I discovered wildflowers a few seasons ago, when I sowed a packet of Wildflower Bee Attracting Mix from Egmont Seeds in early spring. Just a couple of months later, I was amazed by the variety of flowers – poppies, cosmos, borage, phacelia, alyssum, nigella and many others – that sprung up and bloomed. What’s more, they kept popping up in autumn and spring in subsequent seasons, so I dedicated that area in the garden to wildflowers.
While we enjoy their cheerful colourful display, the main reason we sow wildflowers is to attract bees to the garden in the springtime. Bees aid the pollination of fruit trees, which are normally blossoming at the time wildflowers are in bloom. This is important for us as we recently added a mini orchard to our garden, consisting of dwarf fruit trees. There are already tons of fruits developing on our apple, peach and nectarine trees which is exciting, so we must have done the right thing!
Wildflowers can be sown in spring and autumn. For spring sowings, it’s best to wait until the risk of frosts has well and truly passed. For autumn sowings, you need to ensure that the ground is sufficiently moist to aid germination, so wait until around April when it starts to rain occasionally. In saying that, it does depend on where you live. New Zealand’s climate varies dramatically from region to region and I do have to remember that not all of my audience lives in Auckland or even New Zealand for that matter. My personal gardening experiences are limited to our urban homestead in the Auckland region, so please take this into account when considering my advice. On the same token, what grows well in my environment may not necessarily thrive in your own microclimate.
Sowing wildflowers from seed
It’s really easy to grow wildflowers from seed. It depends on the variety, but it normally takes about 90 days until maturity if you sow seeds in spring, sometimes even less than that. Mine usually flower in December and January. Autumn sowings will grow slowly over winter and flower in late spring, for me, it’s normally around November. It’s nice to sow wildflowers in both spring and autumn for a staggered display of flowers.
For the best results, sow wildflowers seeds directly where you want to grow them. You don’t really need to raise wildflowers in seedling trays and go to the effort of transplanting them later as they are one of those flowers that does best when sown direct. If you don’t want to grow wildflowers from seed or the wildflower seeds you sowed failed for some reason, Awapuni sells a bundle of flowers called Bee Mix, which is a variety of plants guaranteed to attract bees to your garden in spring and summer. Awapuni delivers direct to your door. Delivery is free if you order seven or more bundles of plants.
Wildflower seeds are very fine, so when you scatter them, you may find that they end up very close together. You can try thinning them out by transplanting seedlings, but be careful when doing so as you don’t want to disturb their roots too much.
Varieties in a packet of wildflower seeds
If you’re planning to grow wildflowers from seed, you’ll find that they come in an impressive array of varieties, colours, sizes and heights.
As mentioned above, Egmont Seeds have an amazing range of wildflowers in their packet of seeds called Wildflower Bee Attracting Mix. To order seeds from the very extensive Egmont Seeds range, visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
How to care for wildflowers
Most wildflowers need at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, so be sure to sow seeds in the sunniest spot in your garden. They are generally not a plant for the shade. Before sowing wildflower seeds, take the time to prepare the bed properly so plants receive adequate nutrition. Dig the area over that you wish to plant your seedlings in. Mix plenty of compost and some sheep pellets into the ground. Rake the ground so that it is nice and level. For some reason, there are people that think that wildflowers will grow if you simply scatter them in the garden and leave it to mother nature! While they are not high maintenance, they do require being covered with dirt (like most other seeds) in order to germinate.
Be sure to water plants every day, preferably early in the morning or in the evening. Liquid feed wildflowers weekly to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and the formation of flowers.
Wildflowers can be picked and put into a vase or left outside to admire and attract bees. We tend to do the latter, as they make for such a beautiful display and help us tremendously with pollination.
Most types of wildflowers are an annual which means that they will grow, set seed and die after one growing season. You might find that your wildflowers self-seed as mine did and pop up in the same area in future seasons. In this case, you can do what we did and make that area dedicated to wildflowers in future seasons, or you can simply resow fresh seed where you want to grow wildflowers next year.