Adding wildflowers to your garden has become something of a trend recently, I suspect prompted by increasing awareness amongst media and public of the dreadful statistics on the loss of 95% of UK wildflower meadows since the 1930s. So should we all be planting wildflowers?
Firstly let me clear up a common confusion: Wildflowers are not the same as Weeds. But I am quick to grant that many of the plants that appear uninvited in our gardens, from seeds brought in by wind or birds from the surrounding countryside, are indeed weeds. And I have no hesitation in removing them from my garden beds and borders on the spot, just as I remove self-seeded garden plants when they pop up in the ‘wrong’ place. Wildflowers though are simply plants that are native to the area in which you live and plenty of these are most definitely garden worthy. Indeed some are so familiar that we forget that they are wildflowers until we see them on verges or in woods, like the Pasque flower, Oxeye Daisy, Primrose and Foxglove pictured here.
The crucial question, as always in gardening, is to understand what you want to achieve from adding wildflowers. Adult bees and butterflies will collect pollen and nectar from any flower they can access, native or ornamental and the particular value of wildflowers can be in early spring before many of our more exotic garden plants are out. Rather than the adults, it is butterfly and moth caterpillars that need to eat leaves of specific plants, usually native plants. A quick check on the Butterfly Conservation website www.butterfly-conservation.org will tell you what to plant for the species you see flying around.
Incorporating wildflowers into grass left to grow longer or a naturalistic planting scheme can create a beautiful garden and connect us with nature. Long grass will hum and buzz with insects in the summer, providing shelter for amphibians and a myriad of minibeasts. If you want to create a mini (or a large) meadow though, do your research first. Creating and maintaining a wildflower meadow successfully can be quite an undertaking.
Take your borders to the wild side this summer!
Happy Gardening from Alison
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