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Jessica’s Garden: Among the Wildflowers


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, a family friend approached me over the winter asking if I would be interested in growing and arranging flowers for her Fall wedding. Without hesitation, I excitedly accepted the opportunity.  While leaving me to my own accord and judgments, her main request was that the flowers be natural and free. As the wedding is to be held at an arboretum, she wanted un-manicured flower arrangements consisting of mostly colorful wildflowers.

In the early spring, I designated a 2,000 square foot space close by my existing vegetable garden for my cut-flower garden. After knocking down the grass, my husband graciously tilled the garden for me, knowing I might have a struggle or potentially lose a limb.  We then incorporated a couple of yards of compost and tilled it over again.

Meanwhile, wildflower seedlings and other flowers started at the beginning of April in the greenhouse were beginning to grow strong. Once the soil was turned, the fresh seedlings were transplanted to their new home.  Immediately I began a second planting of seeds. My goal was to accomplish three separate plantings to ensure that there were plenty of fresh blooms for the end of September. About two weeks ago, I combined the last few seeds in every packet reserved for the project and made my own wildflower blend.  I then tossed them over the last patch of free soil in the garden and gently raked them into the loose earth.

Thriving Wildflower Garden

I tried very hard to make educated and sensible choices based on what should still be performing in the Fall. And so close to a potential first frost. I chose a couple of larger packets of premixed Botanical Interests wildflower packets to begin with.  These germinated quickly, consistently and profusely. The plants are now about 3-4 feet tall now and beginning to bloom vigorously. The plants are healthy and strong as well as lush and diverse. I have had poor experience in the past with other premixed wildflower blends.

Then, I sorted through packet after packet, reading estimated bloom times for each flower. In the end, I also purchased several varieties of Cosmos, Zinnias, and sunflowers.  While I have low expectations for the sunflowers holding until then, they have been an excellent pollinator in the cutting garden to say the least. I also had a few flats of other flowers that are intended for drying, that I’ve been harvesting and hanging to preserve in case all else fails – statice, gomphrena and strawflowers. I planted a few varieties of marigolds around the garden perimeter to deter pesky woodland creatures. They are pulling double duty as they are holding up well in arrangements too.

Bees with Pollen, on a Sunflower

For the greenery in the bouquets, I have tried to grow some nonstandard leafy greens.  I found a couple of vibrant varieties of coleus which hold up amazingly in a bouquet, as well as lots of fresh herbs. Playing around with adding herbs to the arrangements has been a lot of fun. They  smell fantastic and will be an interesting addition to the wedding tables.  This project has been and continues to be an amazing experience and opportunity for me. I always have fresh cut and beautiful flowers around the farmhouse. And with the cutting garden adjacent to my vegetable garden, the bees have been very actively pollinating there also.

This has opened my eyes to the joys of a cutting garden. I have memories as a child growing up of zinnias in our vegetable gardens.  After this experience, I plan to always incorporate fresh flowers into my edible gardens. They are fun, attract butterflies and pollinators, and add a lot of interest to a Summer garden.

Wildflower Arrangements


Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Editor’s Note: “Wildflower” blends are mixes of colorful annual flowers that are easily grown from seed, and are intended for cut-flower use or casual meadows. They should not be confused with native plants. If you are interested in a native plant wildflower meadow, then you should be looking mostly at perennial flowers and perennial grasses. Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin offers seed blends for Midwest prairies and Eastern meadows.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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