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Page 14What About a Meadow?

A meadow changes colour with the seasons.

A meadow changes colour with the seasons.
A meadow should be green all summer (even in drought) until just before it finishes flowering in mid or late summer (depending on mixture). It will then become golden yellow in colour and need to be cut back and cleaned up after flowering. In autumn it will reflect the season as it recovers from its final cut. In wintertime, your meadow should remain a dull green colour. In the first two years it will have some bare patches, where seeds will germinate. Give it time to improve, if you feel it is too bare you can over sow it with wild grass. If you like the blazing colours of the annuals that grew in the first year create island beds for them in the meadow and rotavate these every autumn. Use Annual Mix No EC07, (seek advice).

What does a meadow look like? 

In the early years when you first sow your meadow it should grow to an even height with a blaze of colour. Especially if you sow extra annuals.

New meadows tend to flower in high summer for 12 weeks or more. Over time the meadow will have more species, flower for longer and at different heights but not in a single blaze. Older meadows are better viewed from close up. 
An older meadow will be far more complex and interesting due to the diversity of species and range of colourful flowers.

Create a wildflower path through the meadow so you can see the flowers close up, cut the grass with a lawn mower and keep it very short. So there is work after all!
Wildflowers are functional plants, they are also great fun to pick, fresh or dry, they can be used to benefit wildlife & stop erosion. Meadows are more than pretty they are ecosystems.

Growing Instruction: Natural succession

'Meadow Meditation'

In the wild, meadows take years to evolve.  Wildflowers usually follow a clear succession in becoming a meadow.

The wildflower growers aim is to regularly cut a meadow at least one or twice per year to halt the succession and spread of grasses, shrubs or even trees.

The secret of growing a great meadow falls to halting its natural succession just before the taller tougher grasses take over and the 'meadow starts thinking it's a forest'.   In nature, Annual species grow first, then Biennials flower in the second year. Perennial herbaceous plants and fine grasses then succeed these.  In time in an uncut meadow taller tougher grass species arrive & kill the flora. We must cut to control the spread of these grasses, as they cannot survive regular cutting.  Annuals and Biennials die off and do not reappear unless they are species suited to growing in grassland.  

Where semi-parasitic annual species of old hay meadows such as Bartsia, Eyebright, Loosewort or Yellow Rattle (grass dependent species) are supplied in our non-grass mixtures, a host grass at 0.5% may be included in pure 100% wildflower mixtures.  Yellow Rattle reduces the growth of grass and is essential to most meadows, it can be over sown into existing grassland and needs low temperatures to germinate. All the above species are disappearing in the wild.