THE GOOD LIFE
Practical plans and advice for would-be smallholders
YOU DON’T NEED ACRES OF LAND to be able to enjoy the beauty of wild flowers in your garden. Poppies, cornflowers, scabious and ox-eye daisies can liven up a sunny patch of border, fill a big planter or even replace a scruffy part of your lawn. Plan now and the resulting blooms will attract butterflies and bees on hazy summer days, while seed heads provide food for many wild birds.
THE BEST SPOT
Thin and poor soil is actually the ideal option for most meadow flowers. They won’t thrive in a beautifully manicured lawn, as the dense roots of competing grasses will make it hard for more delicate flowers to germinate. If you want to plant up an existing stretch, try grubbing out a few large patches by stripping off the turf and all its roots. Alternatively, include yellow rattle in your seed mix, which slows down grass growth. If planting in borders, weed thoroughly, removing tough plants such as couch grass, and rake to a fine tilth. If the soil has been recently fertilised, try planting cornfield annuals including cornflowers, poppies and corncockle (pictured below left), as they will grow on a richer soil and suppress weed growth.
Seeds can be sown between February and March, or later in autumn. However, as many meadow plants are perennials, they can take a couple of years to establish. Plug plants give an instant display, but are more expensive. You could also combine the two. Whichever you choose, make sure the varieties are British (many seed mixes contain non-native species) to benefit wildlife. Think about the duration of the display, too. Plant cowslip, bird’s-foot trefoil and meadow buttercup for spring, with ox-eye daisies, lady’s bedstraw, ragged Robin and yellow rattle leading you through summer, followed by toadflax and selfheal for autumn. Try Sarah Raven Wildflower Meadow Mix (£6.95, sarah raven.com) or Standard Cornfield Mixture (£8, wildseed. co.uk). Alternatively, the Mini Wildflower Meadow Box (£29.99, rocketgardens.co.uk) is perfect for a patio.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR MEADOW
Although the beauty of wild grassland is its untended appearance, it requires careful management to keep it flourishing. You’ll need to cut it at the end of summer, after the flowers have set seed, and leave the hay on the ground for a week to help the seeds drop back into the soil. Then put the hay into the composter, as you don’t want it to enrich the soil.
If you have the space, mow a path that allows you to wander through the flowers and grasses