The traditional wildflower meadow is a quintessentially English scene with poppies, cowslips and cornflowers swaying gently in the breeze. Unfortunately, over past decades and with the onward march of intensive agricultural practices much of our wildflower meadows have sadly disappeared.
There is no reason however why you can’t cultivate your very own wildflower garden. You don’t need a meadow or even a large garden, any patch of land will do no matter how big or small. Even a window box or collection of containers will suffice for planting wildflowers. Grab a cup of tea, take a seat around your teak dining table and read on for ideas on the ideal British wildflowers you can grow in your garden.
Experts agree that bees, our most important pollinators, can see the colours purple and blue more clearly than other colours. The more pollinating bees and other insects you can attract into your garden the more successful your efforts will be, and if you plan to cultivate fruit and vegetables, you need pollinators. The best purple wildflowers to plant in your wildflower garden include lavender, alliums and asters, particularly our native aster, or Michaelmas daisy. The free-flowering ‘Lady in Blue’ with its nectar-rich blooms is especially useful for the front of the border and for rocky soil.
Candytuft is a low-growing plant which produces masses of multi-petalled flowers of blue, pink or purple and grows readily and quickly from seed that can be sown straight into the soil. This makes it an ideal way to get the kids into gardening. Similarly, the Aquilegia, or Columbine is very easy to grow from seed and will produce bonnet-shaped flowers year after year. Poppies are among the easiest flowers to cultivate for kids and grown-ups alike.
The Primrose, Primula Vulgaris is according to the Royal Horticultural Society one of the most popular of British wildflowers and also one of the earliest to come into bloom in many parts of the country. Its crinkly leaves and delicate pale yellow flowers are often seen on riverbanks or in woodland. Similar in size and appearance is the Kingcup, or Caltha palustris.
The Snake’s Head Fritillary is grown from bulbs but once established will reliably produce their distinctive purple or white flowers every spring. They can be naturalised in your lawn – just be careful not to cut them down if you mow your lawn early in the year!
The pretty small white flower of the Wood Anemone is perfect for growing under shrubs and trees. The tiny Allium ursinum, commonly known as wild garlic is another white-flowered woodland plant perfect for shady spots.
The Corncockle is an old favourite which was commonly seen in cornfields. This is a tall variety which produces lilac coloured flowers and which combines well with the filigree white flowers of the Cow Parsley. Other tall English wildflowers to consider include the lovely blue Cornflower, Chicory and common Foxglove. If you want a truly giant wildflower, the Teasel must warrant consideration. With its tough crinkly green foliage and lilac-tinted egg-shaped seed heads, this is a strikingly architectural addition to any wildflower garden. It is reasonably easy to grow from seed but beware as the leaves, and mature blooms can be a little prickly to the touch. The Sea Holly or Eryngium is another tall plant which provides architectural structure.
Don’t overlook the daisy family, or Bellis, which comprises everything from the tiny common garden daisy to the tall Ox-eye Daisy.
From the Harebell to the Field Scabious, the English Bluebell to the Cranesbill, or wild Geranium, and many more besides, the old English wildflowers are still very much alive and well.
Whether you decide to convert your entire lawn, delegate a small part of the garden or have a large patch of land to use, the success or otherwise of your wildflower meadow depends on thorough preparation of the soil and choosing the correct mixture of seeds for your situation. Your choice then is whether to have a perennial meadow, with plants that come back every year or an annual meadow with flowers which germinate, grow and die off in the same year. Once again the RHS is a useful source of easy to understand information on how to go about creating your wildflower meadow.
The best thing about creating a beautiful native wildflower garden is that you don’t need to use artificial fertilisers and pesticides which is perfect for bees, insects and birds.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.