Bringing Wildflowers into Your Garden
Native wildflowers are more often known as ‘weeds’ in our gardens and some are prolific self-seeders or spreaders that will quickly take over your garden and crowd out other plants. But, properly chosen, wildflowers can add colour and interest to your garden and attract wildlife as all produce nectar and pollen for our native bees, butterflies and other insects.
If you suffer from pests, such as slugs, in your garden you will also find that native wildflowers will be more resistant to them than non-native plants. Also, wildflowers will need little maintenance as they are already well adapted to our weather and soil conditions.
Below are ten of my favourite native wildflowers that I think are definitely garden-worthy for their flowers and can be controlled quite easily with timely dead-heading (cutting off flower heads as soon as the flowers go brown) for perennials or pulling up the whole plant after flowering for annuals. They combine well with other garden plants and have a long season of flowers.
Botanical name – Myrrhis odorata
Perennial; thrives in moist soil, partial shade and sun
Height 60 – 100cm
Delicate, frothy white flowers in from late April to June with fern-like leaves. The whole plant is edible; the green seedpods and leaves have an aniseed-like flavour and can be eaten raw.
Botanical name – Silene dioica
Perennial; thrives in partial shade and moist soil
This cheerful pink blossomed plant grows in woodland and hedgerows and has a long flowering period from May to July. It will spread slowly, but dead-head to restrict seedlings.
Botanical name – Primula veris
Perennial; thrives in partial shade or sun
Height10 – 25cm
Yellow flowers in April/May provide a good pollen source and compliment daffodils. This perennial will spread slowly by seed and expanding its clump. It’s a low growing plant that will be covered by taller summer perennials in a border. Dead-head to stop too much self-seeding.
Botanical name – Anemone nemorosa
Perennial; thrives in partial shade and moist soil
Height 6 – 30cm
Low growing, delicate white flowers with fern-like divided leaves appears in April to May. The flowers close when sunlight is low.
Botanical name – Primula vulgaris
Perennial; prefers dry soil in partial shade or sun
Pale yellow flowers in February to May; provides a good pollen source and compliments crocuses and daffodils. This perennial will spread slowly by seed and expanding its clump. It’s a low growing plant that will be covered by taller summer perennials in a border.
Botanical name – Myosotis spp.
Annual; thrives in a range of soil conditions in partial shade or sun.
Height 15 – 30cm
Scented, pale blue flowers in April and May. Provides early pollen for bees and look great with tulips. This annual can be controlled by pulling up the whole plant after the flowers are over to stop it self-seeding too much.
Botanical name – Geum rivale
Perennial; prefers moist soil and partial shade or sun.
Height 20 – 60cm
This perennial plant will form a large clump; flowering on tall purple stems with nodding pale orange/pink flowers in May to July. Control self-seeding by dead-heading the flowers as soon as they go brown.
Botanical name – Digitalis purpurea
Biennial; thrives in partial shade or sun.
Height 90cm to 1.5m
Familiar native plant that occurs naturally as purple or white spikes of flowers from May to July. This biennial (living 2 years) will spread naturally through self-seeding, popping up in different parts of your garden each year. To restrict its spread either dead-head when the flowers are over or pull up seedlings.
Botanical name – Viola riviniana
Perennial; thrives in dry soil and sun or partial shade
Height 2 – 6cm
Low growing, delicate purple flowers in April and May will grow in paving cracks or the edge of borders. This perennial will spread through self-seeding but can easily be controlled through pulling up the small plants.
Botanical name – Lychnis flos-cuculi
Perennial; prefers moist soil with sun.
Height 20 – 50cm
Delicate, deeply divided pink petals flowering from May to July This plant naturally occurs in damp meadows, it is slow to spread it would complement the front of borders.
More Information on Wildflowers
My recommended plant identification books are:
Wildflowers or Britain and Northern Europe, David Sutton, Kingfisher Publications, 1988
Complete British Wild Flowers, Paul Sterry, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2006
To buy a wide selection of wildflower seeds try Landlife
To find out more about wildflower habitats and wildlife identification through the Field Studies Council Guides
In May each year I organise Guided Wildflower Walks see here for information and to book.
Annual plants live only for one year and reproduce themselves by self-seeding. Be careful not to ‘weed’ out their seedlings or they will not re-appear in your garden the next year.
Perennial plants form a permanent clump that may die down in the winter, but will re-emerge each spring and will gradually grow larger until it reaches its mature size.
Biennial plants grow leaves and stems in their first year, flower in their second year and then die. Be careful not to ‘weed’ out their seedlings or they will not re-appear in your garden in following years.