Who doesn’t love a wildflower meadow or a swathe of wild colour by the roadside?
Or a ripe cornfield dotted with scarlet poppies?
Who recalls, as a child making daisy chains or holding a buttercup under their chin to test whether they like butter?
Or told the time by blowing away the seeds of a Dandelion clock?
At this time of year, pathways, hedgerows, woodlands and verges are full of colour from wildflowers which give us plenty of inspiration for wild flower garden ideas.
Their nectar rich blooms open with the aid of Nature’s perfect timing to coincide with hungry bees and pollinators who are waking up and needing to find food.
After decades of intensive farming, road building and property development, we are rapidly losing some of our treasured wildflowers.
Without them the fragile eco system starts to collapse.
Bees, butterflies and many other insects, birds and animals rely on wildflowers for habitat, shelter and food.
Wildflowers are tough and resilient, after all they go through, they need to be.
Deserts that have been dry for years will suddenly burst into myriad colours after rainfall. Flower seeds that have lain dormant flourish within a short window of time… setting seed to wait for the next downpour.
Seeing a barren landscape come into bloom is a sight for sore eyes.
Wildflowers will pretty much sow themselves anywhere.
Dandelions will pop up in concrete and tarmac. Daisies thrive in stone walls or cobbled paths.
Red Campion and Ragged Robin will also put down roots in what seem to us the most inhospitable environments.
Ox-eye daisies thrive and multiply everywhere, whatever the conditions.
Gladioli italicus grows on wasteland, as will lupine. Summer Flowering Bulbs A colourful addition to summer gardens.
In the rush to find new and exotic plants from around the world, the humble wildflowers were, sadly, destined to take a backseat.
Botanists and plant breeders were keen to create new flowers. All the flowers and plants that we love to grow in our gardens have been bred from wild flowers. They all trace their roots back to native, indigenous species. However, the original plant is the one proves most resistant to pests and diseases; they have, after all, had millions of years to evolve and strengthen their defences. New plants are inter-bred, changed and modified in order to produce something deemed “perfect”, but in doing so we have also bred weakness into them. This is why pests and diseases have become more widespread as plants are far more susceptible to them and unable to fight them off.
Since the 1930’s the UK has lost 99% of unimproved grasslands.
Wildflowers came to be looked upon by gardeners as weeds, unwanted and undesirable.
But were it not for them we wouldn’t have the huge array of plants that are available today.
One of my favourite sayings is –
“A weed is just a plant in the wrong place.”
Luckily wildflowers are making a come back. They have been waiting in the wings a long time… I did mention that they are resilient.
Gardeners, plant specialists and environmentalists have realised just how important wildflowers are for the survival of our eco systems.
Gardeners are now turning their minds to planting more wildflowers. The regeneration of these lovely, indigenous plants can only have a lasting benefit for the insects, pollinators, birds and animals who thrive amongst them.
Anyone can grow them, they germinate easily and there is very little maintenance involved. There is however some preparation to do of the area you wish to turn into a wildflower garden. Easy Low Maintenance Garden Ideas
If you wish to turn your manicured lawn into a meadow or beds and borders into havens for wildlife then read on to see how to Plant a Wildflower Garden.
How to Plant a Wildflower Garden
Preparing the Site
Choose a suitable site, somewhere open and sunny. The larger the better if you’re going for the full on meadow look.
Flat or sloped ground is fine.
A small area is OK too, you don’t necessarily have to have a huge area available. Any wild flower bed will become a magnet for our wildlife.
Once you have decided on an area for your wild garden it needs some preparation before planting.
Remove any weeds such as ground elder, nettles, bindweed or any others that you don’t want. This can take some time to fully eradicate them, but it’s a job that can be done at any time of year.
If you are turning your lawn or part of it into a wildflower garden then first remove the turf.
Garden soil usually has had lots of organic material such as leaf mulch, compost and soil improvers added to it over years. These are required for a conventional flower garden, but it will prove to be too rich and nutritious for wild flowers.
Reducing the fertility of the soil means removing three to six inches of topsoil. This too will take some time depending on the size of your wildflower garden.
