Create a Wildflower Meadow
Garden designer Ivan Hicks, co-creator of the meadow at Butterfly World, gives us his top tips on creating a wildflower meadow.
All gardeners can do their bit for the survival of pollinating insects by giving over even a small patch of their land to wildflowers.
It is important to prepare the ground thoroughly and eradicate as many coarse weeds as possible from your chosen site. You need to remove both broad-leaved weeds and grasses. If you want to do this without resorting to chemicals, you will need to remove both the top growth and any bits of root by hand. Ideally you should clear the site, wait six weeks for any residual weed seeds to germinate and then clear it all again.
Wildflower species need poor soil in which to thrive. If you are converting part of an existing lawn into a meadow, you will need to stop feeding the lawn and cut it often to weaken the grass.
Late autumn (August/September) is the best time to sow your seeds. If you are sowing a large area, using only wildflowers seeds can be expensive so you can include some meadow grass seed in the mix. Prepare the soil by raking to a fine tilth and broadcast your seed mix over the whole area. Lightly tamp down the seeds and water well. There is no need to cover them with soil or to rake them in.
Sowing annuals along with your perennial seeds will get your meadow off to a quicker start and the annuals will help to nurse the perennials in their first year. You can also buy plug plants of perennial wildflowers. These can be planted into soil that has been sown with annual wildflowers. Again, the annuals will do the job of protecting the perennials, giving them a better chance to establish.
The roots of Yellow Rattle fix to the roots of grasses, weakening them. It is often used to help produce a better display of wildflowers by keeping the grass under control. It can be a difficult plant to establish and you will need to have some grasses in your meadow in order for it to survive. It has to be sown in autumn since it needs a cold period to trigger germination.
Cut your meadow down to around 5cm three times in the first year. This will help the roots develop quicker. Thereafter, once a year should be enough. Wait until seeds have ripened before you cut the meadow and remove the clippings to keep the soil fertility low.
- Suggested meadow annuals
- Agrostemma githago (Corn Cockle)
- Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower)
- Coreopsis tinctoria (Tickseed)
- Cosmos bipinnatus (Cosmos)
- Eschscholtzia californicum (Californian Poppy)
- Gypsophila muralis (Baby's Breath)
- Lavatera trimestris (Rose Mallow)
- Iberis umbellate (Candytuft)
- Linaria reticulata (Toadflax)
- Linum grandiflorum rubrum (Red Flax)
- Nemophila maculata (Five Spot)
- Papaver rhoeas (Field Poppy)
- Phacelia campanularia (Californian Bluebell)
- Rhinanthus minor (Yellow Rattle)
- Salvia coccinea (Scarlet sage)
- Silene armeria (Catchfly)
- Xeranthemum annum (Strawflower)
- Suggested meadow perennial
- Aquilegia (Columbine)
- Achillea (Yarrow)
- Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)
- Centaurea scabiosa (Greater knapweed)
- Centaurea montana (Perennial Cornflower)
- Centaurea nigra (Black Knapweed)
- Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)
- Eupatorium purpureum (Joe-Pye Weed)
- Galium mollugo (Hedge Bedstraw)
- Galium verum (Ladies Bedstraw)
- Knautia arvensis (Field scabious)
- Lotus corniculatus (Birds foot Trefoil)
- Leucanthemum vulgare (Ox-eye Daisy)
- Lychnis flos-cuculi (Ragged Robin)
- Lythrum salicaria (Purple Loosetrife)
- Primula veris (Cowslip)
- Prunella vulgaris (Selfheal)
- Salvia pratensis (Meadow Clary)
- Silene dioica (Red Campion)
- Silene vulgaris (Bladder Campion)
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