Suggestions for applicants
It’s essential to recognize that native gardens, while especially rewarding, may not be as straightforward to establish and maintain as conventional landscapes. Unlike traditional gardens, native plants require careful consideration and a deeper understanding of their unique needs. Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you consider establishing a native garden:
Often, with wildflowers, less is more. It’s better for your wildflower garden to be too little than too much. Plan for a smaller area, with fewer species and fewer plants than perhaps you first envisioned. One at a time, wildflower species and plants can be added to a small established garden.
Select the best site.
Choose a site free and far away from established invasive exotic plants, or your garden will fast become an invasive plant or weed management project.
Plan for regular maintenance.
Growing wildflowers is not necessarily easier than growing other plants, nor do they require less maintenance when establishing. Think about how much time and energy is needed to establish and maintain a 10’x10’ backyard garden or landscape area. A native plant garden is no different. Weeds can be persistent and regular maintenance is necessary to keep them in check and allow native plants to thrive.
Know your natives.
Each native species has specific requirements for sunlight, soil type and water. Take the time to research and understand the conditions of your proposed garden site, as well as the needs of your chosen plants to ensure their health and longevity. Select wildflower species based on someone’s knowledge and experience, not based on personal interest or pictures in a magazine, book or website.
While native plants are generally more resilient, proper watering is crucial during the establishment phase. Once established, many native species are more drought-tolerant, but initial care is paramount.
Native gardens may not always conform to traditional notions of tidiness. Embrace the natural ebb and flow of native landscapes, which often mimic the dynamic ecosystems found in the wild. Since most wildflower gardens are in bloom and beautiful for only a portion of the year, select a site where:
- it’s okay if the garden does not look neat, organized and beautiful 365 days a year.
- the absence of colorful wildflowers will not detract from the goals and objectives of the project or detract from the experience of visitors.
Due to the seemingly ephemeral nature of many wildflower species (during dormancy, they can be entirely below ground), build structure and permanence into your garden plan by careful placement of evergreen trees and shrubs, garden architecture, paths and/or furniture.
Document your process.
During the first year, keep a garden journal. Much will be learned about selecting and preparing a site, establishing seeds or plants, weeding and watering. During the second year, use lessons learned to re-envision and rethink the garden plan. If eligible, apply for a second Viva Florida Grant.
Native gardens take time to establish. Be patient as your ecosystem develops and transforms, allowing native plants to adapt and thrive.