entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorstudio choowe like it wild

we like it wild: breakin’ the law

by Grace Bonney

This week’s post is inspired by our passion for wildflowers, and our desire to avoid run-ins with the law. Growing up we were always told it was illegal to pick our state flower, the California poppy. The fiery little flower is tenacious and grows throughout the state in small uncultivated clumps roadside, street side and everywhere else. Although it was hard to believe that picking a flower could land us in the slammer, we devotedly listened to our parents and limited our poppy picking to our own backyards.

Years later we discovered that the law doesn’t single out the poppy, but rather it is illegal to pick any flowers from state owned land, like in a park or along the side of the road, and picking flowers from private property is always a no-no. So what to do if you have a passion for wildflowers? Why, plant your own picking garden of course, and use the “cram and slam” method for instant results.

CLICK HERE for the rest of studio choo’s post (and their ‘cram and slam’ planting method) after the jump!

In search of plants that we had seen on our walks in the hills or by the side of the road, we used our copy of the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Wildflowers (Western Region) to locate more flowers at our local nursery to help create that feral, yet geographically appropriate look. Our nursery had a great selection of colors- so we chose to mix in a little bit of everything…red, orange, purple, cream, white, and a splash of pink. You can make your “wild” garden a bit more subtle by going monochromatic or sticking with just a few colors.

In addition to our beloved poppy (we actually went with a pale yellow variety instead of the traditional orange), we also included low plants such as violets and heuchera, taller clusters of yarrow and asclepias, big bright echinacea and intensely purple salvia. We also included some veronica because it is one of our favorite cutting flowers. Our bed already had some nice Japanese Kabocha pumpkin vines that ran the perimeter so we filled in with taller flowers in the center and lower plantings around the front. Don’t be afraid to move things around until you find the right arrangement (remember, this is supposed to be a wildflower garden so there are no such thing as mistakes). Once everyone is in the ground and watered, you’re ready to enjoy your very own guilt-free wildflower-picking garden.

Alethea picked up this “cram and slam” (sounds rougher than it actually is) method from her days working as an estate gardener, where clients wanted instant beauty without the wait. The name refers to packing plants together tightly (and quickly in some cases) in a garden that needs to look really full and beautiful right away- knowing that in a while the plants will be thinned out and dispersed to other locations/uses.

To determine how many plants you will need for your garden you’ll need to keep your bed measurements and plant size in mind while shopping. As a general guideline for this method we usually leave about 4-8 inches of space between plants (you will not be following the normal spacing guides listed on the tags). We had an empty bed that was roughly 3’ by 4’, so we needed about ten one-gallon plants to fill it to the brim.

1. First find yourself a suitable plot of dirt and purchase plants agreeable to the location (like…full sun, shade, partial sun, or morning sun followed by afternoon shade).

2. Remove old or dead plants from the plot, making sure to get out all the old root balls. Using a shovel dig down into the earth to loosen up the soil removing any rocks or old plant material.

3. Once you have loosened up the old soil, it’s best to amend the plot with good organic mulch or planting mix containing compost and manure. Empty about half a bag of planting mix onto the plot, digging the new mulch or mix down into the old soil. Once you have thoroughly mixed in the new soil it is time to place your plants.

4. Before we plant anything, we place the pots in the garden to see where things should go. The tallest growing plants usually sit in the last row of the plot (you can plant against a house or fence for added support). Medium height or bushier growing plants can be placed in the middle rows helping to fill out the garden. Ground covers and plants in smaller 4″ containers can be placed in the front rows and along the edges for added texture and low color.

5. After you have all the plants where you want them it’s time to dig. For small holes we use a hori hori knife (means dig dig!), an amazing multi purpose Japanese tool that can be found online or at upscale gardening stores. Dig your hole about two times the size of the container. Remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen up the bottom of the root ball, freeing up and spreading some of the roots if they are tightly bound together.

6. Place the plant into the hole, filling it in and gently patting it in place so that the plant feels secure in its new home. Once you have planted everything you can give your new garden a good drink, making sure that the dirt around all your new plantings is sufficiently wet.

This technique is a great way to get a garden started with fast results while learning how your new plants grow. You should be prepared to take lots of clippings for bedside table arrangements and move things around, as certain plants will grow more quickly than others. Next week we’ll show you some ideas on how to use cuttings and larger plants from the garden to spruce up your home for a party or just day-to-day!

Suggested For You


  • You could use these super-cute seed bombs, or make your own, and then throw them in your yard or in someone else’s! Of course, if you throw them onto private property, don’t then trespass and pick those flowers. ;)

  • While I have been concerned with breaking the law – I always thought a wildflower was something sacred to be adored and didn’t really fear the probability of some law enforcement officer capturing me in the act of picking. However, I am guilty of lifting the occasional beach stone, which I think is the same offense. Last year I bought “indigenous” plants from a local County Forest Preserve Annual Sale. The proceeds support the county parks and the plants support the birds and the bees. Also, supporting the “Please do not pick the flowers” law… consider the “what if everyone did it?” theory. I was led to believe species may become extinct or maybe we should just leave them there for everyone to enjoy. What I’m trying to say is – I love this post! Wildflowers are beautiful and hearty and easy to grow!

  • Our state flower is the bluebonnet. It is very difficult to grow in a home garden for some reason. The seed cover is so hard they must be frozen and then cracked in order to get them to bloom. We go to the small town of Ennis for their bluebonnet festival. They have a street celebration and a map to the best showings of the bluebonnets.

    I grow Purple Cone flowers and LOVE them, but they do like their sun for sure. They are easy to grow and there is such an abundance of seeds there are plenty to share with others. I just sent some home with my daughter who lives in Galveston.

    You have a lovely blog and I would love to come back for visit. My cousin sent me the link to your blog.

  • I love this post! I love having plants around and would love to have my own garden but I live in an apartment. It would be really neat to see an article like this one only geared for those who don’t have yard-space.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.