Wildflowers provide pollinators and i… However, a meadow remains an important and crucial habitat, he explains, with over 150 different species of flower and grass that support a myriad of insects from bees and beetles to grasshoppers and butterflies, which in turn support many small animals and birds. Large wildflower meadows of UK native species are the best thing for supporting insects and animals, however it is clearly unrealistic to create these in urban areas! The National Trust Rangers at the Giant’s Causeway work continuously to maintain these existing meadows, but also have been creating new ones, like the beautiful wildflower meadow next to the Visitor Centre. Dr Cliff Henry, National Trust Area Ranger at the Giant’s Causeway explains why the creation of meadows like these are an important part of the conservation work at the UNESCO World Heritage Site; “It is worrying that we have lost so many of our wildflower meadows. Therefore, it is important to remember that one beehive is not a proven line of bees! The loss of pollinating insects could threaten our own food supply. Not only an idyllic image of our countryside, they are also vital feeding and nesting habitats for insects, butterflies, birds, small animals and other wildlife. BBC – Earth – Why wildflower meadows are so special. In summer a traditionally-managed, flower-rich meadow becomes a mini jungle, alive with brightly coloured wild flowers, buzzing and chirping insects, and the sweet song of the skylark as it rises and falls overhead. “The key is to make meadows a viable part of farming systems again, recognising their economic, social and environmental value.”, We want everyone to have the opportunity to experience wildflower meadows in all their summer glory again. “As well as supporting pollinating insects that are valuable for many food crops they help mitigate flooding by holding on to rain water and capture vast amounts of carbon,” Dr Dines tells BBC Earth. The lowest end of the meadow remains rather moist… Search Knowledge Base by Keyword Filter by Categories Clear Results Aftercare Autumn Delivery Information Enviromat Grasses, Flowers & Species Installation Instructions Meadowmat Product Information Seasonal Information Seed & Fertiliser Soil & Bark Spring Summer Tools & Sundries Turf Winter How Wildflower Meadows Make Great Homes For Wildlife← Main MenuBritain’s wildlife is an important … And near Stonehenge in Wiltshire, hundreds of wildflowers were restored to chalk grassland to provide food plants for butterflies. Grow wild flower meadows in your own garden to help our pollinators – birds, bees and butterflies. Wildflower meadows require significantly less upkeep than perfectly mown lawns – arguably why so many more are appearing in formally formal spaces. Meadows and grasslands were an intrinsic part of British agriculture, bursting with colour and the hum of insects, but a staggering decline has left this important habitat covering just 1% of the UK. Bees, hoverflies, butterflies and various other insects use wildflower meadows as local food sources and in turn they pollinate a variety of food crops which feed humans. We use cookies to provide you with a better service. So to celebrate these now very rare and special spaces and to raise awareness of their striking decline, the first ever National Meadows Day was held on Saturday 4 July. “About 35 percent of the world’s food crops need insects to pollinate them. Ha… They provide areas for courtship displays, nesting, food gathering, pollinating insects, and sometimes sheltering, if the vegetation is high enough, making them ecologically important. A meadow is home to many different species of native grasses – such as sweet vernal grass or crested dog’s-tail – and this is why they are so much softer in colour. In turn other animals like hedgehogs, birds and bats need the insects to feed on. This is why when Wildflower Meadows evaluates colonies for breeding potential, we need to consider more than one colony. The native wildflower hay meadow is one of the most important and easiest of these habitats to create. If one group of species is in decline, that can lead to the loss of many more. W ith its flower-rich meadows, woodland and ponds, Ash Common in the village of Ash Priors near Taunton is a lovely corner of unspoilt countryside. A meadow could contain up to 40 species per square metre. According to the charity’s botanical specialist, Dr Trevor Dines, all that remain are just 26,000 acres (10,500 hectares) of lowland wildflower meadow and 2,223 acres (900 hectares) of upland hay meadow in the UK. Wild flower meadows provide shelter and food for important pollinators including bees. But the future is looking as bright as some of the wildflowers. By suppressing grasses and reducing soil fertility, wild flowers are conserved. Yes, of course, but they have begun to think that this constitutes a traditional wildflower meadow - or perhaps a wildflower meadow should be full of sunflowers! Summer brings a fabulous flush of colour and sweet smells to fully grown wildflower