The Hippo


Oct 15, 2019








Wildflowers attract bees. Courtesy photo.

Grow wild

Here are a few native wildflower options that could thrive in your garden, suggested by UNH Cooperative Extension.
Golden Alexanders: Tiny yellow flowers that grow in clumps. Blossoms in late May, early June.
Wild Columbine: Crown-shaped red flower. Blossoms from late May through the end of June.
Pale purple coneflower: A light purple flower head with narrow and drooping rays. Blossoms from late June to mid-July.
Black-eyed susan: A dark-colored flower head in the center of bright yellow rays. Blossoms from mid-June to mid-August.
Common milkweed: Tiny pink flowers. Blossoms in July.
Ox-eye sunflower: A small sunflower similar in appearance to black-eyed susan. Blossoms in early July to mid-August.
Blue vervain: Cone-like shoots of deep purple flowers. Blossoms from mid-July through the end of August.
Wild bergamot: A light purple flower that splays out like fireworks. Blossoms from late July to mid-September.
Stiff goldenrod: Fluffy yellow flowers at the tip of a tall stem. Blossoms from mid-August to the end of September.
New England aster: A purple flower with a yellow center. Blossoms from mid-September to mid-October.
Grow your own state flower
Lilac bushes have a long history tied to New Hampshire. Long before the purple lilac became the state flower in 1919, they were shipped here from England and planted in the state in 1750, making it the first state in the nation to plant lilacs. The British colonial governor at the time, John Wentworth, planted them at his estate in Portsmouth, according to Guy Giunta, the chairman of the state lilac commission.
Lilacs can live for hundreds of years in the right conditions, and some of those original plants are still there.
Giunta said it’s very difficult to plant a lilac bush by seed. 
“Your best thing to do would be to buy a plant,” Giunta said.
The plant does best in soil that isn’t too wet or sandy, and it struggles in the shade.
“Lilacs should be planted in as much sun as possible. Full sun is ideal,” Giunta said.
One of the common problems with lilacs not blooming is lack of sunlight, according to Giunta. If the bush only gets about 50 percent sunlight, it may only bloom 50 percent of its flowers.
“In the summer during drought season … it would be very helpful to be watering your lilacs also,” Giunta said. 
And while fertilizer isn’t usually necessary, a couple handfuls couldn’t hurt.
Each lilac bush has sprouts that grow up from the base. Giunta says these are your future bush, so it’s important to take good care of them. The base of the bush should be cleared of grass and weeds and replaced with a nice mulch bed. That will also discourage lawn mowers from razing the sprouts.
Giunta said lilac bushes should be pruned only at the base. The best approach is to cut a third of the largest clumps of branches down to the base each year so over a three-year period you will have cut away the thickest branches. 
Timing is important for pruning. Giunta said it’s best to prune right after the blossom around late May, early June. If you cut too late in the summer or in fall, you’ll be cutting next year’s blooms.
The best lilac blooms come from younger branches. And it’s important not to let it grow too tall, though it’s capable of reaching 20 or 30 feet, Giunta said.
A lilac bush that’s too tall runs the risk of shading its sprouts and getting cracked in the coldest days of winter. 
For more info, go to

A walk on the wild side
How to grow a wildflower garden

By Ryan Lessard

 Wildflower gardens can provide beauty and natural function, and they’re not hard to maintain — but they can be difficult to start. 

Creating a habitat
Cathy Neal, a specialist in landscape horticulture with the UNH Cooperative Extension, has done a lot of research on wildflowers native to the region in an effort to create pollinator habitats and meadows that serve as habitats for other forms of wildlife. 
“That includes things like selecting the appropriate species to seed but also we’ve looked at starting from small transplants, we’ve looked at different site preparation methods, we’ve looked at planting in the spring versus the fall,” Neal said.
Through that research, she’s determined the best way to start and maintain a wildflower planting.
The first step is to prepare the plot of land where you plan to plant your wildflowers. If it’s an area of lawn, she recommends placing a tarp over the area from mid-June to the beginning of September. By blocking the sunlight, that will kill the grass and other weeds growing there.
Neal said you can plant your seeds in the fall or the following spring, but there is a benefit to planting in the fall since many of the hardy wildflower species benefit from waiting through the cold of winter before germinating. 
As far as obtaining the right seeds, Neal cautions against buying common wildflower seed mixes easily found in stores as they often include annuals and certain species from California and other places that won’t thrive in New Hampshire. 
“We’re looking at establishing sustainable long-term native perennial wildflowers,” Neal said.
For the most balanced wildflower meadow, Neal tends to use between 13 and 25 different species. On the UNH Cooperative website, she has posted nearly 40 different native species such as black-eyed susan, common milkweed and four different types of goldenrod. 
In choosing which species you plant, Neal says it’s important to pick some that bloom early in the season, middle of the season and late season. 
Once you’ve got your seeds picked out and mixed together, you can spread them around by hand.
“What we do is we mix in the wildflower seed in with moist sawdust or vermiculite or I’ve heard people use kitty litter. Some of the seeds are very tiny so they stick to that carrier and spread that out and see what you got and try to get an even distribution,” Neal said.
Don’t bury them. Instead, Neal says to just rake it lightly and press the seeds in so they stay close to the surface. 
Then it’s a good idea to spread a blanket of straw mulch, about a bale’s worth per square foot. 
It will take probably three years before the wildflower plot is fully mature, but if you use perennials, their root structures will be stronger each year so you won’t need to worry about watering or fertilizing.
“These are plants that have very strong root systems so they’re able to grow and find what they need in the soil without us adding a lot to it,” Neal said.
Keep an eye on weeds in the first year. In mid to late July of the first year, Neal suggests using a lawnmower over the area at four to six inches high to prevent things like crab grass from going to seed while the wildflowers are still trying to establish themselves.
Worth the effort
Wildflower plots are great for honeybees and other more native forms of pollinators, especially if they have different flowers in bloom throughout the season. And they’re still easy on the eyes.
“A lot of people want to get away from having so much lawn and manicured-type gardens. This provides a very beautiful and functional landscape component that, once you get it established, doesn’t take a lot of work,” Neal said. 
It also provides benefits for stormwater management and biodiversity. Beyond pollinators, other animals might use the plants for habitat. Certain birds may like to eat the seeds when a wildflower goes to seed or use some of the stems for building nests. Some ground-nesting species may build their nest amongst the wildflowers. 

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