published Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Lea: How to create a wildflower path

By Pat Lea

Q. I’m creating a wildflower path through my woods and need some suggestions for wildflowers that will be easy care. Any suggestions?

A. The key to a wildflower path is Right Plant Right Place. Almost all wildflowers return reliably, but only if they are planted in exactly the situations that suits them.

Buy yourself a wildflower guide and match up your soil and moisture conditions, tree-root issues and wind and sun information with the descriptions in the book. I would recommend as a good resource “The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers.” Clearly photographed wildflowers are listed by flower shape and color, and it is easy to find any that might interest you with descriptions of growth habit and habitat also described.

You also should stroll the paths at the Chattanooga Nature Center and Arboretum, also named Reflection Riding, at the foot of Lookout Mountain. There you can see your favorites happily growing in the conditions you should have or be willing to create. They have a native plant sale and you can request a schedule for those sales.

Many of our wildflowers are called “spring ephemerals” because they really do disappear after their spring bloom. Mark their locations carefully, so you don’t plant on top of these beauties.

A wildflower that is excellent and widely available is stokesia, or Stokes’ aster. It is a sturdy and charming low grower that never disappoints and flowers for a long time in several shades of blueish purple; there also is a white variety. If you have a sunny area, don’t forget the entire aster family, lots are native and showy.

Mayapples will form a lovely raised carpet of pretty umbrella leaves. Carolina jessamine is a native, evergreen vine with bright yellow flowers; it’s easy to grow. Solomon’s seal and false Solomon’s seal are both easily grown and will form attractive grouped plantings as they spread.

So visit a wildflower garden, take notes and photos, then look up requirements in your Audubon pocket guide, and you should be well on your way to a great wildflower path.

Contact Pat Lea at lea.pat@gmail.com.

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