Planning a wildflower meadow

Today is a typical January day.  Foggy, grey, dreary, uninspired. A great day for planning a wildflower meadow.

Last year my garden got a bit out of control.  I just didn’t have the time to maintain it properly.  This year, I’m taking steps to ensure it’s more manageable, but still beautiful.  Hard landscaping doesn’t do it for me.  I do like natural lawns, but they don’t help me with my new hobby – beekeeping.

Low maintenance but bee-friendly

I want to make part of my garden into a wildflower meadow.  It will be low-maintenance but stuffed with plants that attract bees.  Hopefully, it’ll also bring in butterflies, birds, frogs and toads and a whole host of other wildlife.  Maybe I’ll even start finding hedgehogs in the garden again.

honey bee on common daisy (bellis perennis) flower

A honey bee visiting a Common Daisy flower.  Daisies start flowering in early spring and although they're sometimes unwelcome in a grass lawn, they bring early colour to the wildflower meadow

What plants should be in a wildflower meadow?

I’m after low maintenance.  So annual plants probably aren’t a good idea.  Most of the cornfield annuals are beautifully coloured and irresistible to bees.  At the same time, the land needs to be cultivated every year and fresh seed sown.  Then there’ll be the weeding to do while I wait for seeds to germinate.  Nope.  I’m opting for perennial wildflowers. 

Flowering times

I do want to have a succession of flowers from the time the bees start flying until the time they start slowing down for the winter.

Colours

Blues, pinks and purples are apparently the most attractive flowers for bees.  I’m not sure if that’s true or not.  But I have noticed my girls concentrating their efforts on pink hollyhocks, purple verbenas and that blue-flowered weed that looks like a forget-me-not.  Don’t you just hate it when you can’t remember the name of a plant?

Favourite species

I’m fond of most wild flowers but I have a particular attachment to lady’s bedstraw (love the scent), scabious, knapweed, pink campions and oxeye daisies.  I do love to have a posy of wild flowers stuffed into a jug on my desk while I’m working.  So anything that has a long stem and is amenable to cutting will be useful too.

Lady's bedstraw.  A UK wild flower with yellow blooms and a sweet scent

Lady's bedstraw.  I'm not the first to fall in love with the sweet sweet scent of this flower.  Apparantly medieval lady's used it to stuff their mattresses - a bit like an ancient version of fabric freshener.

I’m quite fond of grasses too.  The seedheads can be fabulous and of course they take on that lovely golden colour towards the end of summer.

How to make a wildflower meadow

I’m lucky to have been involved with the development of Meadowmat.  It means I’ve had first-hand experience of watching different wildflower species grown from seed.  I’ve compared seeding with laying wild flower turf.  I’ve tried a bit of plug planting and I’ve seen what happens when wildflowers are grown in ordinary garden soil.

That makes the decision easy for me.  I’m going to import some low nutrient soil and lay Meadowmat on top of it.

path through wild flower garden

I would love to walk along a path like this in my garden.  Unfortunately my garden isn't big enough but I plan to adapt the idea to suit the space I do have.

 

Low nutrient soil seems costly.  However, I’ve witnessed the frustration caused when Meadowmat installed onto garden soil is beautifully floral in its first year and then gets progressively more and more grassy.  I don’t want all the work of creating this floral area only to have it fail in 2-3 years time.  After all, that would mean I’d wasted my money in the first place.

I shall start by weeding the whole area and taking away all the plant material – I don’t want it rotting down and adding even more nutrients to the soil.

Next I’ll rotovate and level the soil to create a base that’s firm but not compacted.

Then I’ll spread a healthy layer of low nutrient soil on top and level it with a rake.  Shouldn’t be any need to rotovate because it won’t be compacted and I know that the bought-in stuff is from a reputable supplier.  It’s not going to be full of rubble or stones.

Meadowmat next

I’m going to opt for a mix of two types. 

Cottage Garden Meadowmat – because it’s got some strongly coloured flower species in it.  I suspect some of them will be lovely as cut flowers too. OK, they’re non-native species but I don’t think the bees will mind too much.

Meadowmat for Birds and Bees – for its long flowering period and it’s slightly lower price.

There’ll be a bark path through the middle of the wildflower area.  I think I’ll cultivate a 15cm strip either side of it and sow some cornflowers and corn marigolds too – just for the sheer joy of it.

Can’t wait to get started – roll on spring time!

Oh – if you fancy laying some wildflower turf yourself this spring – here’s a video to inspire you.

 

 

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