A wild-flower garden is a delightful and enchanting addition to any landscape. The mere thought of long walks in the woods, gathering wild flowers, and then designing your own little piece of nature is simply magical.
Many gardeners struggle with creating a successful wild-flower garden, but it is not a matter of luck; it is a matter of understanding the unique personality of each wild flower. Just like people, wild flowers have specific needs and preferences. They thrive when they are in their natural environment, and if they are removed from it, they often become sickly and eventually die. Therefore, it is essential to mimic nature as closely as possible when designing your wild-flower garden.
When hunting for wild flowers to transplant, pay close attention to the soil type, location, conditions, surroundings, and neighbors of each plant. If you find a group of dog-tooth violets and wind-flowers growing together in the woods, then plant them in the same area in your garden. If you discover a certain violet thriving in an open situation, then it should always be given the same conditions in your garden. The key is to make your wild flowers feel at home and to trick them into thinking they are still in their native habitat.
It is important to transplant wild flowers after their blossoming time is over. When you venture into the woods to collect plants, take a trowel and a basket with you. Make sure to take some of the plant’s own soil along with the roots, which should be packed around it when replanted. Before your trip, prepare the bed where the plants will be relocated. You do not want to bring them back to your garden and then wait a day or night before planting. They should be planted in their new quarters immediately. The bed should consist of soil from the woods, which is deep, rich, and full of leaf mold. The drainage system should also be excellent to avoid water-logged soil. Contrary to popular belief, not all wood plants require soil saturated with water. The woods themselves are not water-logged, so make sure to dig your garden deeply and add some stones to the bottom. Cover the stones with topsoil, and add a new layer of rich soil on top.
Before planting, water the soil well. When making holes for the plants, add some of the soil that belongs to the plant that will be planted in that spot. It would be ideal to design your wild-flower garden in such a way that it gives a succession of blooms from early spring to late fall. For March, consider planting hepatica, spring beauty, and saxifrage. In April, the beautiful columbine, tiny bluets, and wild geranium can be added. For May, consider the dog-tooth violet, wood anemone, false Solomon’s seal, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wake robin, bloodroot, and violets. June brings the bellflower, mullein, bee balm, and foxglove. July can feature the gay butterfly weed. For the rest of the season, consider adding turtle head, aster, Joe Pye weed, and Queen Anne’s lace to make your garden brilliant until frost.
It is important to understand the likes and dislikes of each plant. After getting started, keep adding to the wild-flower list. It is impossible not to love the hepatica, which pokes its head up before the spring has truly arrived, putting all other flowers to shame. Tucked under a covering of dry leaves, the blossoms wait for a ray of warm sunshine to bring them out. These embryo flowers are further protected by a fuzzy covering, similar to the protective covering of new fern leaves. Hepaticas grow in clusters, often in open places in the woods, where the soil is rich and loose. Therefore, they should only be planted in partially shaded areas with good soil conditions. If planted with other woods specimens, hepaticas should be given the benefit of a rather exposed position, allowing them to catch the early spring sunshine. In the fall, it is best to cover hepaticas with a light litter of leaves to protect them. During the last days of February, remove the leaf covering, and you will find the hepatica blossoms ready to poke their heads up.
The spring beauty is another flower that emerges early in the season. With delicate white petals and pink tracings, a thin, wiry stem, and narrow, grass-like leaves, this plant is hard to miss. Spring beauties often grow in large patches in open spaces and love the sun, so it is important to plant them in areas with plenty of sunlight.
The saxifrage, on the other hand, belongs to a different environment. It grows in dry and rocky places and is often used in rock gardens. It has white flower clusters borne on hairy stems and is commonly found in dry, sandy places right on the borders of big rocks. There is an old tale that the saxifrage roots twine about rocks and work their way into them, causing the rock to split. Although this tale may be just a myth, it is clear that this plant prefers rocky soil.
The columbine is another plant that is typically found in rocky areas, often nestled in rocky crevices. The nodding red heads bob on wiry, slender stems, and the roots do not strike deeply into the soil. Columbine does not require much soil, but it does need good drainage conditions to thrive.
The bluet is another charming wild flower that adds a lovely touch to any garden. Bluets have rich, delicate blue blossoms that signal the beginning of spring. As June gets hotter, their color fades slightly, and they may look worn or white at times. Bluets often grow in colonies, sometimes in sunny fields or by the roadside. From this, we learn that they prefer the open sunlight to the soil.
The wild geranium, while not ideal for picking and using in bouquets, adds a lovely touch to any garden. The purplish flowers are showy, and the deeply cut leaves give the plant a bold, attractive appearance. The plant is commonly found in moist, partially shaded portions of the woods and adds good color and permanent color to a garden.
Overall, there are countless wild flowers that can be added to a wild-flower garden. The ones mentioned here were not given as a flower guide but rather to help readers understand how to study soil conditions when starting a wild-flower garden. If you are unsure about the results, start with one or two flowers and study them closely. Once you have mastered or become acquainted with a few, add more to your garden the following year. By the time you are done, you will love your wild-flower garden more than any other garden you have ever created. It is a real study that requires patience, attention, and care, but the results are worth it.