Wildflowers are back in fashion, according to reports on their sales.
In the past year, sales of UK wildflower seeds have increased by 60 per cent, thanks partly to renewed interest fuelled by the stunning wildflower meadows at the Olympic Park in 2012.
The combined elements of eye-catching visual impact, ecological awareness and wildlife value have fuelled sales of wildflower seeds among many of the main seed companies, including Thompson & Morgan, Suttons and Mr Fothergill’s.
With this in mind, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is playing its part during National Gardening Week (April 15-21) as its gardens across the country host talks, demonstrations and events to get gardeners growing wildflowers.
Young gardeners will be encouraged to get their hands dirty and learn how to sow their own mini-wildflower meadow, perfect for attracting birds, bugs and creepy crawlies of all types.
More experienced gardeners can find out how to support the wildlife in their gardens through a range of talks and interactive workshops on beekeeping, managing meadows and more.
Ian LeGros, curator at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex, explains: “Wildflowers are currently going through a massive boom in popularity and are set to be one of the big trends for amateur gardening in 2013.
“They are easy to plant and maintain, provide much needed habitats for wildlife and are valuable sources of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators.
“Encouraging wildlife and pollinators is particularly important in urban areas, so if you’ve a sunny patch of dry ground that won’t support much else in your front garden, it’s time to convert it into a wildflower meadow.”
He offers the following tips to those who want to follow the wildflower fashion:
n Choose seed carefully. Wildflowers are easy to grow but, like all plants, need the right conditions if they are going to thrive. Check your soil type and find a mix that will work for it.
n If you have poor soil perennial wildflowers will do very well as there will be fewer grasses for them to compete with. Buy seed mixes that contain ox-eye daisies, yarrow, harebells, birdsfoot trefoil, cowslips, lady’s bedstraw, betony, yellow rattle and others for waving drifts of colour.
n If you have well-cultivated soil, annuals such as cornflowers, corn poppies, corn marigolds and corncockles will do well. Toss in a few barley and wheat seeds for an authentic feel. Annuals are a good choice if you are converting an existing border.
n An annual seed mix containing cornflowers and poppies will do better if sown in the autumn, while corn marigolds prefer a spring sowing. If you have sandy or well-drained soils, wildflowers can be sown during the autumn, but if you have wetter, colder soils, you’re better off sowing in the spring to avoid seed rotting off.
n Prepare your ground. Wildflowers are easy but do take a bit more work than just opening a packet of seeds over the ground. Prepare your soil first, making sure it is weed free and has been well dug or rotovated. If you are growing wildflowers, keep fertility low in most cases, so avoid using manures or fertilisers as this will just give grasses and weeds the advantage they need to crowd out your wildflowers.
For full details of the events at RHS Gardens during National Gardening Week, visit www.national gardeningweek.org.uk