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Grass-free wildflower lawn + wildflower meadow

I'm going to create a wildflower lawn and meadow in spring so thought I should start planning now so I can be prepared come March.

First, I'm creating a 25sqm low-flowering perennial wildflower lawn without grass as that increases the floral aesthetic and has more benefit for pollinators than a lawn with grass - also the meadow area will have grass anyway. I'm going to use plug plant collections rather than seeds as that has a higher rate of success. Not sure if I can give the website but they sell max quantities of 150 plugs per pack with 15 species, so 10 of each species. I'll be working with completely bare economy soil (dug up from new builds) so I have a few options on density/layout as there won't be anything to cover the gaps:

a) 150 plugs @ £98 => 30cm x spacing by 30cm y spacing (basically 1ft gaps all around)

b) 300 plugs @ £196 => 15cm x spacing by 30cm y spacing (from the front it looks more dense horizontally and less dense going towards the back)

c) 450 plugs @ £294 => 15cm x spacing by 15cm y spacing (dense both across and back to front)

If I went for the first two options I could put a 25mm layer of bark chippings to thinly cover the soil but I don't know whether this will affect the propagation of the perennials. Anything else that could fill in the gaps cheaply? But not grass! :p

What would be the best option for getting nice coverage and display by next summer? I'm not planning to walk on it as I'm putting down a path of stepping stones but I don't want it to look gappy or become muck when it rains. How long do you think it will take for a green "mat"? I did ask the guy from the website but I thought I should ask actual customers too.

I do know of wildflower turf mats but that's quite a bit more expensive and might not be perfect iygwim.

Secondly, behind the lawn will be a traditional wildflower meadow with grass mixes and will be taller, an area around 6 to 10 sqm. This I'm going to make with seed mixes as I'll be more tolerant if there's any problems. Same economy soil used. If I do weeding once a week is this patch likely to succeed? What issues do people usually come across when creating a perennial wildflower meadow?

Apologies for the wall of text
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  • Wow. Quite a cost.
    Not sure about the bark chippings.
    We had a wildflower mix for our orchard and this did include grasses as you said in the second area.
    We don't weed the area (just cut paths through) but let it go to seed and the birds love it. During flowering time the bees and butterflies love the different plants for their nectar.
    In October the area is cut back ready for the spring growth.
    Cutting back is important as otherwise the grasses will take over albeit these are benefical for many butterfly/moth species as food plants.
    Good luck
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 15,339
    edited September 2020
    Seed is a lot cheaper. If you really want plugs to create a basic matrix, I would then scatter a 100% wildflower mix to fill the gaps. Perennials will take a year or two to fill out enough, so annuals will give you colour the first year.




    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • The issue is any gaps not occupied by flowers are likely to get colonised by weeds. The bark would help to an extent, but I can't help but think it would look a bit odd. You could use a low growing chamomile for the gaps, https://www.ashridgetrees.co.uk/camomile-lawn-plant-treneague, but that's also a costly option.

    Alternatively, could you not have a flowering lawn mixture, and then the meadow at the back? Something like this, https://wildseed.co.uk/mixtures/view/56. You could supplement the flowering lawn with plugs of your choice
  • Wow. Quite a cost.
    Not sure about the bark chippings.
    We had a wildflower mix for our orchard and this did include grasses as you said in the second area.
    We don't weed the area (just cut paths through) but let it go to seed and the birds love it. During flowering time the bees and butterflies love the different plants for their nectar.
    In October the area is cut back ready for the spring growth.
    Cutting back is important as otherwise the grasses will take over albeit these are benefical for many butterfly/moth species as food plants.
    Good luck

    yes I'm overhauling my entire garden so everything is going to cost so much! thank you for the info about the meadow maintenance, I think I'll do the path cutting too.
    Seed is a lot cheaper. If you really want plugs to create a basic matrix, I would then scatter a 100% wildflower mix to fill the gaps. Perennials will take a year or two to fill out enough, so annuals will give you colour the first year.





