Wildflowers are key for filling in gaps in an informal or cottage style garden, but you can also make a feature of them in a specific patch, mini meadow style!
I’ve put together some things you need to know before creating a wildflower patch in your garden, as well as a some unusual recommendations to fill up your patch.
What are wildflowers?
Wildflowers are, simply, flowers that grow in the wild without any human intervention. There is a debate over whether the wildflowers you see growing in the wild are true ‘wildflowers’, as some rewilding devotees will argue that only native flowers can be wildflowers!
However, if we’re getting technical, we can actually talk about wildflowers in more precise terms:
- Native – flowers that are naturally occurring in the area in which they are found
- Introduced – flowers that are not naturally occurring in the area in which they are found… of which, these can be:
- Invasive – dominating naturally occurring plants
- Imported – introduced into an area, whether deliberately or by accident
- Naturalised – introduced into an area, but now considered a native (for example, Fritillaria meleagris, AKA the snake’s head fritillary, was not recorded in the wild in the UK until 1736, which leads some to believe that it could be a garden escapee)
Whatever your definition of wildflowers, unless you are dedicated to the use of native wildflowers only, you can still enjoy the ‘wild vibe’ of a meadow style patch in your garden with the use of imported and naturalised plants alongside natives of your country. However, I advise against planting anything that’s invasive!
The benefits of growing wildflowers
While we can create a healthy, flourishing, beautiful garden with a wide variety of plants, wildflowers are especially beneficial for a number of reasons:
- Provide insects with nectar and a habitat
- Help increase pollinating insect population, which in turn improves the growth of fruits which require pollination
- Don’t require fertiliser
- Can grow in poor soils
- Self-seed so now need to re-sow next year
- Pretty and add plenty of colour!
Along with being low-maintenance, wildflowers are great for improving local wildlife populations, which is one of the main goals of the rewilding movement. So, even if you want to add wildflowers to your garden just for the aesthetic, you’re doing the environment a favour too!
5 unusual wildflowers to plant in your patch
Wondering where to start with your patch? There are many common wildflowers that you can easily obtain seeds for. But if you’re after something more unusual, try these 5 plants – and go wild!
Flowering from April to June, wild garlic grows naturally in shady woods, coating forest floors. Plant them in moist, loamy soil in a shady location, and they’ll grow up to 45cm high. The whole plant is edible!
Producing blue-violet flowers in June to July, this low-growing plant is fairly rare in the wild, but seeds can sometimes be found online from specialists.
This unusual plant produces an evergreen carpet with white flowers blooming from May to July. The flowers are distinctive in that they have swollen sepals behind them, making for an eye catching effect in containers, rock gardens, coastal gardens and path edging.
A tall, native biennial, the small teasel grows to around 1.2m in height, and produces prickly leaves with June flowers. After blooming, the seedheads are great for use in dried flower arrangements.
Also known as verbena, vervain will grow in most soils in a sunny position, and will produce vivid purple flowers in mid-to-late summer.
When growing your wildflower patch, make sure to sow according to the needs of the individual plant and don’t use fertiliser! With many wildflowers, you can sow in spring – around March and April – or in September and water just once before the seeds go dormant in winter, then water again once the weather gets warmer.
Then, enjoy your colourful, low maintenance garden throughout the summer!
What’s your favourite plant from my selection? Let me know in the comments section below.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.