|Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) at Couchville Cedar Glade|
There are numerous definitions of the term wildflower. If you want to garden with wildflowers, you may develop your own definition based on how you intend to use these plants in the landscape. Gardening with wildflowers offers a continuum of uses. Wildflowers can be used in formal gardens with high maintenance, in less formal gardens with a “wildflower look,” or in a native plant garden that mimics natural landscapes. If you want only a “wildflower look” in your garden, you may choose common cultivated plants, packaged seed mixes, or fiber mats because they will be easier to grow.
Herbaceous is defined as not having a woody stem; also, the plant dies back to the ground during the dormant season. Native (or indigenous) means the plant has occurred in a natural habitat and geographic region for thousands of years. A cultivar of a wildflower is a plant that has been propagated and selected for specific characteristics such as flower size, disease resistance, blooming period, etc. Examples of cultivars of native species include black-eyed Susan ‘Goldsturm’ and purple coneflower ‘White Swan’ or ‘Magnus’.
If you are gardening to attract butterflies or wildlife, it is important that you use true wild stocks (obtained from a nursery specializing in native plants) for two reasons. Many cultivars of native plants sold by large nurseries and department stores may not be attractive to wildlife because they have been selected for traits like bloom size, bloom period, or disease resistance and not for nectar or seed production. Second, wildlife have adapted to using these wild stocks over thousands of years. If you desire to create a more natural habitat garden, you will want to use the same types of plants. (See list at bottom of this page)
If you would like to learn how to garden with native plants and where to purchase them, here are a few sites to help you get started. Just click on a link to go to that site.
- Gardening with Native Plants of Tennessee
- Tennessee Native Plant Society
- Tennessee Native Plant Nurseries and Resources