Date: 26 July 2003
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
I recently saw you in an episode of The Joy Of Gardening. Who was the man who made the butterfly meadow, because I want to do the same?
Ivan Hicks is one of the country’s most adventurous garden designers. I told him about your inquiry and he has kindly written down his ideas. ‘I began the butterfly garden by laying a spiral path, about 2m wide, of crushed chalk over a weed-proof membrane (spiral is the shape of a butterfly’s tongue).
‘This was sown with low-growing, nectar-rich butterfly plants such as bird’s-foot trefoil, scabious, thyme and low-growing grasses, which act as a nectar supplement to the butterfly’s main source, buddleja and verbena.
‘The area in between the chalk forms another spiral. This I planted with summer flowers, as well as winter feature plants, such as Tibetan cherry and Daphne odora , for year-round interest.’
Ivan Hicks, 01300 345262
Butterfly Conservation, 0870 774 4309
I want to create a wildflower meadow but haven’t a clue how to do it.
The best time to sow wild flowers is August/September, with a mix of grass and flower seed. The soil should have a fine, even tilth, like the top of apple crumble. However, as you’re starting from scratch, use winter to allow weeds to germinate so that, come spring, they can be sprayed off with glyphosate, ensuring a clean seed bed for sowing (also in spring).
Fertile soil is not required: some of the best wildflower gardens are on rubble topped with crushed chalk or concrete. If soil is particularly fertile, consider removing 5cm of topsoil. Once the ground is ready, lightly rake the seed into the soil and water with a fine spray. It is important to time mowing to allow plants to grow, flower and seed.
Summer meadows should be mown regularly until early May, then left uncut until late October. Spring meadows should be left uncut between autumn and late June. Seed mixes include Johnsons ‘Old English Country Meadow’.
Suppliers include John Chambers Wildflower Seeds, 01933 652562,
and Pictorial Meadows, 0114 222 4439.