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Wildflower meadows are an alternative to lawns and borders, and can provide a display for many months. Choose from annual meadows that provide a one-off show or perennial meadows that persist from year to year.
Establishing a new meadow from plugs. Credit: RHS/Tim Sandall.
It is important to choose the meadow that will be most successful on the site you have to offer:
Wildflower seed merchants supply mixtures of wildflowers and grasses suitable for various soil types and situations. Choose one that suits your local conditions. Where possible, obtain seed of British origin. It is advisable not to take plants from the countryside and repeated seed collection would be likely to have a destructive effect on many species over time. In some cases, it also can be illegal.
Sow during March and April or in September, depending on soil conditions. On lighter soils, autumn-sown seeds generally germinate and establish quickly, although some will not come up until the following spring. This delay makes it advisable to wait until March or April on heavy soils, as waterlogging may cause the seed and seedlings to rot during winter.
Please note that garden ‘wildflower’ seed mixes and/or plants (which may contain non-natives or be of unknown provenance) should not be sown in the wider countryside or close to environmentally sensitive areas. They should also never be sown without a landowner's permission.
Where soil fertility is too high to allow perennial wildflowers to flourish, consider sowing a cornfield annual mix that includes plants such as cornflower, corn poppy, corn marigold and corncockle. Some barley and wheat seed will add an authentic touch.
Lawns can be converted into wildflower meadows, but it can take a number of years for the balance between grass and wildflowers to be established.
Grasses can be very vigorous and may out-compete wild flowers. To reduce the vigour of established grassland, introduce semi-parasitic plants. Suitable plants include Rhinanthus species (rattle), Euphrasia species (eyebright) and Pedicularis palustris and P. sylvatica (lousewort). The most useful is Rhinanthus minor (yellow rattle). In late summer or autumn seed is broadcast onto grass that has been cut short. It is an annual and can be eliminated from grassland in one year if prevented from seeding by cutting.
Chamomile lawns Lawns from seedLawns from turfTrees and shrubs: native to the UKWildflower meadow: maintenanceUse of the term wildflower in horticulture
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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.