Kate Hardy

Go wild in your garden!

Kate Hardy

Our gardening expert Karen Murphy shares her tips for going wild in your garden this summer

I don’t know whether you’ve ever visited the Olympic Park in London, where in among the stadia and boxy buildings are large green spaces, planned meticulously and planted up a treat with a rainbow of wildflowers for 2012.

Forget the sporting glory, they were a spectacle in themselves! As you walked in between the events during those two weeks, it was amazing how many nearby commented on the scale and splendour of the planting. Perfect blue cornflowers mixed with contrasting orange and red poppies, and yellow daisies mingled with calendula. What a treat!

It’s so inspiring to see such things, and made me want to get home and try something similar on a smaller scale. Right now is a great time to get wildflower beds going, so the plants can take advantage of the warmer, sunnier days and reach up to the sunlight. Plus, the early summer rainy days will further help establishment.

There are two things to note while you’re planning the project, do you want a perennial planting scheme or an annual one, to enjoy for one season only?

Secondly, choose your seed carefully. Mixes with grass seed in to bulk them up will be taken over by vigorous meadow grass, soaking up all the water and nutrients you meant for your flowers. Also, wildflowers needn’t necessarily be native – there is an abundance of non-natives that bees and butterflies will flock to, of course, so just think about the colours you want. 

Have a look at the website www.sarahraven.com for good-quality seed mixes in a range of shades. I think my favourite is the elegant blue and white mix, with cornflowers, gypsophila, Ammi majus and convolvulus – just stunning. But a close second is a super-zingy cottage garden mix of zinnias, cosmos and others, for a fiery pink and orange summer. 

As for sowing, it’s quite simple – prepare where you want to sow (which should be in a nice, sunny spot) by weeding and raking the soil to a crumbly tilth, leaving it fertiliser-free to emulate natural conditions. Broadcast-sow your seed carefully over the area, rake and water it in and watch it grow.

3 of the best... pest-busting garden wildlife! 

1 Blue tits
Along with Great tits, they comb the garden for caterpillars and aphids to feed their young.  

2 Frogs
Frogs, toads and newts love to eat slugs, snails and other insects such as weevils.

3 Hedgehogs
They feast on all manner of beetles, caterpillars and slugs regularly at night.

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