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Wildflowers are some of the easiest and most beneficial plants you can add to your home garden. You get all the joy of beautiful blooms along with the satisfaction of growing something from seed and the bees, birds and butterflies get a life-sustaining boost in their workday. But don't be fooled by those colorful packets of mixed wildflowers that make it seem as though you can simply toss them with the wind and wake up with a meadow of color. Do a tiny bit of homework and plant with care for a successful season of native growth.
Know your space
Before purchasing any seeds or seedlings, consider your garden space. How deep is the soil? What's the square footage? Is it sandy or clay-like? What kind of sun exposure will it receive? Then consider your goals. If you simply want to grow some flowers that the kids can help plant, harvest and arrange, go for easy-to-grow from seed poppies, black eyed-Susans and sunflowers. Plant the tallest flowers (sunflowers) in the back so they don't block precious sunlight from the shorter flowers. You can also wait for more established seedlings of foxglove and coneflower from your local nursery and add some additional longer-stemmed flowers to your flower arrangements.
If you're looking to add a pop of color to your veggie garden, plant plenty of borage seeds. This herb produces beautiful blue edible flowers that attract countless bees to your garden. Bachelor's buttons also bring a cool shade of periwinkle to your bed of greens while drawing plenty of good bugs. You'll need to plant these from seed as they're rarely found in seedling form at your local nursery.
Many nurseries are increasing their native plant offerings as home gardeners are becoming more savvy. From ornamental grasses to perennials and annuals, you should have a variety of plants to choose from that will ultimately support your region-specific biodiversity and ecological balance.
Expert wildflower grower Miriam Goldberger literally wrote the book on the importance of pollinators. Her forthcoming book, Taming Wildflowers, talks about which kinds of wildflowers grow best in various conditions while giving gardeners plenty of ideas for using their crop beyond their gardens.
She suggests planning a wildflower garden with a healthy mix of native grasses. The combination of spring through summer blooming flowers gives butterflies and bees important nectar while also producing seeds for birds and a natural habitat for other good bugs.
Happy Earth Day
Finally, let your kids, friends, neighbors and family members know what you're up to this Earth Day. Providing a pollinator-friendly habitat is as important as teaching the trifecta of modern environmentalism — reuse, reduce and recycle. Pollination Nation is an earth-loving mantra we can all get behind. Recent studies have shown that pesticide use and loss of habitat is having a devastating impact on the world's bee colonies. Without a healthy pollination population, we wouldn't have basic items like apples, peaches, almonds and chocolate. Imagine for a moment a world without chocolate... if that doesn't get you digging I don't know what will.
^ For more information on the state of pollination in the U.S., visit Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit that is studying the impact of the declining pollination population. The site is also a great resource for planting wildflowers and native plants that are perfect for your specific region.