Gardening: Wildflower and native plant gardens can be wonderful

Small packages of mixed annual flowers have always been available and make a nice addition to the garden. Seed houses mix together fast germinating flower seeds that are plentiful including varieties that bloom by the end of the growing season.

Perennials are not included in these mixes as they unlikely to germinate without subjecting them temperatures and moisture conditions. When perennial seeds are mixed with annual seeds, or other varieties on perennials seed and planted in the spring they can lay dormant for a number of years until their germination requirements are met which is often never.

The germination problem is just one of the reasons not to purchase seeds labeled as Wildflowers. If the package contains a list of plant seeds then one can research germination instructions for individual varieties to determine if the plants will germinate.

Knowing the varieties in the package enables makes it easier for the buyer to avoid noxious or invasive plants. The climate across Alberta differs enough that invasive ones might be taking over one section of the province and not survive in another. The seeds are packaged and sold throughout Canada and much if not all of North America, the chance is high that some of the seeds will be prove to be invasive.

If the end goal is to have a mixed bed of flowers, then purchase individual packages of seeds and sprinkle them on the ground early in the spring. Choose flowers that will thrive in the conditions available; light, soil and moisture conditions.

Like all gardens it will not be a case of planting the seeds and walking away. Weeds will have to be removed until the plants are established. Flower seedlings can be hard to recognize. When this is the case, remove all the known weeds. If a few are missed, they can be weeded later. Once the flowers are large enough to shade the ground, fewer weeds will germinate.

Be prepared to water as needed.

Note that wildflowers are different from native flowers. According to Google; native flowers are ones that are indigenous to any area while wildflowers one ones that are growing without human intervention.

If the desire is to grow native plants, then seek out a nursery that specializes in native plants as the majority of native seeds germinate when specific climatic conditions are met. Rarely will they germinate when broadcast over a flowerbed. The Native Plant Council has compiled a list of businesses that sell native plants. It can be found on their web site

Start by analyzing the soil and either amend the soil to match the requirements of the plants or choose plants that like to grow in the existing type of soil.

Buy a variety of plants that have different blooming times to add color all growing season. Place them in the flowerbed making sure they have enough space to grow and mature. Like making a wildflower bed, it will have to be weeded but as the flowers are already growing, it will be easier to distinguish the flowers from the weeds.

The roots on newly planted plants are small and it will take time for them to grow into surrounding soil which means they will need to be watered on a regular basis. If the roots are allowed to dry out, the plants will die.

Wildflower and native plant gardens can be wonderful but like all other gardens they require maintenance. It is hard to recreate nature.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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