Wildflowers for clay soils

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Clay soils can be difficult to cultivate.  I grew up in Hertfordshire where the soil has a high clay content and have not-very-fond memories of trying to dig over my parents’ vegetable patch.  We had to get the timing just right.  Too dry and it was baked hard, too wet and it was like stirring a very heavy pudding mix.

I remember though the walks I took with my Grandmother.  She would point out various wildflowers and try to teach me their names.  I don’t remember all of them but I have fond memories of the primrose woods just outside of Brickendon and carpets of bluebells near to Goose Green.

But I’ve digressed.

Which wild flowers grow well in clay soils?

Perennial wildflowers seem to do better in clay soils than annuals – I guess because of the challenges that go with cultivating it.  Annuals like to be sown into disturbed soil and clay soils are better suited to grazing and hay-making than they are to ploughing and harvesting crops.

These are some of my favourites wild flowers that cope well with the challenges of clay soils.

Yarrow

Yarrow is particularly successful in clay soils.  It has a strong root system that can cope with the challenging soil structure and it doesn’t seem to mind wet or dry.  It’s a robust plant that flowers in mid-late summer and is great for providing pollen and nectar after the main flush of early summer wildflowers has finished.

Yarrow flower with red soldier beetle

Oxeye Daisy

These flowers remind me of happy faces.  They’re the flowers I used to draw as a child, a big yellow centre surrounded by petals.  Of all the wildflowers I grow in my garden it’s oxeye daisies, campions, yarrow and plantain that seem to cope best with higher fertility….and clay soils are prone to be higher fertility.

Musk Mallow

I love the big dusky pink blooms on this plant – and so do my honeybees.  A strong plant with enormous leaves and plenty of height.

musk mallow flower

Cowslip

One of the harbingers of spring.  I adore the pretty nodding heads of cowslips.  There’s a whole field of them on one of my regular dog walking routes.  A real tonic for the soul.

Birdsfoot Trefoil

I’m not normally a fan of bright yellow flowers but these are such a good allrounder that I can’t resist them.  Easy to grow and they’re legumous – so they add nitrogen to the soil.  Always a bonus.

Red Clover

Another favourite with the bees but not always popular with lawn lovers.  Clover thrives in clay soil and often stays green when drought has made other plants dormant.   I probably wouldn’t use it in a formal flower border but in meadow or prairie type planting it’s a real asset.

Ragged Robin

I clearly remember Nanny Brown showing me ragged robin growing in a hedgerow.  Way back then I found the irregular, tattered petals absolutely fascinating – and I still do.

ragged robin flower being visited by bumblebee

White Campion

I grow white campion in amongst the other plants in my herbaceous borders.  Always a “good doer”.  I do like low maintenance plants.

Teasel

A long tap root makes teasel a robust plant and it’s tall, architectural seed heads are a great way of attracting birds to the garden.

bumblebee feeding on teasel flower

 

Other wild flowers for clay soils

 

All of these wild flower species can be found in Traditional Meadowmat - a system for establishing plants into almost any type of soil.  Meadowmat gives instant results and saves months and months of hassle and waiting for seeds to germinate.

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