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March Project...Establishing a Wildflower Meadow

widlfower meadows look relaxed and natural

One of the most pleasing recent trends in gardening has been the increased focus on looking after our wildlife. We are delighted that the RHS is taking the lead in educating people on the essential role that our gardens play in supporting delicate populations of bees and butterflies. There have been two main culprits for the decline in bee and butterfly numbers: the use of chemicals and the planting of 'double flowers'. A double flower is one where the stamen and anther are covered by petals so that the flower head looks like a mass of petals. They do look beautiful, but those extra petals prevent the poor wildlife getting at the nectar. The result is a bed of neat, uniform flowers which are useless for bees and butterflies.

The best thing you can do is to plant a mixed, native wildflower meadow. Native wildflowers are never 'double flowers' and display their productive parts proudly in a colourful, natural meadow drift. Butterflies and bees love the nectar which they provide and cross-pollinate happily. But most wildflower meadows are a failure. Why?

Well, failed wildflower meadows are normally due to well-intentioned gardeners trying to save money by sowing mixed seed. Each plant has different establishment rates and after germination, the fast-establishing wildflowers will out-grow and dominate the rest. So you start with good intentions by planting a lovely mix of flowers and your reward is a uniform mix of one species (normally Ox Eye Daisy) with the other species barely making it past germination. A blanket mix is attractive to fewer species and does not give the effect of continual flowering which a mixed pallet gives.

The simple answer is to plant the wildflowers in plugs. When individually grown on the nursery, even the slower-growing plants have well-developed root systems ensuring that they are strong enough not to be dominated by other plants. Plant 4 plants per square meter, choosing a mix of at least 3 species. You will get instant impact and a meadow which will self seed and mature over the years, naturally filling in any gaps. Each plant will have overlapping flowering times, ensuring a steady supply of nectar. Simply pull out any plants you don't want and let nature do the rest.

Have a look at what we have available now..more species come on throughout the season:


05 March 2012 at 10:40 / Comment


We have just moved to a house with an acre paddock. We don't have animals with the exception of a dog. We are considering developing part of the field into an orchard with a variety of fruit trees, perhaps some specimen trees for variety.One side is rather exposed to prevailing wind so wondered about some hedging. the remainder of the field perhaps given over to vegetable patch & soft fruit. Possibly installing a poly tunnel. Any advice would be welcome. We live in Midlothian so could visit your nursery if possible. Kind regards Ian ps wild flowers absolutely !

Comment posted by: Ian McAlpine / 12 March 2012 at 20:28

re:Mr...windbreaks and orchards

Hi Ian,
It would be a good idea to shelter your garden and if you wanted to retain the view, then a hedge would be a good option - the wind protection area will extend back upto 10 times the height of the hedge: have a look at our hedging guide for more details, or maybe think about the Traditional Hedge Mix or Fruit and Nut Hedge mix. If the view is not so important, then you might be better off growing a full windbreak of 20% conifer, 80% broadleaf - see our windbreak guide for more details. I have also seen polytunnels used as shelter, surrounded by fast-growing broadleaves like Red Alder, Birch and Rowan to cover it up and break up the flow of wind.
More wildflower species will become available in late spring - we tend not to sell them now because they die back fully over the winter and just look like a plug of roots just now. Search for 'fruit' in our search engine to see our range of native fruit trees: cherry plum, cherries, crab apple and wild pear.

Comment posted by: Grant at / 13 March 2012 at 09:33

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