Country Living (UK) - - Contents -

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.


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 or Stan­dard Corn­field Mix­ture (£8, wild­seed. Al­ter­na­tively, the Mini Wild­flower Meadow Box (£29.99, rock­et­gar­ is per­fect for a pa­tio.


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

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