I love my garden (not that you will be surprised to hear that) but I also love my patch of wilderness and I reckon every garden should have one.
Now by “wilderness” I do not mean an overgrown area of thistle, nettles and ground elder surrounding an old supermarket shopping trolley (though even weeds are useful to wildlife and nettles are the food plants of several butterfly larvae). No, I mean a “wild flower meadow” that can be no larger than a couple of square yards if space is in short supply.
Watching cowslips open in April, followed by marguerites and buttercups in May, with vetches, scabious and knapweed to follow, gives me tremendous pleasure and the bees and butterflies are just as happy. The trick is to turn just a small part of your lawn into such a haven and doing so can be easier than you think.
For a start, stop feeding it. Wild flowers do not need fertiliser, which encourages the surrounding grass to grow strong and lush, often forcing the native flora into submission. Step two is to mow a neat path around the “meadow” – and through it if it is of any considerable size – and to stop mowing the meadow itself.
It will need only one cut, in late September or early October when the wild flowers have shed their seeds. Rake off the “hay” immediately after cutting or the flowers and the meadow grasses will be killed off.
For best results sow a wild flower mix on bare earth to create a meadow. But if you have an established lawn then buy plug plants of those wild flowers that do best in your area.
Specialist wild flower seed firms will advise and supply you with a range of beauties to suit.
It is no earthly good simply scattering wild flower seeds on to an established lawn and expecting them to grow. The existing plants will be too competitive to allow them any elbow room.
But plug plants can be introduced with a trowel and planted across the area where, provided they are not allowed to dry out, they will establish quickly and speckle your grass…