The Back Yard

Justin Newcombe's tips for creating a gorgeous and productive garden

Gardening: Going wild with flowers

By Justin Newcombe

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Justin Newcombe throws caution to the wind and plants some blooms to look forward to come the summer months.

A mix of colours and varieties gives that gorgeous wildflower look. Photo / Supplied
A mix of colours and varieties gives that gorgeous wildflower look. Photo / Supplied

I'm lucky it's been a long summer and autumn but I'm not sure how much longer I can ride my luck. For example, I know it's getting a bit late to plant wildflowers. I talked to a gardening buddy about throwing down a lazy couple of hundred thousand wildflower seeds and she looked appalled, aggrieved, almost offended. In fact she looked at me like I was about to drive a herd of fur seals off a cliff.

Well, break the glass and flick the switch, baby, because I'm going in. I prepped the ground six weeks ago and just never made it to the altar, so a lot of my initial groundwork will have to be redone. On the plus side, breaking new ground and leaving it is a good way to let any weeds germinate. Once these are eradicated you should have a reasonably weed-free time of things.

Planting wildflowers can be done at any time except winter. I'm looking for an early spring flowering, so I want to get my seeds sprouting before it gets too wet and cold. Once the temperature drops to below about 15 degrees the seeds will lie dormant until the weather warms up. In a mild climate like Auckland, autumn planting will emerge and lie in a green sward through winter.

Once spring arrives this headstart produces an early flowering. In cooler or frost-prone areas this kind of programme is not possible as most of the plants will die off, but you can still get an early flowering.

By planting the seed during winter and letting it lie until the earth warms you can get a four to six week headstart over seed planted in spring.

The soil conditions required are wide ranging, but boggy soils and clay may need to be broken up using lime, while fertilising can actually be a hindrance as it encourages weeds.

The seed needs to make contact with the soil and creating a reasonably fine tilth is important, but it only needs to be about three or four centimetres deep. The seed is incredibly fine and mixing it with another medium like coarse sand, pumice or just plain old potting mix (at a ratio of about twenty parts medium to one part seed) is essential for creating an even planting.

Once the seed is sown give the ground a light rake, the seed only needs to be submerged by a centimetre or two. After planting, the seed will need immediate watering followed by regular watering for three to four weeks.

The seed mix I'm using contains a huge variety of seed with the resulting wide range of colour and texture giving the wildflower look. Some of the seed included are: centaurea-cornflower, chrysanthemum-shasta daisy, clarkia-farewell to spring, coreopsis-plains coreopsis, delphinium-larkspur, dimorphotheca-african daisy, dianthus-sweet william, eschscholzia-californian poppy, hesperis-dames rocket, linaria-toadflax, linum-scarlet flax, nigella-love-in-a-mist, papaver-corn poppy and red poppy, phacelia-californian bluebell, phacelia-purple tansy, and silene-catchfly and nodding catchfly.

After all this flowery talk I'd like to add that even though I'm a wildflower lover, I'm actually quite macho.

Although my wife says that if you have to tell people you're macho, you're probably not.

- NZ Herald

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