How to create your own wildflower meadow

Sarah Giles, Gardens and Countryside Manager Sarah Giles Gardens and Countryside Manager
Wildflowers bloom in a 'mini-meadow' in The Vyne's walled garden

The flower meadow in The Vyne's walled garden wows visitors with its beauty and provides a pollinator paradise for wildlife. Garden and Outdoors Manager Sarah Giles tells us why she’s done it and how to create one in your own garden.

I love the gentle, mixed, free nature of The Vyne's flower meadow. Its loose, delicate nature is very different to the usual regimented garden style. There's a relaxed atmosphere and the meadow is now the star of the show in the walled garden.

Why create a flower meadow?

Flowering grasses provide shelter for wildlife and protect the soil from excess evaporation. The flowers are good food sources for insects at risk from habitat loss and pesticides. Insects are essential to a healthy ecosystem and are food for countless birds and mammals.

Gardens have the potential to provide refuge and habitats now sadly not found elsewhere. In a garden you’ve also got the freedom to create the colour and look that you want, unlike in a wildflower meadow in the landscape, where you’d use native flowers.

Where's the best place for a flower meadow?

A sunny, sheltered location is ideal. Many meadow plants originated in open areas and need the sunshine to flourish. Shelter will protect the delicate flowers from flopping over. An area as small as 2m x 2m would create both a pleasing display for you and food for pollinators.

Where do I start?

First you need to remove as much grass as you can – garden grass has been selectively bred to be a thug and will out-compete most meadow species. Remove as much of the topsoil as possible as meadow flowers aren’t suited to a rich environment and will cause weak, sappy growth.

Turn over the remaining soil down to 20cm, level it and sow a meadow seed mix. The wildflower mix that works for you will spend on the climate and geology of where you live. Different flowers will thrive in a chalky soil to a clay or acidic one. The great thing about a meadow is that it’s cheap and easy to test and learn. Be prepared to water the soil in dry spells, as if the seeds dry out whilst they are germinating, they’ll not recover.

Don't be daunted

When we first stripped the turf at The Vyne I was daunted by the vast expanse of bare soil and I wondered if I had made a terrible mistake. I persevered with it and by June, interest was growing. In July, staff and visitors were overwhelming in their praise. Visitors love spending time there and taking selfies. Once established, the meadow is pretty low maintenance.

Why not give it a go? We sell wild flower seed in National Trust shops or come and see us at The Vyne this summer for some tips.

Update August 2020: We’ve re-opened the gardens and kiosk for light refreshments at The Vyne. You will need to book your visit in advance. Check What’s On for the latest information and to book.