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Understanding a Wildflower Mini/Meadow

New gardener, complete novice on wildflowers.

I'd like to understand more about a meadow and find information a bit confusing.

I've seen clips on Secret Garden about only sowing seeds in Spring not Autumn, but magazine suggests now. Is this down to opinion?

My patch I'm considering is 2 metres by 6 metres long. The ground is bare soil and I've grown weeds this year to understand the weeds I will be dealing with when wildflowers are sown.

I interplant fruit, veg, flowers and herbs. Can I still use this method and interplant wildflowers?

I don't own a mower or strimmer and therefore don't want to use grass seed in a wildflower mix but rather plant ornamental grasses (I remember an earlier read abouta grass that made a top 10 list to save this year).  Does this defeat the object?

Without these tools, which I have no intention of buying, would I need to chop it down each autumn?

Are there any wildflowers that are more suited to my hot sunny but exposed site or ones I need to avoid? The magazine just talks about the style you're trying to achieve.

How do your wildflower areas look over winter?

As I have a bare patch would I be better laying down cardboard over winter? Seeds sown or not?

Sorry, a lot of questions but feel this is a crucial time to make a decision on what to do with this site over Autumn, Winter and Spring.

Posts

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,174
    A lot comes down to your climate. I tend to sow seed of any kind in spring because a lot gets wasted if sown in autumn - it just rots. If I sow in autumn, I do it in trays or pots and keep them somewhere sheltered, then stick them out the following year in clumps or in the whole tray. I tend to get a lot of waste, but it depends on the plant too.
    It also depends on the soil, so you need to pick a suitable range of plants for the soil, and climate. There's no point sowing seed then covering it. Seeds need light. 
    You'll need to find a way of cutting it down after plants have set seed. A pair of shears would probably do the job in a small area. 
    I wouldn't plant other things in with them, however, if it's necessary [for fruit and veg etc] you'll find certain plants won't do as well because the soil may be too rich. You could always try splitting the area into two separate ones?
    It might be worth taking a look at some of the specialist suppliers of wildflower mixes to see what will suit your particular site, and you may need to experiment a bit over a few years  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 3,995
    There are 2 sorts of wildflower meadow.
    One has annual flowers that need disturbed soil to seed in and used to grow in cornfields, like poppies, cornflower and corn cockle.

    The other is a perennial meadow, where plants return year after year. This is the sort of meadow I have, as my meadow area is full of daffodils and narcissi in spring.
    I have added meadow cranesbill, knapweed, betony, scabious and ox-eye daisy, though buttercups, and pigweed grow there anyway.
    One reason for cutting back is that it prevents coarser, tussocky grasses taking over. I don't mind too much, as I have plenty of room and these larger grasses are food plants to a number of moth species.
    The second reason is to allow you to distribute seed from the seed heads onto cleared soil, which is why raking after cutting is important, especially for cornfield flowers or if you need to increase numbers of flowers in a perennial meadow.
    A perennial meadow would suit your needs better, I feel, as it would be easier to add non-native plants, herbs and even vegetables, if they match the growing conditions. A hot, sunny site might suit  seaside plants or those from chalk downland, if your soil is not very acidic. My knapweed likes the sun too. So does scabious (Knautia) and there are some very pretty cultivated varieties.
    If you don't want grass though, you will have to weed regularly to keep it at bay and to remove weeds you don't want. Well done for sussing them out first!
    There is no reason in your situation why you couldn't have a few poppies or cornflowers too, as it will effectively be a flower border with selected grasses and mostly wildflowers, sort of wild Piet Oudolf :) Deschampsia caepitosa grows wild here and I use it in my borders. It looks good with Heleniums and Allium sphaerocephalum on a well drained sunny bank, I have Achillea and Eryngium to add.
    As you will be hand cutting you could leave any grasses or plants with good seedheads to provide winter interest. Cow parsley and Nipplewort have pretty seedheads, so does hogweed, but you will get a lot of extra weeding if you leave them!
    You could have early spring bulbs too, like  crocus, scillas or chionadoxa.
    Hope this helps you to a clearer vision :)

  • This is really helpful explanation.  I have collected loads of corncockle seed heads.   Not sure if it’s legal to sell them in the internet 🤷‍♀️
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 4,452
    (To OP) You're really describing a border with ornamental grasses mixed with wildflowers. I would add the wildflowers as plants, as you would conventional perennials. You can buy plants, or order (or sow your own) perennial wildflower plugs. Then plant up in an artistic / naturalistic way. No reason not to include suitable non native perennials, which can be just as wildlife friendly in many cases e.g. Achillea "Terracotta" rather than the native species. 
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