Walk on the wild side

Five great combinations of wildflowers and cultivated garden plants to brighten your borders

Gardening with wild plants doesn't just mean having a patch of nettles at the end of your garden. Wildflowers can be exceptionally beautiful, and often their charms shine all the brighter when mixed with cultivated plants. Here Helen Bostock from RHS Gardening Advice chooses five effective plant combinations of wildflowers that combine well with classic ornamental plants. Click the photos to enlarge.

Blue cornflowers combine well with lacy Ammi The vibrant red of field poppies makes a striking combination with blue borage A colourful mix of native and non-native annuals

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

The white lacy flowers of annual umbellifers such as bishop’s flower (Ammi majus) or A. visnaga provide a great contrast to the bluest of nature’s flowers, the cornflower.

Cornflowers blend very well with both hot and pastel shades, evoking much nostalgia for country scenes. They germinate readily on prepared soil and attract plenty of pollinating insects.

Field poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Seen here with blue borage (Borago officinalis), the field poppy is a classic symbol of arable farmland and works best when seen in drifts or large sowings. Pair it with other flowers from cornfield or from hardy annual mixes. Or sow the ‘Shirley Poppy’ range with its varied and often picotee white, pink, red or orange blooms.

Corn chamomile (Anthemis arvensis)

Use the small, daisy-like corn chamomile as a filler flower, adding depth to other combinations of wildflowers or ornamentals. Here it is in a beautiful mix with orange Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica), pink and purple-flowered forms of cornflower and the jewel-coloured fairy toadflax (Linaria maroccana). Also looks good with greater quaking grass, Briza maxima.

The bright yellow of corn marigolds looks great alongside red apples in the orchard Mallow's delicate mauve flowers look great against tawny grasses

Corn marigold (Glebionis segetum)

Corn marigolds bear the typical sunny golden flowers we expect of English marigolds. Such a cheerful colour is most effective with other strong colours, especially primaries blue and red. Seek to match it with other flowers such as cornflower or love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena). Or set it under fruit trees to compliment ripening red apples.

Field mallow (Malva sylvestris)

Common mallow is a very adaptable plant. Introduce it as plug plants into a long grassed area, along with other wildflowers such as betony (Stachys officinalis) and oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgaris). It is equally at home, though, among cottage garden favourites such as foxglove, hardy geranium and diascia.

See also

Find out more about encouraging bees into your garden

Top 10 native British wildflowers for gardens

Find out how to establish a wildflower meadow

Buy wildflowers from the RHS Shop

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Find out more about encouraging bees into your garden

Download the RHS Perfect for Pollinators lists

Find out how to establish a wildflower meadow

Buy wildflowers from the RHS Shop

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