Alternatively sow some hungry plants such as brassicas for a season.
Dig the soil, and rake to a fine tilth. Cover the area with weed suppression fabric or black plastic and leave it until autumn.
Seed planting is best done in autumn when the soil is warm.
You need approximately 5grams of seeds per square metre. Walk across the site scattering the seeds as you go. Aim for an even spread.
Water gently and leave the rest to nature.
A good mix of seeds will give you lots of different wildflowers. Generally a mix will include natural, indigenous flower species and grasses. You can buy packets of ready mixed seed varieties. This tends to work out cheaper than buying packets of individual seeds.
Good mixes include:
- birds-foot trefoil (good for common blue butterfly caterpillars)
- common sorrel (good for small copper butterfly caterpillars)
- red campion
- field scabious
- hoary plantain
- greater and common knapweed
- lady’s bedstraw
- ox-eye daisy
- red clover
- ribwort plantain
- wild carrot
- yellow rattle, this is a must have ingredient to help reduce the vigorous growth of grasses.
- wild grasses, such as bents, fescues and crested dogstail
Wildflowers for Shade
As with any plant there are varieties that do better in shady areas, out of the full heat of the sun.
- red campion
- white campion
- common StJohns wort
- wild garlic
- common knapweed
- wild angelica
- tufted vetch
- common bent
Wildflowers for Clay Soil
- lady’s bedstraw
- birds-foot trefoil
- salad burnet
- ox-eye daisy
- yellow rattle
- field scabious
- ragged robin
- red campion
How to Maintain a Wildflower Garden
Wildflower meadows need a yearly mowing and possibly some weeding in order to maintain a good, healthy mix of plants.
New Gardens and Meadows
New gardens and meadows need to be mowed/cutback in the first year of planting to encourage strong root growth of perennials and grasses.
Cut after the first six to eight weeks of growing to about two inches. Repeat every two months through the summer months.
Some people like to mow a path through, this is more aesthetically pleasing I think if the path meanders and looks natural rather than straight paths.
So, other than mowing a few paths and a few cuts per season you can effectively put the lawn mower away.
After the flowering season of all annuals when the plants have dropped their seed is the time to mow or strim the garden or meadow. This ensures that seed is already in the soil ready to germinate for next year.
Established Gardens and Meadows
The mowing or cutting of established gardens really depends on which plants are to be encouraged and the vigour of growth. Mow once or twice per season. Leave the clippings for a day or two so that the seeds can be left ready to germinate the following year.
Cut no later than April. Cut to about three inches height. The spring mow is effective in slowing down the lush growth of grasses, and favours the spring flowers such as fritilaria, cowslips and selfheal.
Cut between late June and end of August. This removes the bulk of the summers’ growth and it can be composted.
The cut at this time of year benefits the summer plants such as knapweed, scabious and lady’s bedstraw.
Two cuts between the end of August and the end of November removes any surplus growth and helps to maintain the dominance of flowers in preference to grasses. If necessary sow more yellow rattle in autumn to control the vigorous growth of grasses.
Meadows can be mowed a couple of times through winter if desired in order to keep them looking tidy and to keep the grass short.
Clippings should be removed and composted.
Meadows or wildflower gardens do not need watering or feeding.
Many of our native plants have always colonised and thrived on poor soils, hence why they were considered weeds in the first place.
Funny how everything has its day. Luckily for our native wildflower species those days are coming around again. We need to help them survive. Without them the countryside will suffer as will the bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife.
For wild flower gardens to visit near you… https://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/wildflowers.html
Please plant some wildflowers in your gardens this year. A small patch will help. Allow some to move into the flower beds, they look just as pretty if not prettier than our usual herbaceous plants. I have many self seeded plants in my borders. But then I much prefer the daisies to the debutantes.
I hope this article has helped you in terms of giving you some food for thought for wild flower garden ideas and shown you just how easy it is to nurture wildflowers and how to incorporate a wild flower space into your gardens. If you have the land then please do go ahead and grow a meadow. I guarantee you will get a real good feeling from doing so. Gardening for Well-being, Why Gardening is Good for your Health.
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