Creating a Wildflower Rich Area in Your Garden

 

If you have an area of grassland or lawn, you could think about turning some or all of it into a species-rich wildflower meadow.

Not only are wildflowers pretty to look at, they are extremely important for our native wildlife, they provide hunting and feeding grounds for many insects, mammals and birds. Indeed they have evolved together and many species are inter-dependent for their survival. This fact sheet shows you how to help conserve our rich flora and fauna at home in your garden.

Grassland Meadow by Laura Fox
Photo by Laura Fox

Not only are wildflowers pretty to look at, they are extremely important for our native wildlife, they provide feeding grounds for many insects, mammals and birds. Indeed they have evolved together and many species are inter-dependent for their survival. This fact sheet shows you how to help conserve our rich flora and fauna at home in your garden.

Once a mowing regime is well established, plants in the soils seed bank and grassy forgotten corners will have been given the opportunity to germinate and set their own seed in the meadow. There could be a wealth of wildflower species already established which may flourish under the new management regime, so it’s best to wait and see before introducing anything new. Although this may take a few years, you will eventually find out what flowers and other plants you have in your area already. It is amazing what will come through given the right conditions. Should you then wish to increase the biodiversity (the variety of life) of your meadow, plant plugs or appropriate plants’ seeds can be added to the meadow to bring in more local species of wildflower. It is most important when considering any planting schemes that you only use native species, preferably of local provenance.

Grass Management

Long Grass

Butterflies and moths would benefit from the long grass as the caterpillars such as Meadow brown would use this as a food source.

Rough Cut Grass

Voles should be able to thrive in the rough-cut grass which may in turn provide food for owls.

Short Grass

Snakes and other reptiles such as the Slow-worm will be able to bask in the short-cut areas while having longer grass to hide in when danger approaches. This also looks very attractive as you will have a pleasant path to walk alongside the wildlife-rich long grass. 

Boundary

Height variations could be extended to boundaries, with a variety of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants growing in your borders.

Areas of long grass can be maintained as a wildflower meadow, encouraging the growth of wildflowers which will attract bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators. Wildflower meadows fall into two broad camps: Those that flower in spring, February - May and those that flower in summer, June - August. 

Unfortunately, you cannot have both in the same area because they require different mowing regimes. They can however, be grown in different parts of the garden. If you only have a small area of lawn, a spring meadow may be more practical because you can return it to a short mown lawn in time for the summer BBQs and parties. However, heavy use may damage some of the less hardy species.

Summer Meadow

For a summer flowering meadow, cut and remove the grass as frequently as possible between early March and late April, then leave to flower until late autumn. Mowing may be resumed once most of the seed is ripe, around the end of August. Leaving the hay on the ground for a few days helps shed the seed back into the meadow, but after this the hay should be removed, to help lower soil fertility. We would suggest that ever three years, the late summer cut is taken later in September, allowing any later flowering annuals the opportunity to seed for the following year. As all sites are different, even from year to year, only you will be able to tell the best time to cut to ensure that desirable plant species have set seed. You could choose a late flowering meadow plant, like Common Knapweed or on wetter sites Devil’s-bit Scabious to act as an indicator of when it is time to cut and collect.

Some species which can grow in a summer meadow:

Common Knapweed, Meadoswseet, Teasel, Betony, Field Scabious, Bugle, Tufted Vetch, Oxeye Daisy, White Campion, Wild Carrot, Yarrow, Yellow Rattle, Devil's-bit Scabious, Cat's-ear, Common Valerian, Common Vetch, Ragged Robin, Autumn Hawkbit, Bird's-foot, Trefoil, Red Clover, Kidney Vetch, Selfheal, Orchids, Crested Dog's-tail, Red Fescue, Meadow Grass, Common Bent

Spring Meadow

For a spring flowering meadow, the first cut of the year would need to be taken in early February, with further cuts in late May and either once at the end of August or at regular intervals until the end of the growing season. Again, use a monitoring scheme to ensure that the first cuts of the year are not removing early flowering plants such as primroses and bluebells, should they appear in your grassland sward.

Some species which can grow in a spring meadow:

Wild daffodil, Lesser Celandine, Primrose, Cowslip, Bluebell, Meadow Buttercup, Cow parsley, Ribwort plantain, Selfheal, Cuckooflower, Germander Speedwell, Common Dog-violet, Ground-ivy, Red Fescue, Sweet Vernal Grass, Meadow Grass

 

If you have any further questions contact the Wildlife Information Service

wis@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk - 01872 302 250

 

 

 

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Meadow Grassland by Laura Fox
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