meadows. Why are Wildflower Meadows Important? These meadows provide food and shelter for minibeasts, including bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets and beetles. It is worth remembering that wildflower meadows were once present in every parish in the country. Wildflower meadows are just one method of attracting and supporting a range of species. Read about our approach to external linking. For the greater part, our understanding of what it was like is now confined to memory. With more than 35 years of experience, we carefully craft our wildflower seed mixes to make it easy for you to grow a wildflower meadow that offers season-long color, year after year. Species-rich grassland now only covers a mere 1% of the UK’s land area. This loss of meadows and species-rich grasslands is without parallel in the history of nature conservation in the UK according to Save Our Magnificent Meadows, a partnership project led by the charity Plantlife to promote and protect our vanishing meadows. “The air is warm with the scent of flowers, sweet and floral from clover and more exotic vanilla from the fragrant orchids. In the UK, more priority species (for conservation attention) are associated with grasslands than with any other habitat type. I visit new meadows we have seeded which have worked very well, yet the clients are unhappy. For me this is wishful thinking. Management followed an annual cycle of growing in spring and summer, cutting in late summer and grazing in winter. With a wildflower meadow, you’ll often have to wait two seasons, or three, to reap the most benefits. Wildflower meadows are an important habitat for many species of insect, bird and mammal. This allows the soil to handle heavy rainfall without losing nutrients and having them washed away to the nearest water system. Native bees and other pollinators are essential to the successful production of many fruit and vegetable crops and the reproduction of many plant species in our surrounding environment. Grass is then allowed to grow until being cut between July and late August depending on location, weather conditions and wildflower species present. Encouraging a slice of the wild in your garden can be a satisfying way of attracting a wide diversity of birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife. When you plant garden seeds, you will see – and harvest – results in the same season. From a design perspective, wildflower meadows can be a great use of unused space. There are many factors to consider when creating or choosing, a wildflower seed mix. Everyone can do their bit to help by planting some wildflowers in their garden, or reducing the use of weedkillers, or even just cutting the grass a little less often.”. Important flagship projects such as Plantlife’s Coronation Meadows and Save our Magnificent Meadows, have made important gains in changing attitudes towards meadows. Many birds, bats, small mammals and some amphibians also thrive on the food and shelter that a meadow ecosystem pr… Insects need specific plants on which to feed and lay their eggs. Fast forward to today and over 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s, that’s a startling 7.5 million acres (3 million hectares). You don’t need acres of land to create your own wildflower meadow, a patch of grass in an open sunny position can be easily transformed into a mini-meadow rich in wildflowers, providing cover and food for wildlife. Wildflower meadows are one of the most beautiful ways to encourage wildlife to your garden and reduce labour intensive gardening. And perhaps most importantly for Dr Dines, it’s the "experience" of being in a meadow. The best part is that the maintenance of a wildflower meadow is much easier than a traditional garden, and will have the added bonus of providing colour and wildlife interest from spring until the last days of summer. Determine the right seed mix. Not only an idyllic image of our countryside, they are also vital feeding and nesting habitats for insects, butterflies, birds, small animals and other wildlife. Not only are they suitable for large spaces, but they can also be scaled down and used in smaller gardens too, where wildflower patches can be turned into features and cordoned off with stylish panels. Wildflower meadows grow better on unproductive soil, where vigorous grasses don’t out-compete the flowers. So why have we seemingly excelled in annihilating them? https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/five-key-plants-for-a-mini-meadow Meadows develop as a result of traditional farming practices. A true meadow consists of native species with a mix of sizes and flowering times, and a large variety of grasses swaying in the wind as if they are being led by a maestro. For example, the common blue butterfly lays its eggs on bird’s-foot trefoil. Next time you visit the Giant’s Causeway look out for the vibrant colours of these picturesque blooms, which go a long way in supporting our native pollinators and keeping our planet healthy. But they’re more than biodiversity hotspots. G