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Fall planting, spring surprises.

Fall planting, spring surprises

"My miracle!' That's what the gardener at left calls her back lot when fall-sown seeds burst into glorious bloom from early March into May. African daisies--in shades from cream to gold--and laterblooming baby blue eyes provide a changing color show on a gentle slope adjacent to her Carmel, California, garden.

You may not have the space for a display as sensational as this, but you don't need an acre or a vacant lot to enjoy the pleasures and surprises of growing your own wildflowers. And wildflowers aren't your only fall-planting opportunity, as you'll see on the next six pages.

Make small plantings of wildflowers in raised beds or containers, in strips between sidewalks and street curbs, or along a fence or driveway. They also make attractive fillers between recently planted shrubs, or a low carpet under spring-flowering bulbs, trees, or shrubs.

In the West's mild-winter areas (low elevations of California and Arizona), prime sowing months are October and November before rains start.

Sowing wildflower seeds

A wide variety of wildflower seeds is available. Plants range from low-growing (6 inches) to tall (about 2 feet), and come in myriad shapes and flower colors for sun or shade. Some packaged seeds are collected in the wild, some are provided by plants grown from seeds gathered in the wild, and some are cultivated varieties. Some, such as African daisy, are introduced from abroad.

One or two packets of mixed wildflower seed (about $1.50 per packet) will produce a generous spring or early summer bouquet in a large clay pot, a barrel, or other wooden container. Some kinds, such as California poppy, will self-sow year after year.

For large areas, figure that 1 ounce of wildflower seed (about $5) will cover 150 to 200 square feet.

In small gardens, prepare the seedbed by digging to a spade's depth. Rotary-till large areas. Afterward, rake to break up clods, leaving a level, smooth-textured surface. If the soil is very poor, work in a slow-release fertilizer.

Broadcast seeds evenly (it helps to mix them up with sand or fine-screened soil), then rake in lightly to provide good contact with the soil.

Sprinkle the planting area thoroughly but gently with a fine spray that won't uncover or dislodge the seeds. If weather remains dry, continue sprinkling to keep ground moist.

Seed sources

Look for seeds at nurseries, or order them by mail. For a list of mail-order sources that specialize in Western wildflower seeds, see page 242.

Photo: "The field seemed to explode overnight!' In early March, cream to gold African daisies (Dimorphotheca) blotted out the green. Two weeks later (below), baby blue eyes (Nemophila) took over, with a sprinkling of California poppies. In bouquets (bottom), poppies last up to three days, stay open at night in warm, bright rooms

Photo: Fall sowing. For even coverage, wildflower seeds are scattered over tilled soil lengthwise, then crosswise; light raking covers them. Instead of raking, some prefer to settle seeds with thorough but light sprinkling
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1984
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