Gardening: From meadows to motorway embankments, how we fell back in love with wildflowers

ALL GROW: Celebrate the glory of wild flowers on National Meadows Day next week.
ALL GROW: Celebrate the glory of wild flowers on National Meadows Day next week.
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From meadows to motorway embankments, wild flowers are everywhere, writes David Overend.

Himalayan balsam may be pretty and long-flowering, but it is taking over huge areas of damp and shady land once the home to native, less-invasive wild flowers.

Wild garlic is another rampaging plant, but it’s still a delight (if somewhat of a smelly one) when in spring it clothes the ground in woodlands.

Elsewhere, the Yorkshire Dales are home to many rare and beautiful orchids, and the limestone terraces of the Craven area provide ideal growing conditions for numerous small but beautiful plants.

The most popular single species is the field poppy (Papaver rhoeas), with its striking scarlet, single flowers, each petal often marked at its base with a black blotch, but a lot of gardeners also choose a cornfield mix for its amazing colour variations.

And on the east coast, the clifftops are covered by vast tracts of red campion.

But wild flowers come in many forms and, given a chance, will thrive. So, the reduction in the use of herbicides, particularly on roadsides, has encouraged many plants to take hold.

Now it’s possible to see common orchids blooming within feet of the busiest motorways. These are the obvious ones whose size and colour make them stand out. But lower down, in and among the grass, living in cracks in mortar are hundreds of wild flowers just getting on with their business of growing, seeding and increasing their numbers.

Tiny cranesbills, sedums, saxifrages, bell flowers... look and you’ll find them.

So, next week, get out and about to see for yourself because July 1 is National Meadows Day, which celebrates wild-flower grasslands, providing an opportunity to showcase the amazing world of wild flowers and species.

Feedback from last year showed that many people attending events were surprised by the diversity of the flora and sheer number of insects and reptiles found in the meadows they visited.

This reinforces the importance of meadow preservation, and of the role of the National Meadows Day events in educating the public about a habitat that is disappearing fast.

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