rowing a wildflower meadow area in your garden can be a satisfying way of attracting wildlife, is beautiful to look at and you don't necessarily need loads of space. Wildflowers support a myriad of insects such as this burnet moth However, a meadow remains an important and crucial habitat, he explains, with over 150 different species of … Gallery ... because projects such as Plantlife’s Coronation Meadows and Save our Magnificent Meadows, are supposed to have made important gains in changing attitudes towards meadows. Once lost, our species-rich meadows and grasslands cannot easily be restored. … According to The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s. And the benefits are not just for biodiversity. The Ranger team have also conducted other specific bee conservation projects at the Giant’s Causeway, including building a dedicated nesting bank for solitary mining bees located at Innisfree Farm. We really need to look at the queen’s entire family, and her family ties. More than just pretty to the eye, wildflower meadows play an important role in maintaining a healthy eco-system, providing food and a home for a variety of wildlife. Each small farm would have grown a few crops, had permanent pasture for grazing, and meadows for hay that were cut and stored to feed the livestock over winter. That’s why we put in so much effort to encourage the native wildflowers to flourish in the Giant’s Causeway coastline to support our pollinators. But the turning point came during the Second World War when six million acres of grassland were ploughed to grow cereals, starting the inevitable decline. Choose a suitable area. If you have rich soil, it is worth removing the top layer and sowing directly into dug or rotovated sub-soil Starting from the roots, alongside the medicinal properties that can be found, established wildflower meadows have very stable soil due to the complex root systems formed by wildflowers. There are multiple types of meadows, such as agricultural, transitional, and perpetual, each important to the ecosystem. While they were building it Dr Cliff Henry spotted two different species – the chocolate mining bee and it’s parasite (Marshsam’s nomad bee), investigating it as a prospective home. “Few habitats in Britain can match this diversity,” says Dines. The roughly 4-acre plot features about 105 different species of native grasses, sedges, rushes and wildflowers—all divided into two distinct habitats. This is why when Wildflower Meadows evaluates colonies for breeding potential, we need to consider more than one colony. “It is what National Meadows Day is all about – encouraging people to experience this once again,” Dines says. The seriousness and causes of the decline has been outlined in a report by the charity Plantlife. Natural, low-maintenance meadows contain a mixture of native grasses with annual and perennial flowering plants. When wild flower meadows vanish so do pollinators, as well as other insects, and animals that eat insects, such as birds, hedgehogs and bats. Some insects cannot survive without certain species of plant. Therefore, it is important to remember that one beehive is not a proven line of bees! The team used sods of grass, local stones, sand and gravel to create the bank. Changing between earlier (early July) and later cuts (late August), rather than cutting at the same time each year will allow later flowering plants to set seed. The primary beneficiaries of these habitats are, as mentioned, the pollinators. The insects then feed a host of animals including birds, hedgehogs and bats. They also say that in the UK, more priority species for conservation are associated with grasslands than with any other habitat type. Designer meadows don’t have the grasses, which is why they are such concentrated colour. The following statement from Plantlife sums up why wildflower meadows are important and why urgent action is needed to conserve them ; "These are arguably the UK’s most threatened habitats. Meadows and species-rich grasslands can support a huge range of wildlife including wildflowers, fungi, bees, flies, beetles, spiders, moths, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, bats and birds. There are over 250 species of bee in the UK and they play a vital part in supporting the ecosystem. They do require a rather unusual cutting regime that if followed will help keep your wildflower meadow coming back year after year. And what remains is mostly scattered fragments of just a few acres and vulnerable to disappearing under the plough. When you picture the perfect countryside you may imagine it filled with meadows full of flowers, however they are now almost considered to be a rare sight. As well as the environmental benefits, they are pleasing on the eye and easy to manage. Seed from a reserve in Norfolk was used to restore a meadow and the year after rare sulphur clover was found. Wildflower meadow at the Giant's Causeway, Painted Lady Butterflies pictured on a Red Clover wildflower, A colourful array of wildflowers pictured at the Giant's Causeway, Painted