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Tag Archives: wild flower meadow

Making a wildflower meadow

The wildflower meadow that you can see in the photos was initiated in 2000. We sowed grass and a perennial wild flower mix. Soil should not be fertilized, and it should be of poor vigour. Otherwise, grasses will grow too strongly.

Wildflower meadow, detail

Wildflower meadow, detail

Mow in mid-late August; leave the grass there for a few days to allow flower seeds to drop. Then remove the hay.
Repeat every year, sowing new varieties as desired.
It is a good idea to keep a diary of your meadow, recording what you have sown and what has grown. Often what is planted or sown doesn’t appear the next season, but only after a couple of years. Sometimes it appears, but in a different place with respect to where it was sown. The balance of grasses and flowers varies from year to year, affected by climate and presumably by various other factors.
By way of example, the following lists illustrate the development of our wildflower meadow in Suffolk.

Click on the thumbnail below to watch the video of this wildflower meadow:

Planted in June 2001: grass seed and wildflower seed mix.
Wildflower species planted:
Small daffodils
Bluebells
Grape hyacinths
Fritillaries
Blue anenomes
Scilla
Chionodona
Crocus
Primroses
Cowslips
Oxlips
Snowdrops
Scabious
Cornflowers
Cassia
Cyclamen

Sown July 2002:
Birds nest orchid
Nipplewort

Observed in 2002:
Lots of grasses
Red clover
Pink clover
White clover
Dog daisies
Thistles
Docks
Field buttercups
Creeping buttercups
White campion
Weld
Chicory
Yarrow
Knapweed
Common vetch
Tiny field vetch
Black medick
Birds foot trefoil
Geranium (small flowers)
Scarlet pimpernel
Hedge woundwort
Common broomrape
Plantain (two species)
Scentless mayweed
Pineapple weed
Ragwort
Common catsear
Bristly Oxtongue

Wildflower meadow, many different grasses

Wildflower meadow, many different grasses

Planted in 2003/2004:
Scabious
Red campion
Meadow sweet

Observed in 2003:
Toadflax (gone 2009)
Corncockle
Ragged robin

Observed in 2004:
Sorrell
Lots of cowslips (planted and from seed)
Yellow bedstraw

Planted in 2005:
Goatsbeard
Yellow rattle

Observed in 2005:
Lots of cowslips
Lots of dandelions
Broomrape
Tassel
Yellow bedstraw
Toadflax

Geranium

Geranium

Observed in 2007:
Chickory
Broomrape
Lots of cowslips
Yellow bedstraw
Ragged robin
Several scabious
Lots of bugle
Agrimony

Observed in 2008:
Lots of cowslips
One good ragged robin
White bee orchid (not in wildflower meadow itself, but on a bank about 20 yards away)
A large clump of yellow rattle (not where sown in 2005)
Two clumps yellow bedstraw
One white bedstraw

Sown in 2008:
White bee orchid between birch and prunus serrula
More bee orchid seeds and yellow rattle

Observed in 2009:
Hundreds of cowslips.
Grass less vigorous
Lots of yellow rattle
The white bee orchid flowered again
Two bee orchids in the meadow
Four yellow bedstraw, one white

Observed in 2010:
As in 2009, but no bee orchids on the bank, and one on the field
More dog daisies and bedstraw (one white)
One Pyramid orchid

Pyramid orchid

Pyramid orchid

Planted in 2010:
Ragged robin
Mulleins

Observed in 2011:
Long drought in spring, meadow poor. No orchids at all. Nothing of the things planted last year. Yellow rattle not good. Many geraniums.

Yellow rattle

Yellow rattle

Observed in 2012:
Much better, lots of rain in spring/early summer. FLowers all very good including rattle but no orchids. One weedy ragged robin, 4 bee orchids. Grass very lush. Geraniums look good. Lots of broomrape.

