My Adventures Growing Wildflowers in Houston
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

I began growing wildflowers in the fall of 1995. I have an area in the very back of my lot about 20 feet by 35 feet that I decided would be great for wildflowers.

The first year I bought a pound of Texas/Oklahoma wildflower mix from Wildseed Farms (800 848 0078). The mix is one designed for much of Texas and contains both annuals and perennials. Because the seeds were so small I mixed the seeds in sand and used the narrowest gap in a fertilizer spreader and spread the seeds. The only ground preparation I did was to take a string trimmer and use it to eliminate all foliage at ground level. When I finished I had bare dirt and wildseeds in sand on top. I set up a water sprinkler and began to water.

That spring (1996) I had a great stand of wildflowers. They looked great for a month and good for about two to three months. Then they looked like dead weeds. I was informed that this was unacceptable and I (reluctantly) mowed them down. Still, real weeds took over. I kept the bermuda grass at bay with Ornamec, but the site didn't look like I wanted it to.

In the fall of 1996 I added many bluebonnet and Texas Paintbrush seeds, and waited for the wildflowers to come back from the previous year. Disappointingly few did. Ditto for the bluebonnets. I did have a great crop of Texas paintbrush, however. Still, I was informed that the area looked neglected, not wild. And mowing became impossible because the wildflowers that came up were scattered throughout the area and I couldn't force myself to mow everything down.

So now I have come up with a new idea. I call it organized chaos. The theory is to select wildflowers with different bloom periods and group each type together in an area so the eye is drawn to the color in different parts of the garden. This may allow one to ignore the other areas. It will also allow for grooming in areas that are finished blooming.

Site Preparation:

This time I decided to do site preparation correctly. First, I sprayed the area with Roundup. Then I waited for the Roundup to do its job. Things started turning yellow in about three days. I gave it a week. I purchased 24 bags of dirt from Home Depot. I then got out the string clipper and took the vegetation down to ground level. I then ran the mover over the area with a bag attached. I bagged the clippings and threw them away. Because of the Roundup I was leary about composting them.

Once I had the area down to bare earth I layed out my previously drawn plan using electrical cords, old ropes and garden hose to outline the different areas. I provided for a path down the middle and 18 areas for different wildflower groupings. I made the path three feet wide so two people could walk down it hand-in-hand. In the fall I had spent much time with the seed catalog from Wildseed Farms to pick the proper groups of wildflowers by height and bloom periods.

After I was pleased with the size and shape of each area I got out a can of orange marking paint and outlined the areas. Orange marking paint is spray paint that is designed to come out in narrow streams when pointed down. I would move the cords and hoses a little at a time so I could draw the lines properly. When finished I had my areas marked off and I put the cords, ropes and hoses away.

I worked each area separately. I first put a bag or two of dirt in the area and used the back of a hard rake to spread out the dirt. It was usually about 3/8 inch deep. When the dirt was smooth I took a yard stick and drew rows in the dirt. I used the Wildseed catalogue to determine how far apart to make the lines. Once the lines were down I sprinkled the seeds in the rut and then, using my hand, I smoothed the dirt over the seeds.

The Wildseed Farms catalogue talks about covering the seeds with 1/16th to 1/8th inch of dirt, depending on the seed. I couldn't figure out how to do this. Wildseed Farms says planting the seeds too deep is a major cause of failure. The seeds don't have the energy to get up to the surface if they are too deep.

The purpose of planting in the ruts is so that you can tell if the stuff coming up is weed or wildflower. The wildflowers will come up in the rows (that will disappear as the plants get bigger). Everything else can be pulled as a weed.

After I was finished planting I lightly watered the area. Now I will just set back and see what happens. Unfortunately, in spite of the best of intentions, I did not get my wildflowers planted until late January. It should have been done in the fall. Stayed tuned. I should have a report on how the plants are doing by April.

Wildflowers Selected for the 1997-1998 Growing Season:

A. Texas Bluebonnets
B. Lemon Mint
C. Yellow Cosmos (plant in spring)
D. Toad Flax (plant in spring)
E. African Daisy (plant in spring)
F. Texas (Indian) Paintbrush
G. Ox-Eyed Daisy
H. Clasping Coneflower
I. Bishop's Flower
J. Black-Eyed Susan
K. Dwarf Red Plains Coreopsis
L. Omit. Duplicate of F.
M. Moss Berbena
N. Cornflower
O. Purple Cornflower
P. Mexican Hat

Last revised January 27, 1998

mail comments to

[Go Back to My Wildflower Page]

[Go Back to My Garden Page]

[Go Back to My Home Page]