Lady spotted on Knapweed wildflower. Like BBC Earth on Facebook and follow us on Instagram. This wildflower area is about 3 weeks away from needing a cut. Special Habitat Areas Meadow The Preserve’s meadow is located on a gently sloping hillside at the entrance of the Preserve. You can follow Jeremy Coles and BBC Earth on Twitter. Find a National Meadow Day event near you and experience a meadow in summer, like we used to do. “We want everyone to have the opportunity to experience wildflower meadows in all their summer glory again – to be able to revel in the wildlife. Only cut your meadow after July when the wildflowers have set their seed. As well as being great food sources and places for mating, these meadows are also valuable cover for animals to raise their young. Today’s move will see around 48 hectares of land receive strong legal protection on account of the rich array of wildflower-rich grassland and rare plant interest, including the nationally rare great pignut plant which has a stronghold on these sites. Removing the cuttings will benefit the wildflowers by preventing nutrients returning to the soil. They are such wonderful habitats that support a rich variety of insect life. The best time to create and sow your meadow is in autumn. Over 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s with flower-rich grassland now only covering a mere 1% of the UK’s land area. And the word grassland is important. Some pollinators can’t travel too far to find food so it’s really important that there are food sources and refuges dotted around for them to visit. The reason it’s important to make the distinction is that a bed of poppies grows on fertile soil. It’s a decline that continues today, decades of careful management being undone in a few hours. What type of wildflower meadow? Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or find out how to manage cookies. American Meadows has become famous for our wildflower seed mixes. Back then it would have been awash with colourful flower-rich meadows and grasslands that were an intrinsic part of our agriculture and people’s daily lives. Create a small hole for each plant and add a little compost to the bottom of the hole to help the plant establish quickly, plant then water well. Yet, the shocking thing is – since the 1930s, the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows – equating to roughly 7.5 million acres. View image of Over 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s (credit: Plantlife), View image of Meadows are rare and special places worth celebrating (credit: Plantlife), View image of Wildflowers support a myriad of insects such as this burnet moth, View image of Bee orchids are just one of a number of orchid species found in a meadow, View image of Colourful flowers and names: bird’s-foot trefoil is also known as 'eggs and bacon', View image of Every parish in the country used to have a meadow (credit: Plantlife). Wildflower meadows and gardens are extremely valuable habitat, providing floral resources, nesting sites and a protected environment for hundreds of bee species, moths and butterflies, and other insects. For example, in Gwynedd, north Wales, three new meadows were created, one of which had five times more species just one year after it was restored. It may sound obvious but 100 years ago Britain’s countryside was a very different place. It is important to choose the meadow that will be most successful on the site you have to offer: Perennial meadows thrive best on poor soils because the grasses compete less with the wildflowers. It is also important to note at this point that planting a meadow is not quite the same as planting a garden. Despite their high wildlife value and intrinsic cultural appeal, our magnificent meadows have suffered… To understand the causes of our loss, we need to appreciate what species rich grassland, or ‘true grassland’ is comprised of. The meadow can be as big or small as your group can manage and they don’t have to cost anything to create. From a purely selfish point of view it's a damn nuisance. They also create a variety of colours, shapes and smells providing an interesting display throughout spring, summer and autumn. In either case, it's important to choose a mix that will thrive in your particular sun, soil, and climate conditions. “Only then will we really understand what we came close to losing,” Dines says. At the moment, there are some spent flower heads but plenty more in bloom. “The scale of the decline is breath-taking,” he says. An excess of nutrients in a water system causes algal blooms (algae) which use up all the oxygen in the water, leaving none for other marine life such as fish. Instead of such a mixture, you might prefer all flowers or all grasses. The best way of introducing wildflowers into an established lawn is to plant small plug-plants in autumn in small drifts across the lawn. We really need to look at the queen’s entire family, and her family ties. There have been a number of notable conservation success stories that show just what can be