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Five Spot (Nemophila maculata)

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I’m a big believer in having wild flowers in the garden. In fact, I’m an even bigger fan of having wild flowers out of the garden. If you choose wildflowers that come from the area you live in, they don’t need to be in that hard-worked well-watered soil you’ve made for the import plants.

Nemophila maculata, or Five Spot, is one of my favorites. I get it in quantity from J.L. Hudson, and scatter it on the ground each fall. (I haven’t yet gotten more than scattered repeat blooms; if I studied several of their habitats, I might have a better idea of what would bring them back. But I haven’t gotten around to it for the last ten years.)

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Fall is the preferred planting time for any wild flower. Think about it: when does nature plant seeds? Doesn’t it make sense to work with nature, instead of laboriously planting and watering in spring (and probably being a little on the late side?) Then, too, some wild flowers require cold to germinate, or cold-warm-cold. You could do this by putting them in the freezer or refrigerator and taking them out. But isn’t it easier just to let the seasons do the job?

Fall planting might not work for areas with a lot of snow, though, because the melting snow might wash the seeds away. This is just a guess; I’d be interested in feedback.

Besides fall planting, there are two more things you want to be sure of.

One: is your wildflower really a wildflower? I’m often irritated by listings of wildflowers, even in reputable catalogues, which have seeds of European plants which aren’t native to the U.S., much less my particular part of the country. Yes, some of them have established themselves in the wild. But they aren’t true natives.

Two: are your wildflowers native to your region? I also get irked by wildflower listings which don’t bother to tell you where the wildflowers come from. (If you are deducing that I am easily irked, well…) This is important information. Something native to New England, with its moist rainy summers and colder winters and different plant communities, won’t do well as a wildflower in my dry-summer/mild-winter area. And vice versa.

If you truly want easy-care plants that may naturalize for you–and if you’d also like to be a part of the grassroots movement that’s keeping alive plants that are being driven out by development–you need to know the answer to those two questions. If you nose around, you will find native plant societies or people who love and know native plants of your area. Books are only sometimes an answer for this question, because books have to generalize information for a broad area. And what grows a hundred miles away may not be suited to your place. So if you can’t find native plant societies (or enthusiasts), check your local nursery;  even if they don’t carry natives, someone there will most likely be able to lead you to the right information.

Next post: more tulips. As per title.

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Nancy Bond June 5, 2008, 10:29 am

    Your Five Spot is lovely — I’m very fond of wildflowers, in and out of the garden bed. :)

  • Pomona Belvedere June 6, 2008, 7:49 am

    Thanks Nancy–I think Five Spot is worth a try, wherever you garden.

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