Britain's Wild Flowers
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Since the Second World War, the UK has lost 97% of its native wildflower habitats. These meadows used to be managed for hay-making and grazing, and were hubs of rich biodiversity, bursting with native plants, insects and animals. This once invaluable feature of our countryside is now a rarity, with wildflower abundance a fraction of what it was. Many of the UK’s wildflowers are in serious decline or endangered, and they need better protection.
Stocking your garden with native wildflowers (responsibly sourced in the UK) attracts a wide diversity of birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife, which also helps stop wildflower decline through pollination. Growing wildflowers in urban areas also helps to remind us and others how special our own native flowers are and how important it is to protect and conserve our remaining wildflower meadow habitats.
Sadly the main cause of the demise of our wildflowers is pollution. Pollution from factories, sewage, car and fertilizers. Much of the wildflowers of lowland Britain require poor soils but ironically the pollutants actually in most cases enrich our soil and make it more difficult for native flora to survive.
For example you may have noticed how river banks seem to be choked with nettles? Nettles love rich soil and have out competed other plants by utilising the nitrates that have leached into the water from poor farming practices.
Wildflowers are not simply decoration for the countryside. They support a myriad of other creatures. On 30th september 2014, conservation organisation WWF released its Living Planet report.The report suggests that 50% of wildlife has been lost from the planet as a whole in the last 4 decades. WWF Director General March Lambertini commented on the report saying "Biodiversity is a crucial part of the systems that sustain life on Earth - and the barometer of what we are doing to this plantet, our only home. We urgently need bold global action in all sectors of society to build a more sustainable future."
Where soil fertility is too high to allow perennial wildflowers to flourish, consider sowing a cornfield annual mix that includes plants such as cornflower, corn poppy, corn marigold and corncockle. Some barley and wheat seed will add an authentic touch.
Converting a lawn to a meadow
Lawns can be converted into wildflower meadows, but it can take a number of years for the balance between grass and wildflowers to be established.
Grasses can be very vigorous and may out-compete wild flowers. To reduce the vigour of established grassland, introduce semi-parasitic plants. Suitable plants include Rhinanthus species (rattle), Euphrasia species (eyebright) and Pedicularis palustris and P. sylvatica (lousewort). The most useful is Rhinanthus minor (yellow rattle). In late summer or autumn seed is broadcast onto grass that has been cut short. It is an annual and can be eliminated from grassland in one year if prevented from seeding by cutting.
As I wandered the forest,
The green leaves among,
I heard a Wild Flower
Singing a song.
'I slept in the earth
In the silent night,
I murmured my fears
And I felt delight.
'In the morning I went
As rosy as morn,
To seek for new joy;
But oh! met with scorn.'
Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust.
I may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch of pain from thy hand and pluck it. I fear lest the day end before I am aware, and the time of offering go by.
Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this flower in thy service and pluck it while there is time.
I am a kind word uttered and repeated
By the voice of Nature;
I am a star fallen from the
Blue tent upon the green carpet.
I am the daughter of the elements
With whom Winter conceived;
To whom Spring gave birth; I was
Reared in the lap of Summer and I
Slept in the bed of Autumn.
Pink, small, and punctual,
Covert in April,
Candid in May,
Dear to the moss,
Known by the knoll,
Next to the robin
In every human soul.
Bold little beauty,
Bedecked with thee,
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