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Planting wildflower plugs

I'm in the process of establishing a wildflower perennial meadow on half my garden's lawn and want to plant some perennial plugs. As I understand it, plugs are good to plant in autumn (and any time of year). Vipers Bugloss is one species I intend to plant, but I wanted to ask if now really is the best time to plant. Another issue is the soil, which is dreadfully poor, sandy soil absolutely crammed with stones and gravel: worms rise to the surface and turn the soil in autumn and winter, leaving thousands of large worm casts big enough to smother a plug plant. Given this, should I plant now and accept some losses, or wait until spring when the worms are less active on the surface. I suppose planting now will allow the plants' roots to establish, but I imagine a fair number of plugs will be lost when buried in worm casts. 

The worm casts are bizarre as they imply a rich soil, but it really is spectacularly poor. At points there is only an inch of so of very sandy soil before hitting a more or less solid gravel bed.  

That said, the meadow looked great this year, with a good display of Ox Eye Daisy, Wild Carrot, Birds Foot Trefoil, Red Clover and Ribwort Plantain, but only one Vipers Bugloss. It does need more colour as once the Birds Foot Trefoil had gone over it was dominated by white plants, hence the desire to add some colour. This year has been exceptional for wild plants due to the late spring rains and I can't imagine next year will be as good. Roadside and motorway verges were unusually rich with Ox Eye Daisys.
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  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,236
    All the others you've had success with are certainly ideal for the conditions you have, but I think if you potted up the little plugs of V. bugloss, and let them get more established over autumn and winter, and then into spring, and plant out then, they might 'take' better as bigger plants.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....



    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • pjwizonpjwizon Posts: 46
    edited October 2021
    Yes, I suppose I could pot them up and over winter them, but given Vipers Bugloss throws deep roots, digging deep holes in the ground when planting them wouldn't be realistic as the ground is so hard and stony. Do you know if the VP will grow deep roots over winter?    
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,236
    I don't know, but I'd doubt it. Most plants don't grow massively over winter  :)
    If your conditions don't suit, it may be better to think of a different plant instead, or wait until the ground is damp enough to work.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....



    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Plugs did well for us this year planted in the grass in March, although we kept the area mown (high setting) for this season while they established. A long handled bulb planter made short work of planting, though your stones might make that trickier!
  • GwenrGwenr Posts: 150
    On Thursday I visited a garden  that has been planted with meadow plants at the beginning of this month. Chatting to the owner, I asked if she was happy with them so far, apparently the houses being only seven years old, had been left with a large amount of rubble under the grass in the back garden, but after some hard work, the brickbats removed, they have planted a large selection of plugs and they are doing well, admittedly we have very mild weather here in the South East, but although there is a great many stones in their garden still, the plants appear to have taken well in just a few weeks. They also turned their front garden into a meadow two years ago, again lots of stones, but it was beautiful, if you think about it, farmers don't go picking up every stone in their fields, and we've seen some really big stones. Meadows are much happier in rubbish soil, so don't worry about that, my horticultural friend said, poor soil makes a good meadow and as he has been working on the land 40+ years, he must know what his talking about.
    Planting bulbs today I hit a few stones, but when that happens, I just use my pointed trowel to dig the soil around after using the bulb planter.
    If it was me, I would plant now before it gets any later in the month, I planted a lot of the plants I grew from seed last week and they are doing quite well, apart from a couple a feline thug dug up.
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,343
    You have the perfect conditions,me personally I plant half autumn and keep half for spring. I'm on clay took 7 years to get a wild flower area in the lawn.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,236
    Not sure where @pjwizon is, but in wet, cold areas, planting any kind of plug at this time of year is pretty pointless. I certainly couldn't do it here. 

    Your conditions would be fine though @Nanny Beach  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....



    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • GwenrGwenr Posts: 150
    You have the perfect conditions,me personally I plant half autumn and keep half for spring. I'm on clay took 7 years to get a wild flower area in the lawn.
    So are we, but for the past five years we have put used Core compost, purchased from an old fashioned nursery, on top every Autumn, we didn't dig it in, but it has made a considerable difference to the soil and is so much easier to work.
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,343
    Fairy, wildflowers like dry,stoney rubbish soil,my is north facing clay, either under water or like a brick.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 50,236
    It depends on the flowers though @Nanny Beach. Not all wildflowers are the same, or like the same conditions  :)

    For the ones the OP wants to plant, yes - dry, poorer conditions are what they will like eventually, but I was simply meaning that planting any kind of plug [as opposed to a larger specimen] regardless of what they are,  in cold, wet conditions at this time of year isn't a great recipe for success. You're always saying how dry your climate is though, hence my comment re your conditions.  :)

    It's the soil structure and what happens overhead, over the next six months, that matter with planting plug plants just now   :)
    Our soil is all clay too, and never really dries out, because of the climate. It takes a long time to warm up in spring too, so that's why I wouldn't plant them here just now. In the same way that sowing seed direct is a waste of time  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....



    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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