Fields flecked with poppies and cornflowers are the traditional image of the countryside in summer. But you only need a few square metres to recreate a wildflower meadow in your own garden, turning it into a haven for bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife
Where to start
The best soil for meadow flowers is thin and poor and low in fertility so that competing grasses are kept to a minimum. So where your lawn is stubbornly patchy, this could be the best place to try wildflowers instead.
If a lawn is established, you can’t just scatter wild-flower seeds over the top as there won’t be enough room among the dense, close-cropped planting for them to germinate and grow. However, as long as yours is not a manicured lawn that hasn’t been exposed to chemicals or fertilisers, you may be able to create a small meadow by leaving part of it unmown. Let the grass grow to its natural height, so that any existing wildflowers get a chance to grow alongside it.
What to grow
Decide whether you want a spring-flowering meadow (cowslips, buttercups, violets and fritillaries) or a summer-flowering one (scabious, campions, harebells and oxeye daisies). For a small patch, you might want to use a flowers-only mix, while in a larger garden you could try a mixture that includes 80 to 90 per cent wild grasses.
Broadcast the seed widely, then roll or trample it in – there’s no need to rake it over. If you’re incorporating plugs or plants, allow a trowel’s length between each one. Or you could take a complete short cut by using a seed mat, which can be cut to any size or shape.
Meadow planting is best done in autumn, so that the roots are established before competing plants appear in spring, but it can be planted up to the end of May – or even during summer – as long as your water butts can keep up with demand.
How to maintain it
Although the beauty of a meadow garden is its untended appearance, it requires careful management to keep it flourishing. However heartbreaking it seems to cut back your new growth, you need to mow regularly during the first year (whenever it reaches a height of 10 to 13cm) to keep annual weeds at bay.
After that, you can leave it unmown until the plants have set seed and started to die down, then perhaps cut it again in the autumn.
Once established, you can simply enjoy your meadow’s natural splendor from the comfort of a garden seat; alternatively, mow a narrow path that will allow you to wander through the middle of it.