Part Une was actually one of my first ever (2012!!). I was so young and naive and rain wasn’t a distant hazy memory. And I didn’t know how to insert YouTube clips. Gotta love the 1989 hair on these fellas no?
You may have noticed hulking metal behemoths crisscrossing the Ojai Meadow Preserve this week. No, it’s not a giant game of Whack-a-Mole. For the third year the Land Conservancy is spreading wildflower and grass seeds in the ongoing quest to return the meadow to a more natural (and beautiful) state. Newly-minted executive director of the Conservancy, Brian Stark, was kind enough to share some behind-the-scenes insight into the project. Flowers and the grasses in the mix are pictured alongside.
- What is the ecological importance of all the wildflowers? Are they more than just pretty faces?
The annual forbs (wildflowers) are important for 2 reasons. First, they cover more space than grasses and provide added competition against weeds. Projects using forbs in their mix have generally been more successful. The flowers are also great at attracting insects, which in turn, is good for hungry birds.
Each activity we take on the preserve is related to developing a more diverse and adaptable ecology on the site. And yes, the wildflowers are beautiful!
- What about the annual grasses, what role do they play in your plan?
Annual grasses are in the mix because they generally germinate and grow quickly, offering competition against weeds. For instance, mustard germinates quickly, so we need to plant something that can match it for competition. We are using several species of native annual grasses which co-exist nicely with the wildflowers. These include small fescue and California brome among others.
- Any significance to these particular species? Changes in the seed mix from previous years? Any surprises in the successes/failures from the past two seasons?
The species in the seed mix are among the more common species we see around the valley.
For what we pay for seeds, we want to choose those most likely to be successful. We have made a few changes this season though. We added a common tarweed, which is actually a summer bloomer.
I decided to do this so we’d have more to offer pollinators during the normally sparse summers months. Again, that was to support a more complex ecology. We dropped the Chinese Houses this year since they never really performed on this site. I replaced that with a local phacelia so we could get more purple and blue out there.
- Do you have a favorite of all the flowers in the mix?
I really liked the few phacelias we got last year, so it would be nice if more grew. If there is a favorite, it’s probably still the poppy.
I like plants that have a certain grit for survival. If you’ve noticed how many of them have lived through the summer, you can see why they have earned my favor.
- Any lessons you’ve learned in the past three years to pass on to readers who are trying to grow wildflowers in their garden?
Probably more than I can impart here, but in a perfect world, the area seeded would be completely devoid of weeds and weed seeds. That may or may not be possible though. Any weed management you do before planting will help.
In your garden you can also water the flowers to get a longer-lasting show. You might want to let the rain determine the germination and then just sustain with irrigation (see the next point). I’d recommend using a mix with a good variety of species because different species will express themselves based on the weather in any given year (how much rain and when it falls) and it’s more fun to be surprised at what grows than to know exactly how your garden with look every year. Roll the dice people! Surprises await!