Friday, 17 June 2016

Five thoughts on creating a wildflower garden

You have to be bold, you have to be brave, and you have to know what you're doing, creating a wildflower wildlife garden. It's not just a question of letting the grass grow long and leaving some deadwood for the bugs.

Get it right and flowery and romantic can be yours. However, get it wrong, and your neighbours will start asking you how you're feeling, as they've noticed you haven't been able to cut the lawn?!  

The recent trends to introduce wildflower gardens is one of the biggest changes that I've seen in British gardens over the past decade and not something easily achieved in Australia. With our hot summers and bushfire risk, we are encouraged to be fire-ready:

'reduce the fuel levels around your house, 
by clearing long grass, raking leaves and twigs and pruning shrubs'

Which is probably why I love the wildflower gardens of Britain so much. The delicate flowers of my youth found on verges and hedgerows are welcomed into gardens, with a 'live and let live' Joie de Vivre!  

Top Left: Mown lawns at Tyntesfield Top Right: Yellow rattle

Be warned! If you are the sort of gardener that loves the see the stripes in the lawn, then the wildflower garden will take some serious restraint.

Of course, you can cheat, or be clever, which ever way you look at it, and start with a wildflower mat. This is a special turf, laid out, watered and off you go. But where's the fun in that? We thought this pretty wildflower meadow we came across in Chichester last year may have been grown in this way.

Oaklands Park Wildflower Meadow Chichester 2015
So how do you start?  I asked my Mother for her tips and ideas as she is currently working on two wildflower gardens! 

1. Find the right space: If you have a patch of land like my parents did, where it was hard to grow a good lawn then take note, this might be nature crying out to go wild!


2. Watch and Wait: In the first year let a patch of land designated for a wildflower garden grow without cutting and see what happens.  

3. Harvest Seeds: At the end of the season, harvest seeds from the wildflowers you like. If you have yellow rattle collect as much seed as you can. The yellow rattle plant is your friend because it crowds out the unwanted meadow grasses. The bottom line is ultimately you want to:

4. Give nature a helping hand: In the second year although it may look like you can sit back to watch how beautifully your garden does grow. The reality is, if you want it to be decorative as well, then it does need managing.  

Which is where you step in and give nature a helping hand. Either by yanking out those plants you deem less worthy, or the most polite way, to encourage  the rattle keep at bay the unwanted competitive grasses. 

 Church Wildlife Garden Oxfordshire
5. Add in some more interesting plants such as orchids, field scabious and whatever takes your fancy and create space around them to grow. For best results introduce them as well grown on plants. 

Add in additional plants that you love

A lot of people want field poppies, for instance, Poppies look fantastic but need disturbed soil, so probably no good just tossing out the poppy seeds.

Here is a closer look at the plants growing in my parent's wildflower garden:

Top: Orchid & Yellow Rattle, Ox-Eye Daisy, Red Campion, Bottom: Hawksbeard, Orchid, Clover
There is much excitement about the single self-seeded orchid, isn't she pretty?! 

I find this move to wildflower and wildlife gardens fascinating and hope you have enjoyed a nosey around some of the best ones I have seen around.

Linking with thanks to Jesh at Seasons


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