We are so excited for our next stage of development. The Long Forest Wales hedgerow planting will be finished this week. So time to start focusing on our love of wildflowers.
It has been great working with Denbighshire Countryside Service Keep Wales Tidy – Cadwch Gymru’n Daclus and lots of other #Prestatyn #community groups and will continue to do so.
Plans include installing a wildflower meadow, filling the raised beds with sustainable planting. Also adding more pathways.
For ease of installation we will be utilising wildflower turf similar to that featured in the video below. Consisting of 34 species of British native wildflowers and grasses, all of them perennials.
Allowing open habitats such as wildflower meadows in urban settings. For the provision of native or naturalised grasses, wildflowers and flowering plants offers several advantages:
- Plant diversity attracts insects and other invertebrates (including butterflies, bees, spiders and millipedes), birds and mammals.
- Flowering species add a changing palate of colour to the urban environment throughout the seasons.
- Active involvement of the local community in managing the site encourages ownership values to be fostered. Activities may range from mowing to the collection of seeds for use at a new location or for sale.
- Opportunities for education and recreation abound (ranging from nature studies to art lessons).
- Even small plots of wildflower planting can change the feel of a setting. So that the creation of a wildflower meadow as part of an urban greenspace can bring a little piece of countryside into the town.
Why are wildflowers so special?
Wildflowers and wildflower-rich habitats support insects and other wildlife.
In the UK, we need a wide range of wildflowers to provide pollinators (bees and other insects that pollinate plants) with local food sources across the seasons. Including times when crops aren’t producing flowers.
Many of our favourite fruits, vegetables and nuts rely on insect pollination. For example, in the UK strawberries, raspberries, cherries and apples need to be pollinated by insects to get a good crop.
Currently, the insects do this job for free! But if the UK doesn’t have a large enough insect population we may need to develop artificial pollination methods. Which takes a lot of time and is expensive.
As many gardeners know, insects and other animals can also help in the fight against crop pests (animals and insects that damage crops and plants). This means that farmers may have to rely even more heavily on pesticides if these ‘good’ animals and insects can’t help.
Wildflowers also contribute to scientific and medical research. Some UK native wildflowers contain compounds which can be used in drugs to treat diseases. For example, foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) contain chemicals used to treat heart conditions. If we were to lose wildflower species, we could lose potential new medicines.
Just as importantly, perhaps, wildflowers are beautiful and provide us with habitats that buzz with life.
There are also strong cultural bonds that exist with recognisable species such as poppies. Which remind us of lives lost in world wars. Or of dandelions which may remind us of childhood summers.
How do wildflowers help the environment?
Wildflowers provide lots of things that insects need: food in the form of leaves, nectar and pollen, also shelter and places to breed. In return, insects pollinate the wildflowers. Enabling them to develop seeds and spread to grow in other places.
The insects themselves are eaten by birds, bats, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals, all of whom contribute to the cycle of life.
During winter when there is less food available, wildflower seeds can also be an important food source for birds and small mammals.
Wildflowers can also be really helpful to keep soil healthy. When wildflowers become established and spread their roots, they stabilise the surrounding soil.
This means that when there is a lot of rainfall, or irrigation in fields used to grow crops, soil particles and nutrients stored in the ground stick around and the soil stays healthy. This is especially important on hillsides. Where sloping ground is easily washed away if there aren’t root systems to hold the soil in place.
Without plants like wildflowers that stabilise the soil, nutrients can get washed away into nearby water systems. This causes a problem called ‘eutrophication’. Where algae spread and can make the water toxic to marine animals.
What is the difference between UK native wildflowers and other kinds of wildflowers?
A UK native wildflower species is one which is naturally found in the UK, rather than a species which has been introduced from somewhere else, usually by humans.
When the glaciers melted after the last ice age – around 10,000 years ago – these are the species that recolonised the land. However it can be difficult to determine whether a species is truly ‘native’.
Once a species has developed a self-sustaining population, that is once it can continue to grow and reproduce without help. It is considered ‘naturalised’.
Any species that was brought into the UK before 1500 AD (around the time Henry the Eighth became King of England). Has become naturalised is called an archaeophyte.
Any species naturalised after 1500 AD is called a neophyte. And any species that is non-naturalised, or ‘alien’ is called a casual species.
It’s not always obvious if a wildflower is native or non-native by looking at it. But by knowing the name of the species, it’s possible to look up its native distribution (the geographical area in which it is native).
But what’s so great about native wild flowers?
Native wildflowers have grown and evolved for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years here in the climate and environment of the UK.
This means that they have evolved alongside other native wildlife and organisms, often benefiting each other.
For example, many native wildflowers have flower shapes, sizes, colours and the time when they bloom that are attractive to UK pollinators. Some insects, such as some bumblebee species, are very picky about where they get their food and need certain UK native wildflower species to survive.
Native wildflower species have also adapted to environmental conditions here in the UK, so they can be easier to care for than non-natives.
We are so pleased that we will be entering the RHS “Its your Neighbourhood” and will be included in the Prestatyn Wales in Bloom and Britain in Bloom entries. Also that the site will be featured on the BCC as part of Prestatyn’s 2018 entry.
Very soon we will be posting about some very exciting news that involves good friends of ours. Also what we will be doing together during 2019.