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Grow wildflowers along town trails, suggests Olds parks supervisor

Seeds could be planted or plugs could be planted, Gillian Campbell says
mvt Olds town office-2
File photo/MVP Staff

OLDS — Wildflowers could soon be blooming along trails in Olds if town council approves the suggestion advanced by parks supervisor Gillian Campbell.

“Last year I heard it mentioned by somebody, ‘why don’t we plant wildflowers?’ Well, this would be lovely along some of our trails. And natural landscaping with wildflowers and native grasses increases our connection to nature by attracting a variety of songbirds, pollinators, butterflies,” Campbell said during a presentation to council earlier this month.

There are two options if council greenlights the idea, she said. One is to plant wildflower seeds from a provider. She knows of one in Turner Valley.

The other option is to buy plugs (young plants complete with soil) and plant them.

Campbell said the advantage of the plugs is that they'll bloom “in Year 1” whereas it might take a couple of years or so before wildflowers started from seeds begin to bloom. 

“You have less to care for when seeds are coming up. When you plant just seeds, you have to know the difference between your weed seeds and your flower seeds for a start and they would have to be weeded a lot,” she said, sparking some brief laughter.

“Putting in plugs actually eliminates quite a lot of that initial maintenance in those. But it can be an ongoing project as well, so you can start out a little and build up.”

However, like anything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to grow these flowers Campbell warned.

“At first, you have to replicate nature – and nature’s methods. You can’t force plants to grow where nature had not intended them to grow, so it requires good planning, proper site preparation, the right seeds for the right type of soil. 

"But the plants can be growing (with) and periodic and well-timed maintenance.”

Campbell said she and her team have already spotted some places along trails in Olds where wildflowers could look “quite nice.”

Several councillors expressed interest in the idea. Campbell was asked how much it would cost to obtain wildflower plugs. She couldn’t say, but said she could find out.

Coun. Mary Jane Harper said it’s her understanding that wildflowers, especially those started from plugs, spread.

“Oh yes, they do spread. They won’t spread as fast in the first year or two, but once they get going, they’ll actually spread quite well,” Campbell said. “And I’ve got a list of several good flowers for around here. I’m not necessarily somebody who likes to put many different types all in one area. I think larger areas of one or two types is often very pretty.”