Photo caption: Residential wildflower mini-meadow established in 2004; recently constructed rain garden in foreground captures some of the water coming off the roof.
Converting a turf area to a native wildflower mini-meadow is a great way to reduce long-term maintenance costs. Wildflowers require much less mowing and watering. They need little or no fertilizers and pesticides. Native wildflowers provide a food source for bees and butterflies, and they can provide you with a free source of flowers for creating flower arrangements.
It’s a good idea to manage an easily visible wildflower planting so that it’s clear to passersby that your wildflower mini-meadow is a planned and managed planting, not a weed patch. Leaving a mower width of turf around the perimeter of your planting and mowing it regularly is another way to make your mini-meadow evident as more than a weed patch. I suggest not using any natives that might be perceived as weeds. Tall wildflowers that appear from a short distance as just tall, spindly green plants could be perceived as weeds. For example, southern beeblossom (Gaura angustifolia) is several feet tall with sporadic, small flowers that are barely noticeable except close-up. If you choose to include this type of plant, you may want to limit their use to a more inconspicuous location.
As mentioned before, wildflowers require less mowing. Typically, the wildflower mini-meadow should only be mowed once in the late fall. This ensures that all species have re-seeded and the mini-meadow is sustainable. Given this limited mowing, the issue may arise about local mowing and weed ordinances. Florida State Statute 373.185 “Local Florida-friendly landscaping ordinances” seems to address this issue. (However please be aware that the information that follows is for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.) Excerpt from Florida Statute 373.185, (3) (a-c):
(a) The Legislature finds that the use of Florida-friendly landscaping and other water use and
pollution prevention measures to conserve or protect the state’s water resources serves a compelling public interest. Participation of homeowners’ associations and local governments is essential to the state’s efforts in water conservation and water quality protection and restoration.
(b) A deed restriction or covenant may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property
owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping on his or her land or create any requirement or limitation in conflict with any provision of part II of this chapter or a water shortage order, other order, consumptive use permit, or rule adopted or issued pursuant to part II of this chapter.
(c) A local government ordinance may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping on his or her land.”
Dr. Jeff Norcini is a consultant (OecoHort, LLC) who specializes in establishment and management of sustainable native wildflower plantings and is volunteer writer for Leon County/UF IFAS Extension. Jeff also is under contract with the Florida Department of Transportation as their state wildflower specialist. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov
Learn more about wildflowers by watching Jeff Norcini talk with Stan Rosenthal, UF/Leon County Extension Forester on WFSU’s TV show Dimensions. Just click the link below.