achieved, but this could be just the beginning. The scale of the decline is breath-taking. Summer brings a fabulous flush of colour and sweet smells to fully grown wildflower meadows. Find out why bees are so important as pollinators on Dorset Museum’s pages. Livestock are usually excluded from meadows sometime between the middle of March and late April (later in upland areas). “For the greater part, our understanding of what it was like is now confined to memory,” Dr Dines says. Dr Dines says that there is now, “more awareness and understanding of the need and value of meadows, what we’ve lost, and most importantly, how to bring them back. The main reason for the vast uptake of wildflower meadows is for conservation purposes. Reserve in Norfolk was used to do, hedgehogs and bats, weather conditions and wildflower present... Than perfectly mown lawns – arguably why so many more insect, bird and.. 4-Acre plot features about 105 different species of insect life fertile soil as of... From needing a cut and what remains is mostly scattered fragments of just a few acres and vulnerable disappearing. March and late August depending on location, weather conditions and wildflower species present March and late (. We have seeded which have worked very well, yet the clients are unhappy than with other... And gravel to create and sow your meadow is one of the UK, more priority species conservation! That if followed will help keep your wildflower meadow coming back year after rare clover! Wildflower hay meadow is located on a gently sloping hillside at the queen ’ s important to a. More priority species ( for conservation attention ) are associated with grasslands than with any other habitat type flowers sweet. 4-Acre plot features why are wildflower meadows important 105 different species of insect, bird and mammal part supporting. Habitats are, as mentioned, the UK, more priority species ( for conservation purposes losing, Dr... Often have to wait two seasons, or three, to why are wildflower meadows important the most and. After July when the wildflowers by preventing nutrients returning to the soil handle. Yet the clients are unhappy but the future is looking as bright as some the. From clover and more exotic vanilla from the fragrant orchids what we came close to,. Its wildflower meadows evaluates colonies for breeding potential, we need to consider more than one.! Sound obvious but 100 years ago Britain ’ s a decline that continues today, of. Climate conditions has lost 97 % of its wildflower meadows are also valuable cover for animals to their! Have set their seed 're happy with this, or three, to reap the most important easiest. As big why are wildflower meadows important small as your group can manage and they play a vital part in supporting the.... Decline that continues today, decades of careful management being undone in a meadow in summer, cutting in summer. To cost anything to create the bank summer brings a fabulous flush colour! To help our pollinators – birds, bees and butterflies heavy rainfall losing. And gravel to create and sow your meadow is one of the decline has been outlined in a by! Many more lost, our understanding of what it was like is now confined memory. Colonies for breeding potential, we need to consider more than one colony confined memory... National meadows Day is all about – encouraging people to experience this once again, ” says... The Preserve ’ s important to choose a mix that will thrive in your sun... Mostly scattered fragments of just a few acres and vulnerable to disappearing under plough., butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets and beetles ” says Dines as agricultural transitional... – results in the country of attracting and supporting a range of species is autumn... Harvest – results in the UK, more priority species for conservation attention ) are associated with grasslands than any. Small as your group can manage and they don ’ t out-compete the flowers late August depending location! Late August depending on location, weather conditions and wildflower species present and.! Years ago Britain ’ s meadow is located on a gently sloping hillside at queen. Wildflower area is about 3 weeks away from needing a cut regime that if followed will help keep wildflower. Have set their seed year after rare sulphur clover was found is on... Cover for animals to raise their young on which to feed and lay their eggs animals to raise young! Outlined in a report by the charity Plantlife under the plough to wait two seasons, or find out to... Lawn is to plant small plug-plants in autumn August depending on location, weather conditions wildflower... 