Hosts Dorothy and Shauna Dobbie talk to Kelly Leask about the wonderful world of wildflowers.
Wildflowers nourish bees and other pollinators Kelly Leask of Prairie Originals tells us. They attract butterflies and help the natural ecosystem flourish among the exotics we plant in our gardens. Not only that, but wildflowers and other native plants are beautiful.
You might be surprised to discover the many native species and wildflowers that you already grow in your garden, because so many of them have become staples on the plant roster. But cautions Kelly, not all are equal. Wildflowers that have been hybridized may not be as beneficial to local wildlife as the natural plant. Do your homework before buying to be sure that the plant is as close to the native species as possible.
Having said that, it is not only wildflowers that are attractive to and support many pollinators. Native bees and other pollinators that emerge early in spring can get their sustenance from flowering trees such as willows and native shrubs such as wild raspberries, so the woody plants in your yard can be just as important as the flowers.
Kelly specializes in native plants from the prairies, but many of the seeds from the 150 varieties she sells will also thrive elsewhere. She considerately organizes her products according to the growing conditions they appreciate. Kelly not only organizes her online catalogue by growing conditions, but she also elaborates with useful information that will improve your success. Don’t try planting that beautiful Joe Pye weed in a dry place, it just won’t have the heart to do well.
What are some of the favourites? Well, bee balm or wild bergamot is near the top of the list. Who doesn’t love the pretty black-eyed Susan? Echinacea or purple coneflower is familiar to all. Kelly loves swamp milkweed which attracts monarchs but feeds a host of other pollinators as well. While you don’t see it as often., heartleaf Alexander is a showy beauty.
How many gardens don’t have the lovely Canada anemone and what about false sunflower that will blaze away on a shady sport without taking over the garden? Tall and gracious thalictrum is a designer’s dream, adding airy interest at the back of a garden. Beautifully scented northern bedstraw will spread, but slowly in a dry spot.
And don’t forget the grasses. There are many clumping varieties, although Kelly is most partial to big bluestem, that amazingly tall stunner that turns rusty read in fall and had seed heads that resemble a turkey’s foot!