Your Wildflower meadow

It’s at this time of year that I always find myself contemplating sowing my own mini flower meadow, using a joyful, high-octane mix of fast-growing, ultra-colourful, pollinator-friendly, mood-lifting, hardy and half-hardy annuals.

Cosmos, for instance, with their cheery daisy-like blooms in shades of carmine-pink and white. Dainty cornflowers too, in shades of cobalt blue, moody plum, snow white and candy pink as well as burnt-orange poppies, fiery marigolds and coreopsis, scarlet malope, frothy ammi, dainty toadflax, purple honeywort, feathery love-in-a-mist, fragrant candytuft and a host of other hardworking floriferous species. In short, a smorgasbord of pretties to provide months of vibrant, long-lasting colour through summer into late autumn.

Usefully, an increasing number of seed suppliers and good garden centres now offer an excellent range of different annual flowering meadow seed mixes to choose from. Some are in soft pastel shades such as Sarah Raven’s “Delft Blue and White”; some in richer, hotter colours such as UK-based Pictorial Meadows “Candy” mix, while others are specifically designed for very small gardens or even large containers (examples include Seedaholic’s “Annual Dwarf Flowers Mix”, Pictorial Meadows “Pixie” mix and Sarah Raven’s “Mini Meadow” mix).

Whichever blend you choose, between now and early June is an excellent time to sow them while soil moisture levels, temperatures and light levels are sufficient to ensure good germination.

Site selection

But before you do, there are a few things to keep in mind, most important of which is careful site selection. There’s no point, for example, in sowing an annual meadow mix into a dry and very shady spot as the vast majority of these fast-growing, short-lived plants need full sun and a moisture-retentive but free-draining, averagely fertile soil to thrive.

Annual pictorial meadows like this one at Airfield Gardens in Dundrum show how colour can be used in imaginative and enlivening ways in the garden Photo credit Richard Johnston
Annual pictorial meadows like this one at Airfield Gardens in Dundrum show how colour can be used in imaginative and enlivening ways in the garden. Photograph: Richard Johnston
Thorough site preparation is also crucial to reduce the risk of aggressive weed growth quickly out-competing your annual meadow for light and nutrients. Bear in mind that all normal garden soils contain what is known in horticultural parlance as a “seed bank”, the natural accumulation over many years of the viable seed of a wide variety of native and non-native plants. Give these the right conditions for germination and off they’ll quickly romp. So to reduce their numbers, you’ll need to first create what’s known as a sterile seed-bed by deliberately depleting the shallow uppermost layer of soil of this hidden stash of seeds.

How? Start by clearing the ground of any existing weeds and their root systems before lightly forking it over to a depth of 15-20cm. Next, use a rake to create a fine, crumbly tilth and to smooth off any lumps, bumps or hollows as well as to remove any garden debris that could prevent your meadow seed from germinating. Then leave it. Within 7-10 days, you’ll see a rash of young weed seedlings appearing on the surface. Don’t take a spade or fork to dig these out, which will only bring yet more viable weed seed to the surface. The only exception is if you suspect that there may be the fresh re-growth of fragments of perennial weeds’ root systems still lurking below the ground, in which case you’ll need to carefully remove them. But otherwise, choose a dry, sunny day and a sharp hoe to slice any young weed seedlings away at ground level. Repeat this process a week or two later and you’ll have done a great deal to limit weed germination.

Read all article in Irish Times

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