Guest blogger Helier, from @garden_goddess_uk, shares with us an insight into Spring in her garden and her experience with seed balls.
Hasn’t it been so cold and dry this year! As a gardener I’m sure I’m not alone in constantly checking the weather forecast for frost and the fleecing of tiny seedlings in the greenhouse, and my garden is just desperate for rain.
Hi, I’m Helier, garden_goddess_uk on instagram, and I love growing annual flowers from seed in my greenhouse and cutting garden, as well as looking after the rest of my garden in Hampshire. Spring is the busy time of the year for sowing seeds – over the past couple of months I’ve been busy sowing all the hardy and half hardy annuals in trays in the greenhouse. I love cutting and filling my house with garden flowers like salvia blue clary, scabious black cat, calendula, nigella, cornflowers and antirrhinums to name but a few! Now it’s all about potting on and hardening off these plant babies for life outside the greenhouse – and waiting until those cold nights and frosts come to an end! It’s not been an easy year for flower growing.
This time last year the best thing happened – my wild flower area that I had sown the previous year around my fruit trees with a seed ball mix of wild flower seeds just started flowering profusely. From May to August I was treated to the most fabulous display of wild flowers. It’s an area of ground which had been impossible to cultivate – solid clay and flint soil, not much grows there apart from the occasional cowslip – which actually is the best type of ground for wild flowers. I’d sown some wildflower seedballs the previous year but I hadn’t been prepared for the summer of flowers that appeared the following year. Cow parsley, ox eye daisies, red campion, clover, the list went on, and as the weeks passed a new succession of flowers appeared for me to identify. Bees and butterflies flocked to this area, my little wildflower patch was the perfect environment for all the much-wanted pollinators that are not only good for my own flowers and garden, but are an essential in a well-functioning eco system. And all from a pack of tiny clay seed balls sowed the previous year.
Creating a small wild flower area – now’s the time to do it!
So this year I’ve decided to expand my wildflower growing. It’s just a few square meters on some poor soil but luckily no grass (as this competes with the wild flowers), a bit of bare soil behind a bench where I can sit with a view over my cutting garden. I picture myself sitting on the bench in a balmy summer evening being enveloped in gorgeous wildflowers – I can but dream!
I chose my own wildflower mix from Seedball, including cornflowers, wild clary, white campion and poppies to name but a few. I gave the soil a quick rake over, and then sprinkled over my seed balls. And then it rained – result!! Just what we needed. And that is it! Well almost…. read on…
Growing a wildflower area is easy to do, but it can take time to get going, you do need patience for it to establish. If there is grass or perennial weeds, do your best to remove these and rake over the area so there is some soil for the seeds to fall into when you sow. I’ve been pulling up those perennial weeds with long tap roots as much as possible, just a few at a time. Already I can see the leaves growing of this year’s wild flowers in my first area, all now self-seeded from last year.
I can also transplant in some of the flowers that I’ve sown in the greenhouse. The cornflowers are almost ready but the best thing I ever did was to pinch out the growth tip of each one once it had three or four pairs of leaves. This gives you much bushier plants with many more flower stems – pinching out the growth tip diverts the growth hormone in a seedling away from the leading stem and allows lateral stems to grow – many many of them which basically means many more flowers! It feels so brutal but boy does it work! Within a week each pinched out cornflower had many more flower stems growing, the plants become lovely and bushy rather than thin and spindly. They will look fabulous in my wild flower area this year while I wait for the seedball seeds to germinate.
I also sowed some foxgloves last year (foxgloves are biennial which means they need two years to grow before they flower), which I’ll also be transplanting into the shadier hedgerow area along with some poppies and forgetmenots from the greenhouse. The bees will love them!
Growing a wild flower area does take patience. And it doesn’t always get going until the following year, so don’t give up if the first year isn’t the show stopper you hoped it to be. But once it gets going, it is the most wonderful thing. And the rain that the forecast is telling us is coming over the next couple of weeks is exactly what we (and our gardens) need! I can’t wait to see what wild flowers this year will bring.