Creating a Wildflower Meadow

Creating a Wildflower Meadow

There is something very romantic about a traditional English wildflower meadow with a soft, dreamy tapestry of mixed flowers and grasses, back lit in the glorious summer sun, full of insects and the smell of sweet vernal grass.

Wildflower Meadows

Summer is a prodigal of joy. The grass
Swarms with delighted insects as I pass,
And crowds of grasshoppers at every stride
Jump out all ways with happiness their guide;……..
…..each thing, however small,
Sharing joy’s bounty that belongs to all.
And here I gather, by the world forgot,
Harvests of comfort from their happy mood,
Feeling God’s blessing dwells in every spot
And nothing lives but owes him gratitude.

John Clare

With 97% of our wildflower meadows lost since the second world war, hay-time in the traditional English countryside, as preserved for us in John Constable’s Hay Wain painting, is something most of us can only dream about.

We imagine a field full of meadow flowers with grasses rustling in the breeze and a hum of busy insects everywhere, with field mice and voles busy in the undergrowth. Perhaps also a partridge nest and other ground nesting birds, swallows swooping over the field after the insects and a barn owl flying overhead in the evening.

All part of the slow annual cycle of a traditional English summer meadow that used to be. We can only dream with John Clare!

But, along with many others, I want to try to make that dream a reality even on a small scale.

Garden wildlife pond

A No-Mow Meadow

Here at home, last year’s new pond has settled in well despite the spring and summer drought. After the spring yellow marsh marigold the water lily has produced a succession of pink flowers, joined by brooklime, water mint, ragged robin, blue ‘pickerel weed’, irises and purple loosestrife. At the water’s edge marginal plants and grasses have helped the pond merge into the landscape.

This year’s project is to continue working on a mini wildlife meadow. For the last two summers we have practiced a ‘No- Mow‘ approach to see what plants are already there in the back lawn. So far it is full of ox-eye daisies, yellow hawkbit, bird’s foot trefoil, self-heal, yarrow, and some knapweed…But we are after much more!

Welcome to the Meadow Maker

A floral ‘meadow’ of annuals is quick to grow, but it has to be re-sown each year. Trying to establish a traditional style perennial wildflower meadow is not easy with fields and garden lawns covered in vigorous grasses, like perennial rye-grass, couch grass and cock’s-foot. Instead of stripping off the turf before sowing, this time we are trying sowing yellow rattle (‘hay rattle’) – ‘the meadow maker‘, into the grass. As a semi- parasite it feeds on grass roots and weakens them.

Yellow Rattle plant in flower
Yellow Rattle seed

Sowing Yellow Rattle
Like others I have tried sowing this before with no real success. A few bought yellow rattle plug plants also failed to establish. But this time I am using fresh seed harvested in late July-August. Yellow rattle seed is only viable when fresh and needs to be sown in early autumn. It needs its grass host plants to grow, as it won’t survive on bare earth. (See below)

Grass meadow
Grass hard cut and then scarified ready for sowing.
Bulb planter for planting bulbs and plant plugs in grass. A very useful tool.

Adding Plug Plants

To add to this Yellow Rattle seed, I have sown meadow seed mix into plugs for planting out in this meadow.

Meadow plug plants
Trays of flower seed drying
A selection of flower, bulb and grass seed saved from the garden this year drying on the window ledge. Some destined for the meadows.

The rough grass on this public verge in front of our front garden always looks very untidy and is crying out for a wildflower or ‘prairie’ style meadow. I have already planted daffodils and tulips around this tree and plan some more ‘guerilla gardening’ here.

Meadow Seed Mixes

The meadow seed mix I’m using is locally produced specially for the Weald area of Sussex and Kent. As an experiment I hope to sow some of this into a close-cut and scarified patch in this front grass verge, exposing more bare earth this time. This seed comes from specially selected local sites like this half-acre Sussex wildflower meadow beautifully re-created over several decades…..

Don’t forget Christopher Lloyd’s fine book, Meadows, which is full of ideas. Also see my previous posts ‘Our Lost Wildflower Meadows‘ and ‘Creating a Wildlife Pond’.

Top featured photo Traditional English Meadow at Melverly Farm photo by Bill Pearson – geograph

4 thoughts on “Creating a Wildflower Meadow

    1. Thanks, Jane. My ‘guerilla-gardening’ plan has already started! Some of us are impatient for a return to the wildflower meadows that we’ve lost. Hope all is well with you.
      Best wishes -Richard.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ohhh Richard, a brain slip moment for me…I do apologise and I am looking forward to seeing how your guerilla gardening goes. Love to you both. Xx


Do please join the conversation by adding a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s