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Creating an easy-care garden with wild flowers


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

Creating an easy-care garden with wild flowers

Wild-flower gardening requires little time and effort, but it does not mean simply leaving your plot to run wild. Follow our advice for an easy-care wild flower look without the brambles and weeds.

Create a naturally vibrant garden

By cultivating wild flowers, you can achieve a natural-style garden that not only provides a habitat for insects and other wildlife, but also needs much less work than conventional flowerbeds.

Wild flowers need low soil fertility and are naturally resilient, so little soil preparation is needed. Nor do they require feeding, staking or pest and disease control, which makes them ideal for gardeners short on time and those not wanting to use chemicals.

You can include wild flowers in a garden in various ways. Use them to turn a rough patch of ground away from the house into a wild garden, teamed with native species of trees and shrubs, such as wild cherry (Prunus avium) and guelder rose (Viburnum opulus).

If you want to attract butterflies and other insects, be sure to grow species that provide food for caterpillars as well as nectar for adults; for example, nettles, verbascum and bird’s foot trefoil (Medicago sativa).

Team wild flowers with early spring bulbs, such as narcissi or bluebells in shade under trees, or blend them with cultivated perennials, such as geranium (cranesbill), which have wild origins.


Blending a wild planting scheme


This combination of wild flowers and ‘domesticated’ perennials will grow together happily to create a flowering meadow or wild-flower cultivated border.

1. Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’ 1.2 m (4 ft) tall. Flowers June/July.

2. Geranium phaeum (dusky cranesbill) 75 cm (30 in) tall. Flowers May/June.

3. Malva moschata (musk mallow) 90 cm (36 in) tall. Flowers June to September.

4. Verbascum thapsus (great mullein) 1.8 m (6 ft) tall. Flowers June to August.

5. Geranium pratense (meadow cranesbill) 60-90 cm (24-36 in) tall. Flowers June to September.

6. Phalaris arundinacea var. picta (gardener’s garters) 90 cm (36 in) tall. Cream/green-striped grass.

7. Leucanthemum vulgare (oxeye daisy) 30-90 cm (12-36 in) tall. Flowers May/June.


Choosing wild flowers

When choosing wild flowers for your garden, the same rule applies for when selecting cultivated plants—the plant must suit the growing conditions. Some wild flowers prefer damp or boggy conditions, some like shade and others need sun.

Check the backs of seed packets for details, or the care labels if buying pot-grown plants.

Specialist seed catalogues often indicate which plants are attractive to butterflies.

You can also buy seed mixtures for creating ‘instant beds’ in various habitats, for example, mixtures of seeds which thrive on chalkland or in coastal gardens. Others are specially created to attract bumblebees or the night-flying moths on which bats feed.

Wild-flower gardens need weeding in the same way as normal flowerbeds. By mulching around the plants with bark chippings you can reduce the time spent on this chore to a minimum. Wait until early spring to cut down old wild-flower stems in order to tidy the garden, because during winter the plant remains provide overwintering sites for beneficial insects, such as money spiders.

Once plants are established, deadhead the most successful species to control self-seeding, but leave a few of each type of wild flower to set seed so that natural replacements appear and colonies increase.

Leave self-sown seedlings where they appear naturally.


TOP TIP: Buying wild flowers

From seed

Specialist seed firms supply the biggest range and provide useful information. A limited range is available in most garden centres and from some seed catalogues. Organically produced seed is also sometimes available.

As plants

A few species are available in garden centres. Choose healthy looking plants that are not badly pot bound. Specialist seed firms supply some varieties by mail order and there are several nurseries that specialise in wild-flower plants.

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