Ask a Garden Designer: How Do I Create a Wildlife Haven?
Packed with pretty flowers, attractive to insects and low maintenance – wildflower planting is great for everyone from the birds to the bees
The most talked about example in recent years is the planting around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which has large areas of perennial meadows. But you don’t need acres to achieve a similar effect. Incorporating wildflowers and other blooms into even a small patch of your garden will create a haven for you and wildlife alike. Check out these beautiful examples for ideas and inspiration.
Using a varied form of cow parsley (Anthriscus Sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’) and alliums in a planting scheme attracts hover flies and other nectar-seeking insects. It also adds another, attractive dimension to the meadow planting, and prolongs the flowering season, as the allium heads can stay well into winter and look great in a frosted garden.
Wonderful yellow! These buttercups almost wipe out the other plants, but what could be more cheery than this vision in early summer? Sowing a large area with wildflowers will encourage so much wildlife, and will also cut down on weekly mowing.
Tour a beautiful English garden
Not quite a meadow as such, but how lovely is this in a wooded, sloping garden? You could easily use perennial meadow mixes to create a similar display. The rocks breaking up the greenery and highlighting the raised areas intensifies the repeat planting and adds to the overall effect.
I saw these wonderful spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) at Hole Park in Rolvenden, Kent. It’s rare to find them these days, but they can be incorporated into meadows sown in your garden. To encourage more plants like these, you need a good mixture of seed to eliminate the competition from strong grasses. Using yellow rattle (such as Rhinanthus minor) will help to stop the grasses from spreading.
Using a wildflower mix around this pond has created a haven for wildlife, not only attracting many types of insect, but creating a natural habitat for lots of small creatures. The soft palette of pale colours enhances the water’s edge and looks wonderfully attractive in the long morning and evening light, creating reflections on the water.
See how to work water into your garden
These perennials in low-level, natural-style drifts both attract insects and form a beautiful display against the backdrop of fields beyond. This use of a limited colour pallet enhances the natural stone walls and blends seamlessly without the need to add any other structural shrubs to the mix. It’s possible to buy specific seed mixes that have a dominant flower, such as poppies. You can also buy mixes formulated for dry, shady, sunny and wet areas.
This lovely spring meadow planting is at West Dean Gardens in Sussex. It shows how the season for wildflowers can be extended by choosing buttercups and camassia for spring flowers, which will give way to orchids and other summer perennial flowers as the year goes on.
Sowing a varied mix of wildflower seeds around this pond in Sussex means that different species come into bloom throughout the summer. This is not only visually attractive, it creates an ongoing haven for bees and butterflies. Over time, mixed planting settles, so that stronger varieties become more dominant.
A little splash of flowers on a lawn can add depth to a garden. This area of lawn, away from the main house but still visible, has been turned over to ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), which encourage bees and create a softer look to the formal lawned areas.
A mown path through a wooded patch and a sprinkling of cow parsley can be all you need, as this inviting garden shows. I love the idea of sitting here surrounded by wildlife and fruit trees in the dappled shade. Just perfect.
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