To restore our wildflower meadows can help to bring back colourful flowers, and help our pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies and bats). England used to have 97% more meadows than now (which is why so many roads have the word ‘meadow’ in them). Yet we have lost nearly all of them in just 90 years, and those that remain are critically endangered. A true meadow is formed from the annual hay cut, when perennial flowers appear through the grass. Water meadows are flooded, and coastal meadows are usually found in Scotland.
Modern farming practices means land is mowed to turn into intensive land for pasture, other meadows have been replaced by building homes. Wildlife campaigners want farmers to take more care cutting meadows to avoid disturbing hares, ground-nesting birds and seed-eating birds (esp. before 15 March). They recommend soil testing, applying well-rotted manure at low rates and avoiding commercial fertilisers.
Many wildflowers are unsafe near pets. See plants to avoid near pets (also avoid cocoa/pine/rubber mulch and fresh compost near pets). Use safe humane snail/slug deterrents and no-dig methods to protect wildlife. Check for embedded grass seeds (especially long-furred ears and paws) after meadow walks, as these can cause infection or injury.
Books to Restore our Wildflower Meadows
- Mini Meadows is a beautiful little book to grow a little patch of flowers, all you need is £30 and 50 square feet of land.
- The English Meadow discusses the importance of meadows to wildlife, showing what flora and fauna to look for. Yvette draws on experience of managing her own meadow.
- Flowers of the Field by natural history filmmaker Steve Nicholls (who holds a PhD on dragonflies!), who takes you from Kent’s chalk cliffs to the Fens of Eastern England to the Outer Hebrides, to show the beauty of wildflower meadows. From ‘daffodil trains’ that transported Londoners to the odd case of the Bath asparagus.
- Lawns into Meadows is a book by landscaper Owen Wormser, who shows how soul-soothing meadows introduce ecological biodiversity and take carbon out of the atmosphere. He also shows you how to grow your own meadow, with before/after photos.
- Magnificent Meadows has tips on deciding whether land is suitable to restore or grow a meadow.
Plant Your Own Meadows
Flower Spiral by Cath Read
Seed Bombs (only in pet-free areas). Although very popular, only plant seed bombs in areas that are pet-free, as most wildflowers are toxic to pets (many also contain chilli powder that can also harm). Just plant wildflowers in pet-free areas, or pet-friendly flowers anywhere else.
- Cloud Meadow Tin offers flowers that are good to attract bees and butterflies. The tin offers a mix of meadow sweet, oxeye daisy, white campion, white clover and yarrow.
- Mini Meadow Pot contains two peat-free coir discs and 12 wildflower seedballs in cardboard packaging. choose from bee mix, butterfly mix or garden meadow.
- Sky Meadow includes cornflowers, forget-me-nots, meadow cranesbill, self heal and wild clary.
- Urban Meadow Seedball includes common toadflax, cornflower, cowslip meadow cranesbill, musk mallow, oxeye daisy and red campion, along with pollinator-friendly annuals of chamomile, cornflower, corn marigold and night-flowering catchfly.
Where the Wildflowers Grow is a book to explore our beautiful wild flowers across Britain and Ireland. When was the last time you stopped, and noticed a wild plant? Leif has always been fascinated by wild plants. From a young age, his afternoons were spent cataloging plants in his local area. But climate change, habitat destruction and declining pollinator populations, means the future for plant life looks bleak. Many of us are also unable to identify (or even notice) the plants that grow around us.
Now a botanist, Leif decides to explore the plants that Britain and Ireland have to offer, and to meet those who spend time searching for them. Over a year, he highlights the unique plants that grow in Britain and Ireland, their history and the threats that face them. His journey takes him from the Cornish coast to the pine forests of Scotland, and even to the streets of London – proving that nature can be found in the most unexpected places. Along the way, he highlights the joy that can be found through understanding nature, and why it is so important to protect our wildflowers.
Leif Bersweden is a writer, botanist and science communicator. He grew up in rural Wiltshire, where he taught himself to identify local wildlife. He has a genetics PhD from Kew Gardens.