Wildflower enrichment

After the summer buzz has died down, it's time to take stock on the meadow and do some more planting

Planting plug plants in wildflower areaDedicated Plants for Bugs blog followers will know that we have been dipping our toes into a little bit of wildflower planting adjacent to the Howard’s Field at RHS Garden Wisley. This patch was sown in spring 2012, and drew in some wonderful insect visitors during its first proper flowering season last summer, such as the banded demoiselle.

This summer produced an attractive but rather short-lived display and was quickly lost to a sea of grasses. It would appear managing meadows isn’t a walk in the park. After consulting with our wildflower expert, Barry Phillips, who has offered his expertise to us in the past, it was decided a number of approaches could be tried.

The first was to try a midsummer cut (rather than just at the end of the summer). We were too late to attempt that this year, but we'll see if it can be scheduled in for 2015. The second was to prolong the season of floral interest within the meadow areas by introducing additional plant species. With the exception of yellow rattle, adding plants to an existing meadow or grassed area needs to be done by planting young or mini plants, as opposed to scattering seed. Barry suggested we look to our Plants for Bugs native beds for spare seedlings or propagation material.

In the end we decided to try introducing two new species; betony (Stachys officinalis) with its pretty purple flowers and maiden pink (Dianthus deltoides). Increasing our use of the maiden pink within the gardens seems particularly fitting as this delicate little plant had been one that was previously lost to the Wisley flora; appearing in a survey of 1910 but absent from the centenary audit taken in 2010.

The fascinating tale of our changing wild plants at Wisley can be read in Wild Flowers of Wisley: A Centenary Flora.

Planting maiden pinks in the wildflower areaA few months ago, we potted up 7 trays (24 cells in a tray) of betony seedlings, along with four trays of maiden pinks. With sprawling stems these were simply laid on the surface of the trays and allowed to root (layer) into the compost.

Last week the rain finally arrived at Wisley following a wonderfully long summer, so we set a day for planting.

I helped scatter the young plants in a natural fashion across the meadow while Plants for Bugs volunteers, Linda and Carolyn (pictured, top) did the hard work of planting with a trowel. I’ll be sure to post pictures next summer to show if all our labours have paid off.

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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.