Meadow Musings - Why are wildflowers so important?
Summer brings a fabulous flush of colour and sweet smells to fully grown wildflower meadows. Not only an idyllic image of our countryside, they are also vital feeding and nesting habitats for insects, butterflies, birds, small animals and other wildlife.
The National Trust Rangers at the Giant’s Causeway work continuously to maintain these existing meadows, but also have been creating new ones, like the beautiful wildflower meadow next to the Visitor Centre.
When you picture the perfect countryside you may imagine it filled with meadows full of flowers, however they are now almost considered to be a rare sight. According to The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s.
Dr Cliff Henry, National Trust Area Ranger at the Giant’s Causeway explains why the creation of meadows like these are an important part of the conservation work at the UNESCO World Heritage Site; “It is worrying that we have lost so many of our wildflower meadows. They are such wonderful habitats that support a rich variety of insect life. In turn other animals like hedgehogs, birds and bats need the insects to feed on. If one group of species is in decline, that can lead to the loss of many more.
“About 35 percent of the world’s food crops need insects to pollinate them. The loss of pollinating insects could threaten our own food supply. That’s why we put in so much effort to encourage the native wildflowers to flourish in the Giant’s Causeway coastline to support our pollinators. Everyone can do their bit to help by planting some wildflowers in their garden, or reducing the use of weedkillers, or even just cutting the grass a little less often.”
The Ranger team have also conducted other specific bee conservation projects at the Giant’s Causeway, including building a dedicated nesting bank for solitary mining bees located at Innisfree Farm. The team used sods of grass, local stones, sand and gravel to create the bank. While they were building it Dr Cliff Henry spotted two different species – the chocolate mining bee and it’s parasite (Marshsam’s nomad bee), investigating it as a prospective home.
Next time you visit the Giant’s Causeway look out for the vibrant colours of these picturesque blooms, which go a long way in supporting our native pollinators and keeping our planet healthy.
How to Create Your Own Wildflower Meadow
You don’t need acres of land to create your own wildflower meadow, a patch of grass in an open sunny position can be easily transformed into a mini-meadow rich in wildflowers, providing cover and food for wildlife.
The best part is that the maintenance of a wildflower meadow is much easier than a traditional garden, and will have the added bonus of providing colour and wildlife interest from spring until the last days of summer.
The best way of introducing wildflowers into an established lawn is to plant small plug-plants in autumn in small drifts across the lawn.
Create a small hole for each plant and add a little compost to the bottom of the hole to help the plant establish quickly, plant then water well. Only cut your meadow after July when the wildflowers have set their seed. Removing the cuttings will benefit the wildflowers by preventing nutrients returning to the soil