What is a wildflower meadow?
Meadows were what ecologists call "unimproved grassland". They weren't treated with chemicals, and unlike pasture were cut for hay in midsummer. After that they were generally grazed. This regime encouraged a range of perennial wildflowers, which add to the nutritional value of the meadow and hay. Nowdays there's a confusion between this sort of thing - which is what this website is about - and "pictorial meadows", which are native and non native flowers without grasses.
Can you sow wildflower seed onto grass?
You can, of course, but it's generally a complete waste of time and money. Are there any exceptions? As ever, yes, but you will need careful preparation and a low fertility site. Have a look at this blog, which we hope will help.
Isn't it difficult to make a wildflower meadow area?
If your soil has high fertility, or your site is shaded, yes. Otherwise no. Honestly. It's pretty straightforward as long as you follow advice.
When will the wildflowers flower?
Cornfield annuals like poppies will whizz - sown in spring they will flower a couple of months later. Perennial meadow species will take much longer. Some won't even germinate in the first year! Good things come to those who wait...
When should I sow my wildflower meadow seed?
As long as the soil is warm and conditions are moist you can be pretty flexible. Traditionally people said April/May and September/October, but as the weather is so up the wahoo this seems to be changing. Don't sow in late autumn on heavy soils whatever though, as the seed may well just rot. I generally prefer late summer / autumn to seed as the weather is more reliable and there are a number of species including Yellow Rattle which need to get cold before they germinate. After all, too, this is more what nature intended.
This seed you've sold me is rubbish - it isn't germinating!
Patience! Although some species - cornfield annuals, for example - germinate very quickly, the majority of the wildflowers we sell are perennials with much slower germination. They're not like Broad Beans, I'm afraid; some species take months to show themselves. There may also be a problem with the conditions when you sowed them. Spring weather is increasingly variable, for example. It can be cold and dry, which will mean no germination - the seed will just lie on the ground until it gets warmer and wetter.
What do descriptions like MG5 mean?
There's a thing called the National Vegetation Classification, which classifies broad habitats, then communities and sometimes sub-communities within them. The bulk of our mixes are MG ("mesic grassland"), which are on neutral soils, or CG ("calcareous grassland"). The majority of grasslands in the UK are MG5, which is further broken down into MG5a, MG5b and MG5c. If you'd like to find out more have a read of George Peterken's "Meadows".
Do wildflowers come back every year?
Some do, some don't. Plants of wildflower meadows are perennial, though, so will keep flowering year after year. You don't have to do any reseeding.
Will wildflowers grow in shade?
Not meadow species. We do have a mix for light shade though.
Why am I bothering with all this seeding business? Couldn't I just use wildflower turf?
Yes, of course you can - it can be an excellent product. It's much quicker to establish than seed - obviously! - and easier. On the other hand it's MASSIVELY more expensive than seed and tends to offer a one size fits all solution. Some products also have a plastic mesh.
My meadow area looks a mess. What can I do?
Chances are you've left cutting it too late - the grasses have gone over and it looks like a Donald Trump combover. Alternatively, if you want to make it look more designed and less au naturelle, cut paths through it. This will make it look like more like an intentional feature - and help you to appreciate it.
How long is the seed viable for?
Different wildflower species have different viabilities. Some - like Yellow Rattle - are very short lived. There's no magic moment when suddenly none of the seed in a mix will germinate; seeds will just deteriorate over time. We generally advise using within 6 months of purchase, to be on the safe side.
What about using wildflower plug plants?
You can of course use wildflower plugs. They are particularly useful if you want to try to get some wildflowers going in an area of grass. It an expensive and less varied option, however, althogh some folk use them in combination with seed.