Meadows are complex habitats which have evolved over many years, but it is possible to recreate the meadow look in your own garden.
Annual meadows are great for filling bare areas in borders, along path edges or as a temporary fill ahead of permanent planting. They don’t mind fertile garden soil and are fairly easy to establish from seed. They usually come into flower in June and continue until October, but from them until the new seeds germinate in spring, there will be nothing but bare earth.
Perennial meadows prefer unimproved soil and are best used as an alternative to grass, rather than as part of a border – maybe in a front garden or, if you have a large lawn, as a way to reduce mowing and increase biodiversity. Depending on the species, flowering can start from late March or April, and continue through to cutting in July or August.
Here are five key plants for creating a mini-meadow.
Primula veris is a graceful, early-flowering perennial native with yellow flowers held in bunches on the end of the stem. In a perennial wildflower meadow, it’s important for creating early spring interest and providing nectar and pollen to early flying insects.
Yellow cowslip flowers
Like many cornfield annuals, Papaver rhoeas isn’t native. It was brought to the UK by our neolithic ancestors among cereal seeds. Seeds can stay dormant for decades, until soil disturbance sparks them into life.
A red field poppy
Leucanthemum vulgare is a colonising species in new meadows, keeping vigorous grasses at bay. After a few years these perennial plants diminish, becoming a component rather than a dominant part.
An ox-eye daisy in a lawn with clover flowers
One of the most important common wildflowers for bees. On a warm sunny day, Trifolium pratense will be swarming with them, especially bumblebees. It’s an understatedly handsome plant with pinkish flowers, like bristly eggs nestling in the grass.
A close-up of a pink flower of red clover
A semi-parasitic annual that feeds on grasses. It’s important in perennial meadows as it reduces the vigour of the grasses keeping the sward open and letting broad-leaved flowers thrive. Once established, Rhinanthus minor will self-seed to form a strong colony.
Yellow flowers of the yellow rattle
Kate Bradbury says
If you opt for a perennial meadow, keep the soil nutrient levels low by mowing in spring and autumn and removing all clippings. Sowing the parasitic wildflower yellow rattle can suppress grass growth, helping the wildflowers to thrive.