough yet to let the seedlings take root, also depends on how deep the soil is on top of the paper.
If you winter sow and get a head start then you'll need to dig holes for the plants and cut thru the paper

This message was edited Feb 1, 2013 3:06 PM

Lincolnia, VA

Quote from flowAjen :
Are you planning on just direct sowing the seeds?


I'm planning to mix each species of seeds with a small, separate amount of dirt, so that I can put the dirt in the spots where I want each type of flower to grow. This way, I can better control the placement of taller flowers behind shorter flowers and distribute spring/summer and fall bloomers evenly.

In short, I'll be laying out more soil with seeds in it rather than broadcasting seeds. I'll probably lay a light mulch down on top after I plant. I have a lot of ground-feeding birds in my yard and need to give these seeds ample opportunity to hide.

Lincolnia, VA

Quote from flowAjen :
He said he put newspaper down first then dirt(that's how I start all my new flower beds)...the paper may not have degraded enough yet to let the seedlings take root, also depends on how deep the soil is on top of the paper.
If you winter sow and get a head start then you'll need to dig holes for the plants and cut thru the paper

This message was edited Feb 1, 2013 3:06 PM


I did something similar with newspaper in late-summer early fall and it appeared to largely disintegrate in a couple of months. I turned over the soil that I'd put on top of the paper and didn't see much. Even taking the colder temperature into account, I might be OK on this front since I don't think these flowers would really start digging in with their roots for another few months.

I'm mostly concerned that nothing will germinate this year and I'll be tending a patch of bare dirt in my front yard until the following spring. If that's the case, then I might sow the whole area with clover or rye to keep the dirt in place, though I'm hoping that I'll get flowers instead.

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

I think your timing is pretty good. There are several plants that will flower the first year from seed, and even if they do not, they will be developing a good root structure to support flowers in 2014 and beyond.

I say go for it now (or as soon as you know there will not be frost to kill the seedlings).

You will not be looking at a bare patch of dirt all summer.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

I don't think, though, that you will have the full wildflower garden you're looking for the first year, the list of seeds you have are perennials where you usually see a wildlfower garden mostly annuals that have a faster growth rate, you may have to fill spots in with some annuals while the perennials establish themselves

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Instead of rye, why not use easy annual flower seed? Sweet Alyssum, California poppies, maybe Lavatera, Ammi majus (looks like Queen Anne's Lace but better), Cosmos, Cleome, probably in your zone the nicotianas would be happy... there are so many that are nearly guaranteed to pop right up. And, as Jen says, the perennials will need time to fill in anyway.

Los Angeles, CA

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This message was edited Feb 5, 2013 4:39 AM

Lincolnia, VA

Quote from Diana_K :
I think your timing is pretty good. There are several plants that will flower the first year from seed, and even if they do not, they will be developing a good root structure to support flowers in 2014 and beyond.

I say go for it now (or as soon as you know there will not be frost to kill the seedlings).

You will not be looking at a bare patch of dirt all summer.


Thanks, Diana. That makes sense. I figured it would be too much to hope for a big, lush patch of wildflowers this year, but it's good to know that something will show up.

Lincolnia, VA

Quote from Pfg :
Instead of rye, why not use easy annual flower seed? Sweet Alyssum, California poppies, maybe Lavatera, Ammi majus (looks like Queen Anne's Lace but better), Cosmos, Cleome, probably in your zone the nicotianas would be happy... there are so many that are nearly guaranteed to pop right up. And, as Jen says, the perennials will need time to fill in anyway.


Thanks for the suggestions. I picked the flowers in my list because they are native to my area and have a good mix of wildlife benefits, size, and color.

Do you know of any mid-Atlantic native flowers that are also annuals? (I'd planned to use rye like a cover crop and trim it later to keep it from establishing in the new bed)

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Sorry, I'm an east coast lady... But it shouldn't be that hard to find out... Maybe someone here woould know here to look? There's probably a state list somewhere, or at least a regional one.

I just Googled:the phrase below and got a long list of resources, at least some of which might interest you.

mid-atlantic native wildflowers

Have fun!

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Your county extension office should have a list for you

Lincolnia, VA

Quote from flowAjen :
Your county extension office should have a list for you


Good point. I'll check with them.

Thanks!

Lincolnia, VA

Quote from Pfg :
Sorry, I'm an east coast lady... But it shouldn't be that hard to find out... Maybe someone here woould know here to look? There's probably a state list somewhere, or at least a regional one.

I just Googled:the phrase below and got a long list of resources, at least some of which might interest you.

mid-atlantic native wildflowers

Have fun!


Good idea. Thanks!

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Even if you started some non-native annuals the first year, just to get something going fast, many would die out and not set seed, so from the second or third year on it would be a native garden.
Are there any low clovers or vetches native to your area? They would provide some nitrogen to the rest of the plants.
How about sweet peas? Other legumes?

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Be careful with cleome -- keeps on giving. Please post a photo summertime so we can see.

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