By The Old House Web


A test meadow comprised of small test plots has been created at the Cornell Plantations to determine whether the readily-available wildflower seed mixes would produce a work-free meadow as seed companies have lead customers to believe.

In the spring of 1985, Cornell Plantations tilled and raked ground for four ten-foot by fifteen-foot beds where they sowed seed from four different mixes offered for sale by one company. Care included making sure enough water was available for germination and weeding the plots by hand once in august; no other maintenance procedures were performed. The next year, the plots were all overgrown with weeds.

The mixes used by the Cornell Plantation contained mostly exotic and western annuals and perennials, but contained very few naturalized or native species. The first summer, many of the mixes' components bloomed. The annual baby's breath bloomed profusely, while other showy blooms included bachelor's buttons, catchfly, California Poppy and plain coreopsis. September proved to be the month with the most color, and overall the mixes were culturally successful the first season. As many of these species are not wild in the Northeast, they created an artificial, gardenesque appearance-not one of a naturalistic meadow.

By June of the second summer, some of the original components of the mixes were blooming. Blooming species were baby's-breath, Iceland poppy, corn poppy, two species of flax and plains coreopsis. However, three of the four plots were dominated by weeds. A number of plants had found their way into the plots, such as the oxeye daisy and the challox. Other weeds, such as burdock and teasel were beginning to take hold.

The fourth plot, which was planted with a Northeast Mixture looked pretty good. There were weeds were growing in it, but not as many as in the other plots. The most abundant blooms were perennial lupine,sweet william, ox-eye daisy and white yarrow, while later in the season the most abundant flowers were white yarrow, lance-leaved coreopsis, lupines, sweet william, ox-eye daisy and black-eyed susan. By summer's end, all of the plots except for the Northeast Mixture looked dry, unattractive and overridden with weeds.

This past July, all of the plots looked the same, and there was little evidence that the seed mixes had been sown. Black-eyed susan, coreopsis, lupine and yarrow can still be found amongst those plants growing uninvited - Goldenrods, daisy fleabane, teasel, burdock, ragweed, Queen Ann's lace, St. Johnswort, Canada thistle, grasses, and other common weeds.

Observation over the past three summers revealed that they were the showiest the first year, the peak display coming late in the season. Weeds invaded quickly and out-competed the western and exotic species for space and water. The best-performing mix contained many species already naturalized in the testing area, although even this mix didn't turn into a lush meadow. When planting wildflowers, evaluate a mix for it's contents and choose a mix appropriate for your region. Be aware that the name of the mix is not enough to judge it's suitability and region. Although simply tilling the soil will create a meadow condition, and the naturalized wildflowers will find their way in, all gardening, including wildfowers, requires weeding. The garden must also be cut at least once a year, preferably in the spring.


"The Test Results Are In" by Donna Levy Cornell Plantations Volume 43, Number 3 Fall 1987

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