Native wildflowers help to support our insects and birds, and are great for the ecosystem. But what about growing them in your back garden or patio? Is it easy to grow wildflowers? Is there anything you should know before you get started? I realised I didn’t know so I asked Tracey from the Wild Flower Patch for a few words of wild wisdom.
Do you avoid “gardening” because the word implies knowledge, skill and confidence? Is life just too busy? Are you attracted by wildflowers and just need to know where to start? If so, growing a few, even in a patio pot, could suit you.
In brief, some broad principles for growing wildflower plants are:
- All a native wildflower plant needs is for the conditions it thrives on in the wild to be replicated as closely as possible. Common sense only required!
- Choose a wildflower to suit the natural conditions of your patch or meadow, rather than manipulate the place to force a plant to grow there, whether it likes it or not.
- Wildflower plants need poor soil; fertilizer and rich compost will usually finish them off!
- They are very adaptable; once they are established they will return year after year with little, if any, attention.
- If several of the same plants are growing within a few feet of each other, the wildlife which needs that specific plant for food, nectar, shelter and as host for their larvae will have ready access to all they need for survival. Kidney Vetch, for instance is the food plant of the Small Blue Butterfly.
- Always be certain of the identity of any plant which you are accepting from or offering to others. Rhododendrons, Spanish Bluebell and Japanese Knotweed and other non native plants were introduced to the UK with the best of intentions. UK native plants can be threatened by tougher, invader ones. The wildlife which depends on the native plant is then at risk too. Bees, for example, are vulnerable to changes to the eco system, and to the introduction of larger non native bees. The bad news is that we need bees and their crucial pollinating role, for our own survival.
- Avoid taking any plant from the countryside. You can find nurseries which have sourced seeds and grown plants ethically at www.floralocale.org
Tracey Drew is the founder of The Wild Flower Patch, selling and promoting wildflower plants native to your Patch!