Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Planning a woodland wildflower garden

Now is the time for gardeners withdrawl. No more planting, weeding, trimming, or even enjoying the wildlife and flowers that showcase their beauty during the growing season.  But now is the time for gardeners dreaming.  Ah yes, dreaming of next year and what can be.  This is the time of the year when the plant catalogs come in the mail (yes I have already begun receiving them and am drooling at the thought of fresh tomatoes once again).  Now is the time to get the laptop out and start Googling native plant nurseries and thinking about what will be the next gardening project.   As you look through the catalogs and websites, your mind wanders and you think of what can be, what are the possibilities?  Now is the time to begin thinking about the spring ephemeral woodland garden that begins flowering in March and ends in May.  That short period between the end of winter and when the trees fully leaf out and darken the woodland understory.  Here are few things to consider when dreaming about the woodland wildflower garden:
1. No clay soils.  Absolutely, positively not!  So what is the solution for most gardeners?  Well think like Mother Nature and where these plants grow in the wild, the first three inches in the composted leaf litter over the years.  Hence, all you need to do is to design a garden and dump three to four inches of pure composted leaves or other organic matter on top of the clay.  Now is a good time to do that so it will have time to settle.  Don't use topsoil or cow manure or composted topsoil, use pure leaf/tree compost like the type you can get here in Lexington from the city (one load a year for free).
2.  Realize that native woodland wildflowers do not have gigantic showy flowers like many other garden plants, they are much more refined and delicate. So plant in large masses, not just two or three but twenty or thirty and realize for the most part, they will not spread (Virginia bluebells and wood poppies not withstanding).  Notice in the image above that the golden saxifrage, which looks somewhat weedy and not all that showy, shines in the garden when planted en masse.
3. Think about exciting color combinations that you like and plants that look good together which flower at the same time and are about the same height.  For example, I like Virginia bluebells and wood poppies together and I like it in an area where they have room to spread.  For more refined combinations try foam flower and wild blue phlox or Jacob's ladder.  Perhaps you want a little pink then go with bleeding heart mixed in with those two colors of blue and white.
4.  Use unusual species for accents and create smaller gardens inside the bigger garden.  For instance, yellow lady slipper orchids are expensive and require special care when growing in the garden.  Perhaps put them in the middle of a group of lady ferns surrounded by lower growing yellow species like green and gold or I like using dwarf crested iris with the green and gold and even some wild blue phlox or Jacob's ladder.  Perhaps you can bring in some rocks with deep crevices that could be filled with soil and then planted to sedums and other very delicate species that can showcase against the texture of the rock.
5.  Think about what will be growing after the spring ephemerals are done blooming.  This usually means ferns but there are other options such as later blooming woodland species like cohosh or fall asters.
S0.... dig out the catalogs and websites, sit with a hot toddy in front of the fireplace, and dream of things of springtime.

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