A wildflower meadow is both beautiful and functional. By having lots of pollinator-friendly plants, meadows encourage a variety of beneficial insects such as bees, moths, butterflies, saw flies and crane flies, as well as birds and other species of wildlife, such as the endangered hedgehog. The presence of these creatures will help to naturally control aphids and other garden pests like slugs and snails.
Perennial wildflower meadows and annual wildflower meadows are not the same thing, so if you’re interested in introducing wildflowers to your ecosystem, it’s important that you understand the key distinctions so you can decide which one is right for you.
A true wildflower meadow is an area of native grass mixed with native wildflowers. They are permanent features and relatively low maintenance, making them the perfect solution for larger areas of land. The ratio of grasses to wildflowers in perennial meadows is usually 80:20 in favour of grass. There is a very good reason for this though, as wildflowers are not in full flower all throughout the year. The grass creates the ideal backdrop to the meadow and avoids having blank patches in the landscape.
A well-established perennial meadow needs only be maintained once a year. Contrary to almost all other plants in the garden, perennial wildflower meadows favour soil that has low levels of fertility. If a soil is too fertile, it can cause the fertility-favouring grasses to outcompete the wildflowers. Despite containing less flowers that annual meadows, perennial wildflower meadows provide fantastic habitats for wildlife and their low maintenance can more than make up for the decrease in colour and vibrance.
There are three options when creating perennial wildflower meadows – they can be sown from seed, planted as plugs, or laid as one unified sheet of wildflower turf.
As the name suggests, annual wildflower meadows are based upon a mix of annual (single season) plants that grow, flower, set seed and then die each year. Due to the combination of native and non-native (yet still beneficial) wildflowers, they’re often a lot more vibrant than perennial wildflower meadows. This enhanced pop of colour does however come at a price, as the meadow area needs to be completely cleared and prepared at the start of each new season. It’s very important to dig out any undesirable plants from the area, as they can quickly outcompete the growth of the wildflowers. Unlike perennial wildflowers, annual meadow flowers prefer more fertile soil that is higher in nutrients.
Annual wildflower meadows are created by spreading a premixed seed selection onto prepared ground in early spring.
This option is perfect for you if you’re attracted by the idea of introducing a wildflower meadow to your garden or green space, but don’t have room or aren’t quite ready to give up your traditional grass lawn. By introducing a select few wildflowers into your lawn, mowing less routinely or at a higher height, and by following a few more simple steps, you can create a space that’s beautiful, fantastic for wildlife and it still works well for you and your family.
Keen to recreate that famous scything scene from Poldark?