This past weekend I worked on transforming the woodland area around the big rock from overgrown buckthorn thicket to magical wildflower garden. I ordered a shady woodland seed mixture from Prairie Moon, a wonderful native plant nursery in nearby Wiscoy Valley. The mixture contains about 2 dozen different forbs , including jack-in-the-pulpit, wild geranium, and Virginia Bluebells (my very favorite) and half a dozen different grasses. I supplemented the mix with a few other favorites: nodding wild onion, bloodroot, and wild leeks (wild leeks, also called ramps, can be sold for a very good price at the Farmers Market!)
My seed order was enough to cover 500 square feet. I had already removed buckthorn, but I didn't have time to ideally prepare the area by killing all existing vegetation and tilling. Since I don't own a rototiller, my solution was to hand cultivate seven swaths in long, irregular islands, curving around the rock at the best vantage points. This seemed like a better strategy than broadcasting seeds over the entire area because I could more thoroughly remove competing plants, choose what seemed to be the best growing sites, create walking paths between the islands so I don't walk on the young wildflowers, and mark each island so I can more easily identify the emerging sprouts. In the spring I will add some other favorites that aren't available from seed: trillium, Dutchman's breeches, and trout lily.
Most of these plants will probably take a couple years to bloom, so I have to have patience. If they succeed, I dream that the wildflower drifts will gradually expand and fill the entire woodland with a carpet of spring wildflowers. How magical that will be!