Burrow of a small animal, used by bumble bees

Burrow of a small animal, used by bumble bees

Wildflower meadow, dog daisies

Wildflower meadow, dog daisies

Wildflower meadow path, mown for access purposes

Wildflower meadow path, mown for access purposes

Wildflower meadow, more dog daisies

Wildflower meadow, more dog daisies

A wild flower meadow

A bumble bee in a wild flower meadow

A bumble bee in a wild flower meadow

In this video, Dan and Henrietta Neuteboom describe the benefits of a wild flower meadow for fruit trees or an orchard.  Wild flowers attract a large number of insects for many months of the year, above all bees, which ensure good pollination. And a wild flower meadow is very beautiful in itself. Click on the icon below to watch the video.

Click here to read more about wild flower meadows and fruit growing.

Wild flower meadows and fruit trees

Wildflower Meadow

A summary of the experience gained by the establishment of a wild flower meadow in conjunction with the growing of fruit crops in North Suffolk.

Experiences gained over many years growing various fruit crops and selling top quality fruit trees has highlighted various changes in the insect and bird population in and around orchards. These changes are also occurring in gardens, in spite of the fact that the micro climate in gardens is often much more amenable for many insects and birds. Good pollination for many fruit crops is vital for regular crops. Without the help of pollinating insects, regular crop production is a frequently-occurring problem. The problem is that most fruit crops flower early in the growing season, when it still can be very cold and wet. These are not the climatic conditions favourable or liked by many pollinating insects.

Due to many factors, cherries, plums, greengages and pears, just to name a few, all flower from the middle of April onwards. This is a general statement. I have seen that due to warm conditions early on in the season, in February/ March, these fruit trees began to flower by the end of March/early April. But where were the pollinating insects such as bumble bees, hover flies and such like?

Honey bees early in the season are often only around in low numbers. This is due to the fact that the honey bee is not likely to come out of the hive when the temperature is below 16 degrees Celsius. The bumble bee however is fully active from 10 degree Celsius. For good cross pollination we therefore have to rely on insects such as the bumble bee, when the weather is too cold for the honey bee. If nothing is done to encourage these wild pollinating insects to do their vital cross pollination work, while searching for food in the form of nectar and pollen, the fruit trees in question are unable to produce enough fruit , in the form of yield and quality.

Bumble bee

Bumble bee

It is for that reason the establishment of wild flower areas is vital. Particular attention must be given to the choice of various flowering species. There has to be a regular food supply, in the form of flowering plants throughout the growing season. That means from March to some time in September. Only in this way lots of pollinating insects are attracted to build their permanent homes, in the immediate areas where pollination activities are needed, such as orchards. In our experience a combination of annual single blooms and regularly flowering shrubs is possibly the best method of providing adequate food for the pollinating insects.

Another point is that it is better to have lots of flowers of a few species such as Dog daisies, primroses, lavender and clover, then a much extended range of species with just a few flowers on each shrub or annually flowering plant. However overall the most important requirement is to provide, for the full length of the growing season, enough flowers of plants and shrubs which are able to supply nectar and pollen, so badly needed for the insects to survive during the winter months.

To provide some specific examples, good shrubs for attracting bees and butterflies are:
Buddleia, Lavender, Honeysuckle, Rosemary herb, Ivy, Lilac, Privet, Elderberry, and Buckthorn. Most herbs are very attractive to bees.

Examples of permanent wild meadow flowers, liked by pollinating insects, are:
Clovers, Vetches , Cowslips, Primroses, Dog daisies, Yarrow, Yellow rattle, Knapweed, Red campion, Meadowsweet, and Plantain.
Surrounding hedges with Blackthorn and Hawthorn , Bramble and Dogrose are very good for hover flies.

To summarize, orchards are often a mono culture of species. Without a full complement of pollinating insects the fruit-setting capability of fruit trees is very erratic. Therefore a wild flower area with the right type of plants and shrubs is not only very attractive to look at. It also provides a balanced approach to the local environment as a whole.

Dan Neuteboom
Fruit Specialist