Wild about wildflower gardens
A gorgeous, low-maintenance garden? Make that a gorgeous, low-maintenance, pesticide-free, low-watering, eco-friendly garden and lawn? No, you're not dreaming. The secret is wildflower gardening, one of the hottest trends in yards today. In a nutshell, wildflower gardening involves planting flora native to your region rather than exotics that require extra TLC to flourish. Eco-lawns utilize dense, low-growing, grub-resistant and similarly low-maintenance fescue grasses.
"By utilizing native plants chosen specifically for the conditions the plants would naturally grow in, a wildflower garden requires no soil amendments, no fertilizers and very little watering after installation, says Paul Jenkins, of Warminster, Ont.-based Wildflower Farms, a wildflower and eco-lawn retailer and landscaping firm.
Besides being hardier than conventional gardens, wildflower gardens provide much-needed food and sanctuary for wildlife like butterflies, songbirds, toads and other creatures -- which is crucial as Canadian species face habitat loss. Plus, you'll benefit from a summer's worth of winged and feathered visitors, even in an urban or industrial setting.
Interested? Here are some tips from Paul Jenkins for getting started:
Consider hiring a pro
Beginner gardeners should definitely talk to a pro. Planning a garden involves designing around plant heights, bloom and foliage colours, bloom times and other factors, so sometimes hiring a pro is the easy way to go. Even if you're an experienced gardener, you may want to get a professional with wildflower gardening to get brought up to speed. Remember: You can hire a landscaper to either design and install your garden, or simply help you get started with advice and a backyard plan with planting suggestions. You can still get your own hands as dirty as you want!
Put down that measuring cap. A native flower garden will get everything it needs from your soil, so give your fertilizer to a friend or relative -- you won't be needing it anymore.
Grow an eco-lawn
Add a section of easy-to-care-for eco-lawn to your yard if you're currently all paved over, or dread replenishing your existing brown patch of high-maintenance grass. Eco-lawns of lush fescue grasses need minimal watering, no fertilizer, and can either be left unmown (the 9-inch blades of grass will simply flop over for a lush roughly four-inch-high carpet of soft grass) or, if you prefer the mown look, can be cut just once a month. Lawns help reduce water runoff from rain and absorb summer heat, as well as providing a soft play area for kids.
Buy a rake … and a cushy lounger
Say buh-bye to constant gardening, says Paul Jenkins, "Once mature, the only maintenance required is to cut the previous year's growth to the ground in early spring and rake off the debris." Other than that, you'll want to snip bouquets for your home throughout the blooming season, then kick back and enjoy your stress-free garden while you read a good book.
Catch the trend
Don't let the low-maintenance thing fool you: these gardens are beautiful and trendy, not just easy to care for and environmentally responsible. The hot flora that will catch passerby's eyes include:
• Butterfly weed, purple and yellow coneflower, ox-eye sunflowers, prairie smoke, meadow blazing star, bergamot, smooth penstemon, black-eyed Susan, wood poppy, trilliums.
• Native grasses like little bluestem and prairie dropseed
Get ready to save money on plants!
A wildflower garden of long-living perennials will self-seed, meaning good-bye seasonal wallet-busting lawn center trips, and hello . . . spa allowance/patio furniture upgrades/swanky dinners/fill in the blank.
Chat about gardening tips with other readers in our forums.
For more information, visit wildflowerfarm.com.