Summer in the UK is the time when wildflowers are in abundance. And they’re glorious! In this blog, we’ll be passing on some hints and tips on growing wildflowers in your garden.
Why grow wildflowers in your garden?
Wildflowers are amazing but sadly there are not enough of them in the wild any more. Some of our traditional wildflower areas have been built on. Some have been “tidied up” to make an area look more prestigious or neater. Others have fallen foul of the increased pressure that our farmers are under to produce more food, straighter carrots and rounder potatoes. The fertilisers used on crops are too rich for wildflowers and many species are struggling to live in the fields they once called home.
When I was little, my Grandmother used to take me for walks in the countryside and she taught me the names and the uses for the wildflowers we saw. I’m a granny now and I’m teaching my granddaughter about the living things around us (she’s 2 so we’re naming plants and colours, blowing dandelion clocks and chasing butterflies). I hope, really hope that in 50 years time, she’ll be able to show her granddaughter the things she remembers from her childhood.
So, to help preserve some of those wildflower species, I’m growing a mini-meadow in my garden. I’m also a beekeeper – which is another reason to conserve wildflowers. Honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies, moths and a trillion other creatures rely on wildflowers for food and shelter.
Colour and ecology
I love the look of a wildflower area and I love that it changes and evolves from year to year. Wildflowers are just as colourful as their cultivated cousins and they bring so many benefits to biodiversity
This wildflower garden was created for Hampton Court Flower Show using only Meadowmat for Birds and Bees.
Teasel flowers are a particular favourite of bumblebees. When the seeds are ripe, the goldfinches come from miles around to feast upon them.
Butterflies appreciate large swathes of flowers. This small tortoiseshell is loving the nectar in this patch of Meadowmat for Roof and Garden
How to establish a wildflower garden
It always thinks it sounds odd to talk about growing wildflowers – after all, if they’re wild, surely they’ve grown themselves?
That’s actually one of the things I love most about wildflowers – they’re pretty self-sufficient. I don’t need to feed them, deadhead them, spray for aphids, pick off caterpillars or treat them for diseases and deficiencies.
Wildflowers can be grown from seed, they can be bought in pots and planted out, or they can be laid like turf. In my experience, the seed is unreliable and tends to be drowned out by weeds. Pots are expensive and although it’s not perfect (nothing is in this life!) wildflower turf is quick and effective. It’s not the cheapest but it does cost less that pots and takes less time to plant out.
Here’s a blog I wrote a very long time ago, comparing wildflower seeds with Meadowmat. 7 years on, both of these areas are still very much alive. The seeded area is mainly pink champion. It blooms every May/June and that’s it for the year. The Meadowmat changes every year. This year it is mainly knapweed some oxeye daisies. Last year was vetch and plantain. I’m guessing the species mix is weather dependent but I love that the plants are so strong and that they find their own way in life. (they make great honey too – my bees forage on Meadowmat from May-August.
Meadowmat is wonderful and since I wrote that seed/turf blog in 2011, the Meadowmat range has expanded to include a cottage garden mix, a woodland shade mix, meadowmat for birds and bees, meadowmat for roof and garden and of course the original “traditional” seed mix.
This short video shows how easy it is to lay Meadowmat. Any of the products can be ordered online at turfonline.co.uk
For best results install in Autumn so that the plants can be well established by the following spring.