In Devon Wildlife Trust’s wildlife gardening blog Kath Burgess explains how to bring a little natural colour to your own green space…
This was our first year of our annual flower bed. We decided last year to give up on our small wildflower meadow because the soil had been so enriched by the previous owners activities – chickens, bonfires and general dumping ground, meant that none of our carefully sown perennial wildflowers thrived – but the grasses and nettles did! The area was also cast in shade for much of the day due to a large hedgerow oak - in hindsight not an ideal spot!
So we have now moved our own chickens onto the most shaded patch and have created an annual border in the sunnier spot. We cultivated the area in early spring and sowed seeds derived from annual wildflower seed mixes and seed carefully harvested in the wild with help from our children last summer.
The first flowers to appear and rapidly take over the border were the brilliantly pink corn cockle. Next year I’ll weed out more of these as they do tend to dominate, they are also the tallest and most prolific flower alongside the less invasive oxeye daisy. Second to show were cornflowers in shades of mauve, pink, white and blue, they germinated brilliantly, looked fantastic and don’t crowd out other plants. Also growing, but less frequent, are corn marigold, corn chamomile, rough poppy and a pink catchfly (we haven’t yet been able to identify this species – it certainly wasn’t in the seed mix!), a most attractive but singular plant in our busy border. We also sowed dwarf sunflowers, annual salvias and cosmos. Apart from the cosmos they have all appeared but are rather stunted. Now about to make an appearance is the delicate flowers of love in the mist but again a stunted form!
One of my favourites has been a variety of poppy called Ladybird which I discovered at last year’s Hampton Court flower show. It is a small poppy, at least in our garden it is, with a single black spot within each brilliant red petal – so not very taxing to name!
The annual seeds have been complimented with some plugs, teasel for the finches, borage, echium and bergamot for the insects. Too really enhance bee habitat I have planted a Hidcote lavender border to the bed. I grew these lavenders on from plugs and so I am hoping that this wet weather hasn’t hindered their establishment and fingers crossed they’ll flower next year.
I’d recommend growing an annual border as it is cheap to establish, requires minimal maintenance (pulling a few undesired plants), and will provide a continual source of seed and flower provided you collect and allow seeds to fall within an annual harrowed bed. It is fascinating to see which flowers pop up and discover which are the most popular with bees and other insects. I’ve also found the bed to be an endless source of cut flowers for the house.
Our annual flower bed is set to be a permanent feature in our garden and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.
For more gardening tips visit DWT’s Wildlife Gardening webpages