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Turning a lawn into a wildflower patch

I have a patch of lawn in which I'd like to grow wildflowers, but am a bit confused about various things: 

1) do I have to lift the turf and start from scratch? 

2) can I mix it with bulb planting? If so, does that make a difference to the sort of wildflowers I plant? 

3) I've read that annual wildflowers dont' seed themselves very well in grassy areas, and that I'll just end up with perennial wildflowers.. 

4) in the May issue of Gardeners World, Monty says on P109 that he doesn't mow his long grass till July, but then on P128 (I think) we are advised to mow perennial wildflower patches now. But what if there is a mixture of annual and perennial flowers?   

Please can anyone share some practical experience with me? 


  • Ladybird4Ladybird4 Third rock from the sunPosts: 27,998

    I have been working on a wildflower/cottage garden style patch in my front garden. Its too tiny to call it anything else but a patch. This is still evolving as it has been under development for 4 years and it still isn't how I would like it but its getting there. I am trying to get rid of all of the grass (impossible!) and I just want the unstructured look of wild flower annuals mixed with perennials. In terms of bulbs I have camassias, loads of snakes head fritillaries, snowdrops - single and double, native daffodils and unfortunately an army of spanish bluebells. I have many flowers - too many to list here - as I just put them in anywhere and if they survive then I'm happy. I started off removing the turf but obviously didn't get rid of all my grass and flowering meadows need poor soil and mine was probably too rich to begin with. I never mow my patch. I use a spring tine rake and pull it through in spring before the bulbs get too big and I do similar in the autumn. Any patches of grass get dug up and removed. Like I said at the beginning of this I'm still developing it.

    Cacoethes: An irresistible urge to do something inadvisable
  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    Alice wildflowers are not an easy option. I'm regularly asked to do wildflower  patches and grassed areas. They are difficult to achieve. The beat advice I can give is to start from scratch. This means killing off your grass totally  and then impoverish the soil with sharp sand and plenty of it. Wildflowers don't like fertile soil in 99% of cases. You need to prepare the ground as for a new lawn, digging deep, rake to a fine tilthe, then sow. Get good quality seed from the specialist suppliers, not the off the shelf mixes. Bulbs are easy to incorporate into a a scheme, again good quality bulbs make a difference and getting native bulbs enhances the effect. Good drainage is essential, clay soil makes them almost impossible to achieve. Off the shelf mixes are ok for clay as most of them contain easy annuals and are rarely proper wildflower mixes. It's now a little late to actually start sowing a meadow, but you could do a shortcut and buy in wildflower plugs for an effect this year. Otherwise you could start planning for next year and sow in the Autumn, doing the preparation over the summer. Bulbs you can plant in the Autumn as normal, they don't require the specific conditions seeds do. Some off this may seem a bit negative, but it's not intended to be, your soil and conditions may make your job easy, it's just some of my clients, well nearly all garden  on clay and have totally unrealistic exexpectations. Oh and finally wildflowers love sunshine so if you can get near their requirements you're half way there. Best of luck.

  • cornellycornelly Posts: 844

    About four years ago we decided to stop mowing the top section of our lawn, and found we had a variety of wild and cultivated flowers, including wild orchids, which were only two to start, this year over a dozen that self seeded, there are primroses, cowslips, celandines, daisies who grow up though the grass on extended stems, some of the grasses have lovely heads, snake head fratileries self seeding willingly, the purple and white, and buttercups, we strim firstly let the cut lie for a day or so then put the mower over the patch.

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