a wildflower experiment

I got tired of trying to grow vegetables in my backyard garden space year after year, only to have them wilt with insect infestations, or get some virus that turned the leaves brown.  And finally at summer’s end near optimal harvest time, the garden was shaded by 2 p.m., because the maximum altitude of the sun’s arc in the sky in late August was below the tops of the trees.

So I converted my vegetable garden to a wildflower garden, with a wildflower mix from a company that promised lots of native plants from my region.  I dispersed the seed generously, watered it faithfully, and waited for weeks while it looked like I was growing nothing but weeds.  As an added bonus, I thought a bevy of flowers would attract more butterflies and bees to my backyard (which is what the wildflower packet promised).

Finally, the wildflower seed mix is starting to bloom behind the giant hyssop.

It’s a lush mix of quite a variety of plants, and there probably are a good number of my native weeds  in there too.

But unfortunately, I don’t recognize many of the flowers in this mix, which leads me to wonder if they are really from this region of the country.  For example, a few  California Poppies have appeared, and I’m sure they are not native to MN.

I would love to see golden poppies every year in my garden, but I doubt they can withstand the Minnesota winter.

They are quite pretty, but I’m disappointed that these flowers seem to be non-natives that will not attract the insects that my bird friends depend on during the summer.

What is this? It’s like nothing I’ve seen around here before.

Or this? A green sweat bee made a brief stop on this flower, looking for pollen perhaps.

What might this be, some kind of pink wallflower relative?

Or these, pretty little blue and white flowers? No insects anywhere around them.

I’m going to call this a failed experiment, an important failure because it highlights something that should be an on-going concern of all avid gardeners.  And that is this:  if we continue to replace the native vegetation in our yards with non-native species, insects that depend on native perennial and annual vegetation will face a food desert.  They don’t have the biochemistry to cope with the plant defenses of introduced non-natives, so they produce fewer or no offspring in a garden of non-native plants.  And the birds that depend on those insects to feed their own young similarly suffer the consequences of the food desert.

So, plant more native species and keep those insects happy!

Monarch butterflies love our native Swamp Milkweed for its nectar as well as a source of food for their larvae.

14 thoughts on “a wildflower experiment

  1. Such a pity that you have not got your native species. However, a lot of native flowers can be difficult to manage in the garden as they can become invasive. It looks as if you are going to have to try and gather the seeds of your native plants to get what you want. The red flower under your poppy is a Cosmos and attracts pollinators over here. Next I would say a Marigold variety. Then something that looks like night-scented stock (any perfume in the evening?). Next is what I call forget-me-not, usually blue but with white variants. All these are all what I would call common European garden plants, but they must be native somewhere? They all attract pollinators over here. Amelia

  2. They photos and flowers are lovely. Sorry for your disappointment. I have often purchased seeds from companies that have disappointed me. I would love to get rid of the messy garden my husband insists on growing each year and plant flowers native to my area. Good luck in the future.

  3. A good seed packet of wildflower mix should list the species enclosed. Sounds like yours did not. Yes, the magenta flower is a cosmos. Several mustard species, as you noted. The white one reminds me of Noccea montana which is native here in Colorado.

    • Hmmm. the reddish one with the yellow centre looks a lot like cosmos. The pink one reminds me of scabiosa. the blue- forget me nots?

  4. Thanks you all for your helpful comments. They are a good head start for ID. A friend told me about a phone app called “seek” by inaturalist.org, that will match your photo of unidentified flower, fungus, bird, etc. with the millions in their database and give you a best guess for your unidentified species. He tried it on the cosmos flower, and it identified it as that. So I’ll have to search out the names of my unknown flowers with “seek”’s help. If you want to give it a try, go to: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/seek_app

  5. Hi Sue,
    It looks like you have some California wildflowers. I think the dark pink one is a Cosmo, the orange one is a daisy…might be a Gerber daisy. I’m not sure of the names on the other ones, but I recognize them
    Penny

  6. Red-pink flower may be a cosmos
    Next flower may be a zinnia
    No idea about the rest.

    Enjoy your blogs.

    Hope all is well there as it is here.
    Love
    Marilyn

    Sent from my iPhone

  7. That is an interesting observation that the native insects are not attracted to the exotic flowers. One of my annoyances is that native insects ignore natives if they find exotics to be more appealing. For example, some native flowers are not getting pollinated by the migrating monarch butterflies that swarm the exotic blue and red gum eucalypti instead. At least the butterflies seem to be well fed by the eucalypti. Hummingbirds also like some exotic flowers.

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