Gardeners love plants and appreciate being outdoors. Whether you prefer cottage gardens, a themed garden or plants in tidy rows, we all enjoy being in nature to watch wildlife and to relax.
To the extent that we enjoy having wildlife around, we also realize the importance of including native wildflowers in our plantings.
Merv Wallace who has owned Missouri Wildflowers Nursery since 1984 has developed a passion and a purpose in his work. Wallace said he wished people understood the important connection between native plants and all wildlife.
“Doug Tallamy’s book ‘Bringing Nature Home’ changed my way of thinking,” Wallace said. “Native plants allow so many things we enjoy to have a place; they depend on them.”
In the introduction to that book, Tallamy said that gardeners can (and should) create small slices of native ecosystem in their gardens to help prevent more animal species from falling behind and eventually moving into extinction. “... for our own good and certainly for the good of other species, we must do better. Native plants will play a disproportionately large role in our success,” said Tallamy.
Wallace is playing his part. His nursery not only grows native plants from seed, they grow native plants to harvest for seed, as well as collect seeds from prairies.
“We contract with the Conservation Department to harvest specific areas of wild growing plants from the prairie,” said Wallace. “In exchange we donate back a percentage of the seeds we collect and they replant them, extending the prairie range.”
This week, Wallace was collecting seed from an acre of Lanceleaf Coreopsis they planted on a local grower’s land. They also have a seed-exchange agreement with him.
“All the seeds and plants we offer through our catalog and the nursery are genetically from MO,” said Wallace.
Missouri Wildflowers’ 33-page print catalog has 14 pages of plant photos, and with each plant photo there are from one to four stars.
“The rating system of stars tells you how much the neighbors will appreciate it being in your front yard,” said Wallace. “Four stars means the plant is tidy, compact, and looks good most of the seasons. With the one-star plants you have to be more creative to have them in front. “
Some of their most popular seeds include butterfly weed (Asclepias, or milkweed), Indian paint brush (Castilleja coccinea), cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) and coneflowers (Echinacea pallid, E. paradoxa, E. purpurea, and E. similata).
Wallace recommends that gardeners use seeds for large areas and use plants for small areas and to tuck into existing beds.
“When using plants, you can control where they go and with mulch you can control the weeds,” Wallace said. “If you put down seeds, you have to be prepared to control the weeds that grow in between the seedlings.”
To plant a large area with wildflowers: Select a site and get the soil tested. Next, kill all the existing vegetation by covering the area with black plastic for two months in late summer or spray twice with herbicide. Either burn the dead surface or mow and rake it. Sow the wildflower seeds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In the spring mow to a 3-inch height. (See www.mowildflowers.net for more details.)
“Most wildflowers grow in sun or part-sun,” said Wallace. “We have to sell forest wildflowers like celandine poppy, wild ginger and bloodroot in containers because the seeds do not store well.”
In addition to individual packets of seed, Missouri Wildflowers offers mixes for large planting: 1. Deep Soil; 2. Shallow Soil; and, 3. Slope. They also have native grasses, sedges, vines, trees and shrubs.
We humans need wildlife to thrive; and wildlife needs us to support their ecosystem by what we plant and grow.
If you go
WHAT: Missouri Wildflowers Nursery
WHEN: Open daily
WHERE: 9814 Pleasant Hill Road, Jefferson City, Mo.
ETC.: To order seeds and plants or to request a catalog, www.mowildflowers.net or (573) 496-3492.