Back in February I had the bright idea to plant a mini meadow around the four apple trees I ambitiously refer to as an ‘orchard’. It was of course the wrong time to do this. Autumn is the best time, as you can sow Yellow Rattle to weaken the grass and so give wildflowers a chance to establish.
But I’m not one for letting practicality get in the way of a brainwave. First I stripped a very small area and planted wildflower plug plants (see Folly alert! The meadow experiment). Then I discovered seedballs. I threw in a few handfuls of conventional wildflower seed mix for good measure (see Meadow Update! Seedballs!).
This is how the area is looking now.
From the various seed mixes, Corncockle is probably the most successful species. This was in the wildflower seed mix.
All of the plug plants did well. Here is Greater Knapweed.
And Musk Mallow.
There have been a handful of cornflowers. These were in the seedballs and the seedmix.
But most of the blue is coming not from a wildflower, but from Nigella. I had some spare seed when I was sowing into a tray, and I just threw it at the wildflower patch. The seeds I threw did far better than the pathetic seedlings in seedtrays that I have since dumped on the compost heap.
I know, this is hardly a wildflower, but it does seem to like it here, and has thrived on neglect.
There is a darker purple form too.
There are also a few self-seeded daisy-type things I don’t know the names of.
As I was taking photos, there were Brimstone butterflies dancing around, but none obliged me by sitting still for a photo. Instead I got a very long-legged fly thing.
This is my favourite weed in our garden, Scarlet Pimpernell. The flowers are tiny, just a a couple of millimetres across. It has the most delicious combination of warm orange petals with deep purple staining at the centre. This colour combination has inspired many a planting plan in my garden.
I’m not sure what this is, but I like it.
At the very end of the orchardy meadow folly, I planted a rose, ‘Morning Mist’. I really need to water it. Nothing in this area has been watered, and is hasn’t rained properly since the end of May. This was the rose a couple of weeks ago. I love the colour of this rose. It is like a holiday skirt.
The description in the David Austin catalogue tells me that this rose is suited to wild areas, but I think I probably do need to take a little care of it.
Despite my total neglect (which is the point of a meadow) the area is coming along nicely. I realise now that it would be nice to have some grass in and amongst the flowers, but that won’t be a problem: the grass will be back soon enough. In the Autumn I will dig patches of soil to sow Yellow Rattle into, and this hopefully will germinate and keep the grass in check in the years to come. These flowers will set seed, and nature will decide which species thrive.
As a comparison between plug plants, seedballs and seed mix, I can say that the plug plants all survived, so whilst this was an expensive option, it is a reliable way of ensuring you have a specific species, at least for a season. The seed mix germinated more quickly and more reliably than the seedballs. Many of the species listed in the seedballs and the seed mix did not appear. They may be lying dormant in the soil for next year. Some of the species, like forget-me-nots and foxgloves are biennial, so I would not have expected them to be prominent in the first year.
The benefits to growing a wildflower meadow are that there are many more beetles, bugs and butterflies, and that Stevie has a bit less grass to mow. In fact we have decided to let all of the grass in the allotment grow long. Nature wins.
Do you have a wildflower patch in your garden? Which species thrive near you?