When Lyndon Johnson became President in 1963, his wife Lady Bird started a project to clean up Washington, D.C. and fill it with perennial wildflowers. Lady Bird had worked on similar projects in Texas for many years. She believed these "pretty wild things" inspired hope and relieved stress. Working with existing conservation projects, she turned Washington into a sparkling, colorful gem of a city. Her national beautification plan eliminated the barrage of advertising billboards and junk yards on interstate highways, replacing them with trees, Wildflower perennials and bushes. These not only make traveling more enjoyable, but help to prevent erosion.
Lady Bird's belief that flowers are soothing to mind and body has been proven by numerous medical studies. Flowers stimulate memory and act as natural mood elevators. They help to lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety and even reduce pain. Living plants in containers are better than bouquets of cut flowers. They purify the air and stimulate creativity. Hospitals and nursing homes should have gardens and arboretums. Rooftop and community gardens in cities should always include flowers.
Wildflower perennials are a graceful enhancement to any garden or yard. They attract pollinating insects and provide an environment for butterflies and songbirds. Planting native wildflowers helps prevent the spread of invasive species and promote biodiversity. They're low-maintenance, using less water and fertilizer than non-natives.
Begin by learning which wildflowers are native to your region and will grow best in the kind of soil you have. Visit botanical gardens and consult your local agricultural extension office. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is another good source for information.
Some wildflower varieties should be planted in the spring or summer, others in the fall after the first hard frost. Most like full direct sun. Don't just buy wildflower seed mixes at the hardware store, because you'll often get non-native varieties. Work with a local nursery for your wildflower seeds. Many people plant wildflower perennials in borders or stands, but you can also cover the entire yard, creating an idyllic "wild" look and eliminating arduous lawn care. Fertilizer is usually not necessary, but if you want some, get a natural type such as wormcast and use it sparingly.
Till and rake your soil first, clearing out grass and rocks. Wildflower seeds should be planted no more than an inch or so deep. Scatter the seeds evenly, then walk on them. Water lightly once a day for several weeks, then as the flowers come up, let natural rainfall take over.
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