I've been dreaming of planting a wildflower area for the summer, but I'm beginning to think that it'll be one project too many at the moment. I've created a wildflower area before and it looked fantastic one year, full of field poppies and corncockles and cornflowers. But the following year (the wet 2012), it was a real disappointment. I realised, then, just how much hard work is needed to create and maintain even a mini-wildflower meadow.
So with all the other gardening projects I have on my list this year, a wildflower patch will have to wait. I keep changing my mind about where it will be anyway. I've now planted trees where this was before - and I've recently decided that another possible patch of ground will be given over to spring bulbs instead. So the truth is, it all needs a lot more thought (and more dreaming!)
But even though I'm not ready to create a mini wildflower meadow this year, I still want plenty of wildflowers on the smallholding. Most of these will be the flowers that'll be growing naturally in the 'wild' areas i.e. the untidy bits. I love discovering something different about the wildflowers here; I'm always thrilled to see a new type of wildflower appearing or to see that existing wildflowers have started to colonise a new patch. Last year I found some bird's foot trefoil growing along a path for the first time. I knew the butterflies would be interested in this - and they were - visiting it again and again.
I really want to encourage more butterflies here this year. I already have three buddleia davidii bushes that were covered with Peacock butterflies last year, and the Red Admirals love the ivy when it flowers in early autumn. Now I'm thinking of lady's smock for the Orange Tips (this will also go in my future mini wildflower meadow), drifts of scabious and some michaelmas daisies. I'm even going to leave small patches of nettles and thistles in the deepest corners of the smallholding, because butterflies love these so much (although I'll be making sure they stay there!)
As well as butterflies, I'll also be planting for moths and will be using Countryside Tales' great post on plants for moths as a guide here. .
Along our country lane there are lots of primroses in flower at the moment, and over the years I've been encouraging these to spread on our verge. This year - finally - I have a whole bank of primroses. They look beautiful, but there's a story here. Last year the primroses flowered late, and early one morning I was horrified to see the council's machines cutting the verges and hacking down the primroses. No one can prove who owns the verges in our lane and it's assumed the property and landowners do. But this didn't stop the council from cutting down the wildflowers on my verge and on all the other verges, too...
Our small country lane doesn't go anywhere and the grass on the verges never grows high enough to cause visibility problems for drivers, but try telling that to our council (as I have). Try telling them, too, about the importance of wildflowers for pollinators! I thought I was making progress last year in conversations with them, but when I contacted them again this year I was told the verges have to be cut - whether there are wildflowers growing there or not - and if anyone wants to encourage the spread of native primroses then they need something called a planting licence...
Grrr...I can feel a battle against red tape coming on. I'm considering contacting Plantlife, a charity that protects wildflowers, to see what advice they have for me. Plantlife's 'Flowers on the Edge' campaign urges councils to cut verges less and after the wildflowers have finished - so my situation is just right for this. Let's hope the council start to listen...
Anyway, I'll finish with a photo of my own, homegrown destroyer of flowers - as Pip is nesting in one of my flower beds again this year. I dread to think what she's crushed, but she's happy, so I'll just leave her there and hope the flowers will revive when she's finished!