    Thanks for that link their mixes look great :D would you say I do the 150 plug layout and scatter the seeds? Just confused about mowing as the perennials would be fine but surely the annuals would get cut? Am I supposed to leave mowing until August for this combination? If I did so then my low-flowering lawn would grow a bit tall :S (unless it's not really that tall)

    Out of interest, I wonder why the boston seeds mix is so much cheaper than the seed mix on the website I'm buying plugs from.


    They're charging £72 for 20sqm whereas the link you gave is charging £18 for 33sqm...am I missing something hmmm
    The issue is any gaps not occupied by flowers are likely to get colonised by weeds. The bark would help to an extent, but I can't help but think it would look a bit odd. You could use a low growing chamomile for the gaps, https://www.ashridgetrees.co.uk/camomile-lawn-plant-treneague, but that's also a costly option.

    Alternatively, could you not have a flowering lawn mixture, and then the meadow at the back? Something like this, https://wildseed.co.uk/mixtures/view/56. You could supplement the flowering lawn with plugs of your choice

    Yes the bark would certainly look odd but I was thinking it would eventually get covered by the plants...maybe? I'm doing a grass-free flowering lawn at the front, and a grass-included meadow at the back...because my area is quite small so I need 100% flowers to have maximum impact - grass mix would make it look sparse.

  • I find the wildflower meadow / lawn thing interesting in so many ways.

    We want a wildflower meadow / lawn but no weeds!!!  Most of the plants we see in a wildflower meadow are weeds to most gardeners.  And we want a wildflower lawn / meadow now..... next spring at the latest!!!!!

    Spacing out plug plants 30cm apart in a two-dimensional matrix will look really weird next spring, so unnatural.   I would collect up a couple of handfuls of pebbles and chuck them onto the grass and then plant your plug plants picked at random to get a random mix of species where the pebbles have fallen.  It'll look so much more natural next spring.

    I'd start by racking or scarifying the grass as severally as possible taking out 75% plus of the grass so that it looks just about bare soil and then sow yellow rattle seed this year and then repeat the whole process again next year and again then start thinking about other plants in year three.

    There is no quick way to do this, it takes 3yrs to get started then after that you can start to see worthwhile results.

    The ground where your lawn / grass is, is far to rich.  The richness in the soil needs removing and it takes time, years to achieve
  • Sorry if I come across as stubborn but you may be a bit mistaken about what I want/have 😅 By weeds I'm talking about nettles, dock and wild mustard which while good in their own way, I don't want growing in my garden - there is plenty of room for them in the service road behind. Also I don't have any grass or lawn in my garden, it is just a big slab of concrete with a few cracks, so I am having to create a lawn from scratch using bare soil. Regarding the speed, of course I don't expect it to grow by next spring haha! I know it will take at least a year or two but because bare soil will cover 2/3 of my garden I at least wanted to know the best way of getting good results within a short period of time. Your pebble idea sounds good however if I did have grass :)
  • rachelQrtJHBjbrachelQrtJHBjb South BucksPosts: 796
    I've recently bought yellow rattle seed from Landlife wildflower seeds. They have just send a circular in which they list a number of "flower only" seed mixes, i.e. no grass. The plants establish in the first year and flower in the second. Hope this helps you in your quest for a grass-free wildflower lawn.
  • Always think it's a good idea to find out what wildlife you have nearby too. Use wildflower species that have the greatest chance of helping / supporting the pollinators in your area as they differ in different parts of the country.  If you want to encourage Purple Emperor into the garden and plant up your garden to suit but live in Scotland you'll fail!

    Workout what butterfly species you do have nearby and if you have something rare that's not too far away, plant up species of wildflower that will attract them into the garden.

    Holly Blue for example requires Ivy and Holly together to complete its annual life cycle.

    Silver-washed Fritillary needs Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) to survive etc.


  • Cottagecompost that's a brilliant idea! I live in london so should be within the ranges of lots of species but I'll make sure to try and do specific planting as you said and probably dedicate a small patch to butterfly/moth food plants too. Thanks!
  • edev08edev08 Posts: 56
    Grow wildflowers in your garden
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