Questions on: Wildflowers
Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service
Q: In your column there was a question from a reader about where to find wildflower mixes and native grass seed. You mentioned two good companies, but I thought you might like to hear of another located in Brookings, S.D. Millborn Seeds has been in the native grass and wildflower market for more than 19 years. We access seed from across the U.S., but primarily in the upper Midwest, which makes it very suitable for your readers. If you would like more information, go to www.millbornseeds.com. (e-mail reference)
A: Thanks for the information! I am always in need of some new sources of information and suppliers.
Q: In one of your columns you suggested planting wildflowers. We live at Spiritwood Lake and the hill going down to the lake is very steep. My plans are to plant low ground-cover bushes and sprinkle wildflower mix. Does the wildflower seed have to be planted or can it be thrown out on the ground? What ground cover would you suggest? The hill is too steep to mow and faces south. Could you give me a listing of the garden supply stores that handle wildflower mix? (e-mail reference)
A: I donít recommend planting a mix of ground-cover woody plants and wildflowers because they are not compatible. The wildflowers would overpower the ground cover, so your money would be wasted. Also, if you chose to do a burn off in the early spring, it would damage the woody plants. Go for the straight wildflower planting. Youíll love it! There are mixtures everywhere garden supplies are sold. Fall is a very good time to get them going because there is less competition from weeds. All they need is a place to lodge in the soil. Hard, bare soil will not work. Scratch the surface slightly, spread the seed and then water.
Q. Any advice on how I can transplant the wild flowers that I see alongside the road? They look like miniature sunflowers with the dark center. Also, I have some Ponderosa pines in my yard that are about 2 to 3 years old. Their center trunk is not growing straight but instead becoming curvy. Any tips on how to prevent or fix this? They are about 5 feet tall now. (Carrington, N.D., e-mail)
A. The best way is to gather seed and sow it where you want them to come up next year. They typically do not transplant well at this point in their life cycle.
Not much you can do about the Ponderosa pine with a curved trunk. Look at it this way--yours will have a unique character and a more "natural" appearance. Some of the most beautiful Ponderosa pines I've ever seen were wind twisted in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Q. Can you recommend a good illustrated guide, in color, for North Dakota wildflowers or Minnesota? Also what has happened to that proposal for a botanic garden in the Fargo area? Someone from NDSU initiated this idea last year.
A. How about one of each state? "Wildflowers of North Dakota," by Paul B. Kannowski and "PodsWildflowers and Weeds in their Final Beauty," by Jane Embertson, covers Minnesota.
The Botanic Garden Society has been launched. Contact Chiwon Lee in our department for details. His telephone number is (701) 231-8062.
Q. We have a ditch in front of our house that is too steep to mow. I was wondering if there are some flowers that I could plant in there to enhance the look of this area? My husband is a farmer, so he is concerned also if we can kill them if we want to. (Munich, N.D., e-mail)
A. There are plenty of wildflower mixes that you can select from that would be very attractive to even your husband. The planting should be mowed or burned once a year while dormant, either in the early spring or late fall.
Q. Can you tell me how to get rid of a wild flower known as "butter and eggs"? It is a member of the snapdragon family and has invaded most of my lawn. (Medina, N.D.)
A. Since this is an annual, there are a couple of approaches you can take: one, increase the fertility and watering regime of your lawn. It thrives in dry, poorly nourished sites.
And two, apply a pre-emergence like Pendimethalin next spring when growth is just beginning. There is nothing officially labeled for this plant, but I'm willing to bet there are other weeds present, like crabgrass, that can be controlled. If this fails, then any post-emergent broadleaved herbicide applied in mid-May should do it.
Q. I would like information on perennial wild flowers that can be seeded. (Turtle Lake, N.D.)
A. For reference, here is an old Wildseed Farm Catalog. Their address is: Wildseed Farms 1101 Campo Rosa Rd., Box 308, Eagle Lake, TX 77434. Phone: 1-800-848-0078.
You will get a mixture of annuals (that will selfseed), biennials (that flower second year) and perennials. Annuals are included in mixes to give color early on, while the other two classes of plants are getting established.
If you look on page 15 of the catalog, you'll see the North Central Wildflower mix. To that mixture, I'd suggest add 1 ounce of Dame's Rocket (pg. 25) and ľ pound of Corn Poppy (pg. 24). These will give you a wider and more continuous blooming period. Good luck.
Q. We are considering planting wildflowers in our city park and possibly at other city-owned sites. The total area planted would be 6,000-8,000 square feet. We will do the work this spring to have flowers for summer 1999.
I will enclose a page or two from a seed catalog. This is the only catalog I have at present. Can you suggest additional wildflower seed suppliers that we could contact?
We assume the seeds should be primarily perennials. A very important consideration is that we not introduce any noxious plants that will cause future problems for local farmers. Your suggestions on this concern and any other general comments you care to make would be helpful. (Sherwood, N.D.)
A. The catalog you are referring to, Wildseed Farms, is one of the best. Their mix for the north certainly would not cause any problems with noxious weeds.
Others you may want to consider are: Blue Bird Nurseries (Phone: 800-356-9164), PO Box 460, Clarkson, NE 68629; High Country Gardens, 2902 Rafina Street, Santa Fe, NM 87505-2929; High Altitude Gardens, PO Box 1048, Hailey, ID 83333; Prairie Ridge Nursery, RR 2, 9738 Overland Road, Mt. Horeb, WI 53572-2832 (phone: 608-437-5245) and there are many, many more.
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