Our house came with a field of wildflowers. There were mostly daisies that first summer. Then fewer daisies the next. It took me a few years to realize that you need to reseed every five years or so, especially after golden rod insinuates itself into the mix — like a stealth army — and soon has literally rooted out everything else. Then it’s time to mow, kill the old turf, plow under the field, and replant with new seeds.
I use a mix of annuals and perennials, so the first summer of freshly seeded wildflowers tends to be a bright splash of cosmos, poppies, corn flowers, and snap dragons. The perennials usually start to take hold the second year, but the wonderful thing about a wildflower field is that — well — it’s wild. You never really know from year to year what you’re going to get. This year my field is predominately white (Queen Anne’s lace, daisies) and yellow (gloriosa daisies, black-eyed Susans, and a stunning rudbeckia variety which I think I’ve identified as “Becky Cinnamon”). Butterflies and bees are busy all day visiting the flowers. At night, fire flies drift dutifully overhead, switching their miniature search lights on and off, on and off.Wildflower by Stanley Plumly Some—the ones with fish names—grow so north they last a month, six weeks at most. Some others, named for the fields they look like, last longer, smaller. And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily, onion or bellwort, just cut this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen, will close with the sun. It is June, wildflowers on the table. They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons, with the whole day ahead of them. They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley, day lilies, or the clustering Canada, large, gold, long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase– or maybe Solomon’s seal, the petals ranged in small toy pairs or starry, tipped at the head like weeds. They could be anonymous as weeds. They are, in fact, the several names of the same thing, lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs, toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose, and have “the look of flowers that are looked at,” rooted as they are in water, glass, and air. I remember the summer I picked everything, flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn as paper I put them on pages and named them again. They were all lilies, even the hyacinth, even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead. I picked it, kept it in the book for years before I knew who she was, her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.