Takes patience, special care to grow wildflowers

Lance-leaf coreopsis dominate this wildflower meadow in Amite County, with some crimson clover blooms seen closer to the ground. Below is a close-up of a blanket flower.

Many years ago when I needed a ground cover for my then-new orchard, I tried a wildflower mix — expensive but potentially beautiful.

I followed directions carefully, lightly tilling the ground in the fall, sowing the seeds, then rolling them in with a barrel so they wouldn’t be too deep.

The mix contained lots of annuals and perennials that should bloom in the Southeastern United States spring, summer and fall.

In the spring I was rewarded with a gorgeous wildflower meadow. The flowers had an astonishing variety of colors, shapes and sizes that bloomed nearly all year.

They came back each spring for a few years before weeds crowded them out, and I eventually replaced them with low-maintenance centipede grass.

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Year before last, when I cleared a few plots on the Outback, I decided to try my luck again and make one of them a wildflower meadow.

All sorts of mixes are available. We settled on a deer-resistant combination to be on the safe side.

It contained 13 species, both annuals and perennials: yarrow, columbine, bachelor button/cornflower, godetia, lance-leaf coreopsis, foxglove, purple coneflower, California poppy, blanket flower, candytuft, perennial lupine, forget-me-not and black-eyed susan.

A 10-pound sack, which would cover a quarter to half an acre, cost $190, so this was an expensive splurge.

The following spring, a lot of odd-looking plants came up, but few blooms ever appeared. Disappointed, I wrote it off as a bad investment and planted clover in its place.

The clover came up well this spring, but it was interspersed with lots of unusual plants that I didn’t see anywhere else on the Outback.  

Before long they began putting out flowers — lots of them. Almost all of them turned out to be lance-leaf coreopsis, a perennial that makes a big yellow bloom with a darker yellow center.

There were also a few blanket flowers scattered here and there. And, of course, lots of clover, both white and red.

In essence, I have a coreopsis-and-clover meadow.

Curious, I checked the price of lance-leaf coreopsis  seeds. They sell for $310 for a 10-pound bag.

That means I got a $310 return on a $190 investment. Pretty good!

Most of all, it’s glorious to behold and is supposed to bloom throughout the spring and summer.

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According to the U.S. Forest Service, lance-leaf coreopsis grows wild throughout most of the United States and parts of Canada.

“It is easily propagated from seed and, as is typical of many native wildflowers, it is often not until the second year when numerous blooms are formed. This wildflower prefers full sun and does best in well-drained soil. Its self-seeding nature makes it a perfect candidate for prairie, meadow, and native wildflower plantings. When conditions are right it will grow into large colonies and produce showy yellow flower carpets. ...

“Lance-leaf coreopsis is a very dependable and prolific flowering native perennial. It has few problems with insects or disease and will thrive in conditions of high heat, drought and humidity. Finally, bees, birds, and butterflies are quite fond of lance-leaf coreopsis. It is a common component of pollinator gardens and native wildflower mixes.”

Curious, I consulted the book “Wildflowers of Mississippi” by S. Lee Timme to see which of the wildflowers in the deer-resistant mix are native to Mississippi. The answer is all of them but the yarrow, godetia, California poppy and candytuft.

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I don’t know why my wildflower meadow worked out the way it did this time — why the flowers didn’t bloom until the second spring, and why only one species thrived. But I have no complaints.

My old meadow was multi-colored while this one is solid gold. It’s like the difference between a house with multi-colored Christmas lights and a house with just one color. Both are equally beautiful in their own right.

I guess if I did it again — if I had that kind of money to burn — I’d research each of the individual wildflower seeds and pick the ones most suited for my area and habitat.

Lance-leaf coreopsis would definitely top the list.

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