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Mr. Smarty Plants - Wildflower meadow for Arkansas

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Sunday - September 16, 2007

From: Redfield, AR
Region: Midwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Wildflower meadow for Arkansas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We want to create a 1/2-1 acre wildflower style "meadow" using native plants that we can naturalize. I found information for our area (Central Arkansas) on this website that is helpful, but I am also interested in spring bulbs, summer bulbs like tiger and spider lily and then heirloom variety flowers. How can I find out if "heirlooms" are also native or not and what bulbs would be acceptable? We want to plant for not just beauty but also to provide an area for wildlife. We also need plants that will naturalize or reseed as I will not be able to replant each year. Thanks!

ANSWER:

What a great project. Obviously, you've already acquainted yourself with our website and our Native Plant Database, so let us try to suggest a few other sources for the information you're seeking. In our How To Articles you will find a number of articles on various phases of cultivating native plants. Especially take a look at "Wildflower Meadow Gardening" and "Creating a Wildlife Garden." They are far better written and go into more detail than we can do here.

To address the second part of your question, adding bulbs and heirloom flowers, and how to determine if they are native. You know that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center enthusiastically promotes the protection and propagation of plants native to North America. The database mentioned has a huge number of information pages about individual native plants, their normal habitat, growth habits, etc. So, probably the first thing you would do is you were interested in a particular plant would be to go to the plant database, using the link above, and search for the specific name of that plant, using either the common or the scientific name. As an exercise, since you mentioned an interest in lilies, we typed in "lily" and got a list of 134 native plants with the word "lily" in the common name. The first one. Amsonia ciliata (fringed bluestar) is found in Arkansas, can be self propagating (to the point of invasiveness, apparently) and is a gorgeous bloom, attractive to butterflies. Another is Hymenocallis liriosme (spring spiderlily), which is also a native, and happy in slightly boggy or damp areas. Tiger lilies are almost a whole separate subject. Lilium columbianum (Columbia lily) and Lilium pardalinum (leopard lily) are both sometimes referred to as tiger lilies and are native to North America. However, they appear only in the Pacific Northwest and might either not survive in Arkansas or become invasive there.

Finally, you asked how you would determine if an "heirloom" plant was a native. The word "heirloom" usually refers more to the fact that it has been in cultivation a long time. For instance, there are many roses called heirloom or old roses; they have been cultivated in North America for many generations, but were brought here from Europe or China. Your best bet is to follow the procedure above, search in the Native Plant Database for a particular plant you are interested in, see if it's found in Arkansas, and study its habits and care. And if it's not in that database, it's probably not a native. Please try to avoid planting anything that doesn't belong in your area. You don't want to be responsible for bringing in a plant that could escape from cultivation and become invasive because it has no natural predators in your area. Think about kudzu in the South.


Amsonia ciliata

Hymenocallis liriosme

Lilium columbianum

 

 

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