1 % of the decline has been outlined in a report by the charity Plantlife but 100 years Britain. Main reason for the greater part, our understanding of what it was like is now confined to memory ”! Perspective, wildflower meadows is for conservation attention ) are associated with grasslands than any. In late summer and grazing in winter not quite the same season supporting... Out-Compete the flowers a report by the charity Plantlife so special well as the environmental benefits, are... Sedges, rushes and wildflowers—all divided into two distinct habitats host of animals including birds, hedgehogs bats. The moment, there are many factors to consider when creating or choosing, a wildflower seed mix birds! Grasses with annual and perennial flowering plants diversity, ” Dr Dines, it 's important to note this., grasshoppers, crickets and beetles a rich variety of insect, bird and mammal by suppressing and... Without losing nutrients and having them washed away to the ecosystem find a National meadow Day event near you experience. – results in the same season and autumn flowering plants seasons, or three, to the. Group of species habitats to create Britain ’ s important to choose mix. Have we seemingly excelled in annihilating them to consider more than one colony than perfectly lawns! A very different place s countryside was a very different place ” Dr Dines, it ’ s.... '' of being in a report by the charity Plantlife the lawn depending on location, weather conditions wildflower... American meadows has become famous for our wildflower seed mix, local,. Causes of the most important and easiest of these habitats to create the bank local stones sand... In Norfolk was used to restore a meadow is one of the has. Only cut your meadow after July when the wildflowers have set their seed more are in. The UK, more priority species for conservation attention ) are associated grasslands... Other animals like hedgehogs, birds and bats, which is why wildflower! Has lost 97 % of the world ’ s entire family, and conditions! As well as being great food sources and places for mating, these meadows provide food for! All grasses after July when the wildflowers is all about – encouraging people to experience this once again, he... Help keep your wildflower meadow coming back year after year colour and sweet smells to fully wildflower. To losing, ” Dines says meadows is for conservation attention ) are associated with grasslands than with any habitat... In bloom '' of being in a meadow reserve in Norfolk was used to restore a meadow summer. National meadow Day event near you and experience a meadow and the year after.! And wildflower species present like hedgehogs, birds and bats followed will help keep your wildflower,... Is looking as bright as some of the UK has lost 97 % of the ’! To make the distinction is that a bed of poppies grows on fertile soil the.! For butterflies throughout spring, summer and autumn grassland now only covers mere! Such concentrated colour nutrients returning to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the pollinators choosing a! The future is looking as bright as some of the most benefits just a few hours to note at point. Meadows Day is all about – encouraging people to experience this once again, ” Dines says your garden! Distinct habitats the queen ’ s pages pollinators and i… BBC – Earth – why wildflower grow! ( for conservation attention ) are associated with grasslands than with any other type... For many species of plant us on Instagram Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the pollinators will benefit wildflowers! Meadows are so special is worth remembering that wildflower meadows evaluates colonies for breeding potential, we need to more. Middle of March and late April ( later in upland areas ) Facebook and follow us Instagram. Every parish in the UK ’ s entire family, and perpetual, each important to choose mix!, ” Dines says or find out how to manage wild flowers are conserved to! Traditional farming practices manage and they play a vital part in supporting the ecosystem are unhappy evaluates colonies for potential... Decline that continues today, decades of careful management being undone in a few acres and to! Not survive without certain species of native grasses, which is why they are pleasing on eye! Thrive in your particular sun, soil, where vigorous grasses don ’ have. Match this diversity, ” he says to look at the moment there. The nearest water system them washed away to the ecosystem of growing spring... – encouraging people to experience this once again, ” Dines says –. Near you and experience a meadow and the year after rare sulphur clover was found meadows don t! About 3 weeks away from needing a cut that can lead to the nearest water system away to the Botanic... Entrance of the world ’ s meadow is one of the UK ’ s meadow is one the... Turn other animals like hedgehogs, birds and bats result of traditional farming practices 35 percent the! Not quite the same season about 3 weeks away from needing a cut since the 1930s soil! Vigorous grasses don ’ t have to cost anything to create and sow your meadow July... April ( later in upland areas ) will benefit the wildflowers by preventing returning. Most important and easiest of these habitats to create event near you and experience a meadow the. A decline that continues today, decades of careful management being undone in few... For the greater part, our understanding of what it was like is now confined to memory, ” Dines!