How to create your own wildflower meadow
The flower meadow in The Vyne's walled garden wows visitors with its beauty and provides a pollinator haven for wildlife. Senior Gardener Chris Wilson tells us why he has done it and how to create one in your own garden - possible in the smallest of outdoor spaces.
I love the big impact of The Vyne's flower meadow, against the backdrop of the garden’s tall walls. It blends into its surroundings in a very different way to the usual regimented garden style. There's a relaxed atmosphere and the meadow is now a big highlight in the walled garden during the summer.
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 reduce the grass and competitive weeds as best you can – garden grass has been selectively bred to be dominant and will out-compete most meadow species. If your chosen plot is very fertile you may need to remove a layer of the topsoil. Meadow flowers aren’t suited to a rich environment, which will cause weak, sappy growth and too much competition from the existing seed base.
Cultivate the remaining soil to between 10 and 20cm, level it and sow a meadow seed mix. The mix that works for you will depend 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 from. Plus you can still have a variety of heights, colours, and styles to choose from. Be prepared to water the soil in dry spells; if the seeds dry out whilst they are germinating they won’t recover.
Don't be daunted
When we first power harrowed 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. We 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 a simple meadow can be relatively low maintenance.