FAQs – Plants

What size are the plug plants?

Mostly they are about 40cc in size, though some species are available at larger sizes if ordering in quantity.  Please contact us for a quote.

What planting density should I use?

Typical wild flower planting densities range from 5/m² to 10/m². If budget is a problem it is preferable to maintain the plant density but only a percentage of the site. Lower planting densities spread thinly across the site are not recommended because they lack both visual impact and, more importantly, result in reduced seed production because of the difficulties that distance creates for effective cross pollination.

When and how should I plant?

The best season for planting is Autumn. The plants can establish a good root system through the Winter before facing competition from existing vegetation in late Spring. The soft ground conditions also facilitate planting. Spring planting is also usually satisfactory. The small root volume of plug plants makes them susceptible to desiccation so late Spring and Summer planting should be avoided unless spot irrigation can be applied at half litre per plant per week, should the need arise, after planting until significant rain falls.  Having said that, in recent years we have experienced extended rainfall in the summer months, so planting can take place at almost any time as long as the ground is not frozen and you are able to water regularly until the plants have established.

Plant survival and growth rates are enhanced if plugs can be planted into bare patches. Spraying small patches with a systemic herbicide will create the desired gaps very quickly. Alternatively the gaps can be created physically using a spade or mattock. H. V. Horticulture have developed a scuttion (a type of winged auger) which removes a disc of turf to create a planting space for 2 to 3 plug plants. Experience shows that if the mechanically or chemically cleared area exceeds 30 cm in diameter then weed germination is likely to be a problem. Planting speeds are typically over 100 plants per hour.

Specialist dibbers can be used to create a planting hole identical to the shape of the module, thus ensuring good root to soil contact. The dibber also creates a chet at the bottom of the planting hole to encourage deep rooting.

Are plants vulnerable to being eaten?

Plug plants when first planted are vulnerable to being nibbled by slugs and snails, particularly if there is frequent rain.  If using slug pellets, please use ones which will not harm birds or other animals/insects.

Rabbits enjoy eating some plants, e.g. Kidney Vetch flowers.

Should I plant a mix of plants or keep species together in groupings?

Choose whatever planting arrangement suits but avoid planting in straight lines.

Natural meadows and pastures are a tapestry of different flowers, with late flowering species succeeding early ones to maintain a succession of colour with a plant density of 40/m². It is not economical to imitate this on any large scale. Plant sizes and spacings in taller, mown meadows are much larger, the texture is correspondingly coarser and more easily reproduced. Begin with very few (3-5) species in irregular groups of varying size and variable spacing both within and between groups. Use plant densities of 3-5/m², either in intermingled drifts or in a complete mix species. Plant introductions can be increased to 10-12/m² and can include Spring and late Summer flowering plants to spread the season.

Stronger visual effect can be achieved from planting single species drifts. Clumps of plants can also look effective. Flowering meadows often have a very heterogeneous mix of species. One of the advantages of plants is the control offered over where they are planted. Damper liking species can be planted in the wetter areas, spring flowering plants can be planted together so cutting can start earlier, or very dense plantings can be made to create a ‘wild’ herbaceous border.

How can I use wild flower plants in naturalist settings?

Some examples of species use by habitat are set out below:

Fertile Grassland Meadow

In a fertile grass area the taller and more vigorous wild flowers must be used. Possible choices are the Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) and Black Knapweed (Centaurea nigra), Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense), Musk Mallow (Malva moschata) and Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis). Other effective plants include Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) which can clamber over tall grass, Red Campion (Silene dioica) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

Grass competition and growth needs to be controlled in the establishment year, the flowers actually use the long grass to provide support for their rather leggy growth. Mixed planting creates an attractive blend of white, blue and purple capable of maintaining appeal from May to September.

Low Fertility Calcareous Meadow

This low mixed sward can be planted with some of the most attractive wild flowers, many of which are important food sources for butterflies. Examples are Birds Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Small Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria), Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum), Clustered Bell Flower (Campanula glomerata) and the Knapweeds. Other attractive wild flowers which can be included are Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Thyme (Thymus drucei), Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) and Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).

Acid Grasslands

These grasslands generally have less floralistic interest but important species include Common Tormentil (Potentilla erecta), Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile) along with Selfheal, Yarrow, Cats Ear (Hypochaeris radicata), Birds Foot Trefoil, Harebell, Meadow Buttercup and Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Damp and Wet Areas

Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus), Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) and Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) thrive in wet sites and provide useful feature flowers at water margins.

Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis), Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica), Devils Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Meadow Sweet (Filipendula ulmaria), Yellow Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) and Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) are planted in drifts in damp grassland areas.

How can I use wild flowers as components in a more formal landscape?

It is possible to create a spectacular display by using restricted colour schemes of one or a few species in clearly defined blocks. Set out below are some design ideas that have proved highly successful:-

Cowslip Meadow

Cowslips (Primula veris) can be planted into a lawn, which is kept mown at 5 cm until late February/early March. Grass cutting is stopped and the cowslips are allowed to flower for at least six to eight weeks in April and May. Cutting can be started after flowering is finished or in mid June to allow for seed dispersal. Thereafter the lawn is cut as normal.

Red Campion Hedgerow

A particularly effective way to use Red Campion (Silene dioica) is to plant along the edge of woodland and hedges. These vivid pink wild flowers can create a solid mass of colour in May and June. The plants can be cut back any time after flowering.

Oxeye Daisy Drifts

Oxeye Daisy planted at 10/m² will, within two years, create a dramatic, highly visible and reliable block of white flowers from June to August. The key to sustainability is to open up the grass sward after the Autumn cut, for example by chain harrowing. Other effective plants to use in solid drifts include Chicory (Cichorium intybus) on dry sites, Toadflax, Musk Mallow (Malva moschata), Greater and Black Knapweed, Field Scabious and Meadow Cranesbill.

Primrose Bank

Primroses (Primula vulgaris) are shade loving and can be planted into steep North and East facing grass banks or under dappled shade (e.g. in an old orchard). Normal grass management is introduced after flowering.

Wild Flower Herbaceous Borders

Dense plantings of wildflower plants will provide a long flowering season, attract butterflies. require no weeding and will only need to be cut down at the end of the season.

At the front of the bed spring flowering and the lower species are planted such as Cowslips, Wild Thyme, Harebell, Birds Foot Trefoil, Yellow Toadflax, Primrose, Lady’s Bedstraw, Cuckoo Flower and Small Scabious.

In the middle of the border are planted Self Heal, Musk mallow, Yarrow, Red Campion, Devils Bit Scabious, White Campion, Ragged Robin, Vipers Bugloss, Water Avens, Purple Loosestrife, Clustered Bellflower, Agrimony, Betony, Devils Bit Scabious, Meadow Cranesbill.

At the back of the border the tallest plants are planted, such as Oxeye Daisy, Greater and Black Knapweeds, Field Scabious, Chicory and Meadowsweet. Tufted Vetch will clamber over other species and makes an excellent climber of low fences.