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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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May 27

Plant Wildflowers, Save Water

Posted on May 27, 2016 at 8:55 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Meadow garden
 Wildflower color
Spring is one of my favorite seasons. The wildflowers come out of dormancy in all their splendor at this time of year! Sometimes the fields or hillsides are amass with shades of pink, yellow, orange. Other times it will be a single spot of color that catches the eye and prompts us to approach for a closer look.

Wildflowers can also be a mystery. There are so many species and subspecies that you almost need to carry a photo database on any hike for positive plant identification.

Another mystery is each year different wildflowers dominate the scene. Is it weather conditions that contribute to better germination of certain seeds each year? Are sun exposures different due to cleared vegetation, exposing seeds to more daylight and warmer conditions? One can only speculate about the reasons for the change!

There are many benefits to adding a wildflower garden in your landscape. Many are herbs that can be used for poultices, made into medications, or used to flavor an old favorite recipe. I remember my Italian nonnas (grandmothers) using Malva sylvestris, otherwise known as common mallow. After doing some research, it seems that this plant was used for a multitude of purposes such as alleviating insect bites and relieving fever—it was even claimed to be the cure for stupidity!

One thing we can be certain about regarding wildflowers: natives require little water. Water sparingly since, like any plant, they can become addicted to unnecessary and frequent irrigation. Saving water is just one plus of wildflowers. The cost of seed is minimal and the beauty is they will reseed themselves for next year's bounty. Soil preparation is also minimal compared to what you may experience with other type plants. Color can be found almost year around. Look for flower types that bloom at different months so color is always present in the garden.

Providing habitat is and-yet-another benefit. In many cases wildflowers attract beneficial insects and butterflies that also pollinate other plants in the garden. Oft time, besides sipping on the sweet nectar, these visitors depend on the vegetation for food sources for their larvae.

Meadow garden
 Meadow garden
There is nothing prettier than creating a meadow or mock hillside covered in wildflowers in your garden. Drifts of Pacific Coast iris tucked around randomly placed boulders, or masses of orange California poppies accented by blue lupine, larkspur, or towering wild blue flax can be dazzling. Add some trailing manzanita, ceanothus, or native grasses such as deer grass, which blooms in the heat of summer. The effects can be stunning!

Sounds like multiple reasons to give wildflowers a space to grow in your garden!

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