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Monday, 30 May 2016

Nature Notes 3: Wildflowers For Your Garden

"Weeds are flowers too once you get to know them".
A. A Milne

Making a wildflower garden is very easy; just dig and rake over some soil or put some compost in pots and leave it to see what appears. However you may wish to manage things a bit more carefully if you want to avoid just the most common of plants. You can obtain a surprising number of wildflower seeds on ebay, however here are two easy to grow plants that I have tried growing:


Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) is a perennial with ragged, deeply-lobed pink petals in the family Caryophyllaceae. It is a widespread though locally declining plant of marshes, damp meadows and wet woodland clearings. Carried on tall stems above clumps of dark green, strapped-shaped leaves, the lacy flowers appear to hang in the air like a mist.
Unfortunately Ragged Robin is in decline in Britain due to modern agricultural practices. Wet meadows, rush-pastures and fens have been drained for agriculture so that marsh plants have become much less frequent than before World War Two. Ragged Robins bloom from May to August, occasionally later, and  attract both butterflies and bees which feed on the nectar.
Ragged Robin is easy to grow, however it doesn't like to fight too hard with other plants for space. I grow it in pots and it needs to be kept damp so I grow mine in pots with no holes in the bottom. Clumps can be lifted and divided in autumn or sow fresh seed in late summer and leave outside to germinate the following spring. The seeds are very easy to collect as they sit in a cup-shaped flower head which can just be tipped over a jar.


Red Campion ( Silene dioica ) is a biennial or short-lived perennial which, like Ragged Robin, is in the family Caryophyllaceae. It grows in woodland, shady lanes, hedgerows and on mountain ledges and coastal cliffs. The bright rose-pink flowers of Red Campion brighten up roadsides throughout the summer. Just as the Bluebells finish flowering in our woodlands, Red Campion starts to come into bloom. If they grow side-by-side for a few weeks, they can turn a woodland floor into an amazing sea of pink and blue.
Red Campion prefers to grow in shady parts of the garden and does not tolerate marshy soil as well as Ragged Robin, so it needs pots with holes in the bottom. It is prone to blackfly. The seeds are easy to collect, just shake the seed heads over a jar.


"The Encyclopedia of British Wild Flowers" John Akeroyd

"Weeds" Richard Mabey

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