By Susan Krzywicki.
Wildflowers for your Garden
If you have seen those pretty wildflower packets in nurseries, some of which say “native”, and have wanted to try sowing a wildflower garden from scratch, Cindy Hazuka (California Native Plant Society project coordinator) has a fantastic offering: act now to get a location-specific customized seed mix. The seeds come from the extensively, legally, and sustainably harvested CNPS-SD Seed and Bulb collection. If you are interested in custom seed collections for various regions of San Diego, or would like to share your thoughts, please get in touch with Cindy at email@example.com. Send Cindy your planting address or coordinates, along with a check for $25 to CNPS and any special needs (e.g. shade, annuals, butterflies, etc.). In return, she will send you a personalized 10-pack of seed mix.
This personalized packet comes from years of specimen identification data around the county that indicates what grew where you live before your garden even existed. Using Calflora search tools, she can pull a list of local annuals, perennials, grasses, trees, and/or shrubs, as well as those within your watershed area. Recently, I asked Cindy to create a personalized palette for me and here are some of the annuals she found for my home in Bonita at approximately 32º latitude and -117º longitude: Canyon and winecup Clarkias (Clarkia epilobioides, Clarkia purpurea) Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla) California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), of course! Tidy tips (Layia platyglossa) Lupines of various types Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii)
Wayne Tyson, CNPS member, has some good tips for sowing seeds: While some seeds can survive long enough to be there when the rains and cool weather come if planted in the early fall or even late summer, planting just after the first few rains is probably best. Most wildflower seeds need a little soil cover, so planting them in natural depressions, then tamping them with boots or other instruments should do the trick. One good way is to scatter the seed on the surface, then follow with a dibble with a number (16 per square foot or less) of short (1/2 inch is plenty, and 1/4 inch is enough for most species) dowels. The dibbled holes create “safe sites” for seeds that minimize predation, provide shade, and catch/concentrate a bit of rain. If the site is subject to sheet erosion in particular, deeper planting is sometimes warranted (seedbank replacement). The erosion rills will expose seeds that have otherwise been planted too deeply, where surface seeds may be washed downhill. Seeds should not be planted too densely, depending upon the species (size at maturity) and location considerations. Better too thin than too thick.
Susan Krzywicki is a native plant landscape designer in San Diego. She has been the first Horticulture Program Director for the California Native Plant Society, as well as chair of the San Diego Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Gardens Committee and is on the Port of San Diego BCDC for the Chula Vista Bayfront.