Creating a wildflower heaven

Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Published 28/04/2015 | 00:00

Who wouldn't be charmed by the casual, elegant care free photos we see of wildflower meadows. Idyllic, bucolic, they must be easy you would think. After all they are wild flowers.

Unfortunately you'd be wrong. A native wild flower meadow is one thing creating one is quite another. There is a lot of work involved and even then you may struggle to achieve your goals. Wildflower meadows like an open sunny position with low soil fertility and nitrogen levels.

As with all things that are created by Mother Nature there is a vital and happy balance in all aspects of the growing conditions and species. Big strong grass varieties can swamp out wildflowers choking perennials and preventing annuals seeding. Very fertile soil only encourages these grasses.

Inevitably if you sow a large cultivated area with a wildflower seed mix, this is often a 80/20 split between suitable grass species and wildflowers, over the years you lose many species as the conditions are just not conducive for them.

Often year one is the most successful year as far as diversity is concerned. Some annuals such as poppies need clear broken soil to be sucessful, so incorporating these in a grass areas is doomed to failure.

If you are looking to sow a grass/ wildflower area make sure that your seed mix includes Yellow Rattle. This is an attractive tough yellow flowered annual which is also know as the Vampire plant. It is not welcomed by farmers as it sucks the life out of grasses and clovers. But in your wildflower meadow it helps create excellent conditions for encouraging multi-species of wild flowers to thrive.

But let's face it most of us don't have the space or time to create a wildflower area the size of a meadow. This doesn't mean you can't have a go at creating even a square metre of wildflowers in your garden. In this case I would suggest that you use a bare soil patch and don't include any grasses in your seed mix.

Prepare soil by lightly digging and raking, never fertilise. Buy a packet of seeds from your garden centre, perennial/ annual mix, sow and sit back and enjoy the fun of seeing what grows. Keep out any unwanted weeds like dandelions,docks and any grasses.

In late August cut back all the plants to a few inches of the ground and wait till next year to see what come up.

Wexford People

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