Wild flower Meadow – Creating a Wildflower Meadow.
Creating a wildflower meadow or area is all about creating the right condition for the wild flowers that naturally grow in your area. Unlike most of the work you will do in your garden adding organic matter and improving the fertility of your soil a wildflower meadow requires lean and poor soil. The reason for this is that wildflowers need these impoverished soils to keep the competition from more rampant plants such as grass at bay.
Wildflowers have declined over the last 100 years due to intensive feeding and cropping. Today some of the strong holds of wildflowers are such places as old railway lines and former wartime airfields. These areas have be left unmanaged with no cropping or feeding and the wild flowers have managed to re-establish themselves.
Establishing wildflowers in a garden is one of the hardest projects to achieve. From a design point of view its often difficult to marry two styles together, one from a structured garden to the completely unstructured style of a wildflower area or meadow. However working with wildflowers can be one of the most rewarding projects in gardening. The sheer diversity in plants and flowers, plus the added benefit of attracting wildlife such as numerous insects and birds surely makes for one of the most interesting areas in a garden.
Were you live or what type of soil you have largely dictates what type of wildflowers you can grow. For example a garden on a chalky thin soil will suit plants such as poppies whilst a clay loam soil will suit stronger plants more able to deal with competition such as vetches.
Your first move should be the have a look around your area and see what grows naturally. Even if you live in a city center often areas such as railway sidings or canal towpaths can provide you with this information. Most wildflowers are spotted by there flowers and so observations are best carried out over the spring months.
Meadow mixes are made up of fine grasses and flowers that bloom in their second year. The best sowing times are early Spring, or late Summer to Autumn. However, most wildflower seeds will germinate during the summer months if you are able to keep them moist.
You need to:
- Ideally, scrape off the rich topsoil as it is full of weed seeds which will result in a lush growth that will swamp the wildflowers.
- Create a fine seed bed in the subsoil and lightly sow the seed (mixing with barley meal, silver sand or sawdust helps to spread the seed evenly and helps you to see where you’ve been).
- Rake in thoroughly and firm down to ensure your seeds have a good contact with the soil.
- If you do sow in topsoil, you will have to keep on top of the weeds and thin out the grass periodically.
- Mow the area at least three times in the first year to a height of about 5cm. Remove the cuttings, as they will increase fertility. Treat the area as you would a lazy lawn i.e. cut when it looks untidy, approximately 4 times a year.In year two, when the meadow will start to flower, cut once (make sure your flowers have all set seed), this will usually be by mid September and again remove the cuttings to a compost heap.
- DON’T scatter your seed onto existing lawn/grass – it won’t work.
- DON’T apply fertiliser to your meadow. A Wildflower Cottage Border or Butterfly Patch.
- You can use pure wildflower seed to create or enhance a perennial cottage border or butterfly patch. The flowers will persist and give a delightful cottage garden effect.
- Either sow the seed in seed trays and prick out as you would other perennials or sow directly into a weed free tilth, raking in and firming down the soil.
- Weed the area once you can recognise which are wildflowers and which are weeds.
Instant Wildflower Borders
Cornfield annuals flower in their first year and create a stunning patch of colour. Unlike the meadow species, they thrive in fertile conditions, are ideal for gardens and also do well in large planters.
Hand weed or spray out existing vegetation with a glyphosate based herbicide.
Turn over and break up the soil to create a fine seed bed.
ightly sow the seed, rake in well and firm down to give a good seed/soil contact.
Cut the area once the weed seed has ripened and fallen – usually August – September. A further late cut will help ensure a tidy appearance.
Lightly turn over and rake the area the following Spring. This promotes germination in seeds that fell the previous year as these species need the soil to be disturbed annually.
If there is rank growth you should, ideally, remove the topsoil. However, heavy shade often excludes the worst of the weeds.
lear any existing vegetation as before and create a fine seed bed.
Sow, rake and firm in your seed as for the meadow areas.
Wildflowers for pond edges establish easily if the area to be planted is damp or wet. These flowers germinate well in coir composts and can be subsequently planted out into areas cleared of existing vegetation. If sown directly onto the damp soil, keep the area free from competing plants to allow the seedlings to develop. Some species are very vigorous.
Some wildflower seeds can take a long time to get started and may germinate in later years when weather conditions are more favourable.
Some seeds require Winter chilling (e.g. cowslip) or high Spring temperatures (e.g. poppy) to break their dormancy. If you get the soil conditions right at the outset, the rest will be easy. Some of the very best wildflower gardens have been created on rubble topped with crushed chalk, crushed concrete and even motorway scrapings – generally the poorer the soil the better. Do not scatter wildflower seeds in the countryside. Introducing new species into an area may irretrievably alter the ecology and characteristics of a natural habitat.
Adding pot grown wildflowers will give you instant colour, greater variety, a source of natural seeding and an opportunity to ensure that the slower germinating species are present at an early stage.
Pot plants also have a high rate of success and if allowed to set seed, tend to spread rapidly on clear ground as the ripe seed is falling exactly as it would in nature.