Sowing Seeds Responsibly


There has been a severe decline in wildflowers over the last five decades, mainly due to the increased mechanisation of agriculture and the spread of urbanisation. Along with the similar reduction in hedgerows, this has had a tragic impact on numerous species of birds and insects and has been cited as one of the causes of the terrifying decline in bees. The planting of natives and wildflowers should be encouraged at every opportunity, but we would ask that this is done in a responsible manner.

Having a wildflower patch in one’s garden is a wonderful thing. Whereas a beautiful bed or border reflects the creativeness, skill and dedication of the gardener, the wildflower bed demonstrates the wonder and truly amazing diversity of nature. The breath taking beauty of wildflowers is often fleeting encouraging regular visits. If you have a wildflower patch, don’t just admire from afar: get as close as you can, preferably down on your hands and knees. The closer you get, the more you’ll find to marvel at; not only the delicate and often hidden wonders of the flowers themselves, but the myriad of insects and fauna that they provide for.

Like all flowers, wildflowers have their place. Indiscriminate planting has had as detrimental an effect on native wildflowers as any other factor. Plants are competitive in nature and the introduction of a new species, or sub species may wipe out the original native. Think of what the introduction of grey squirrels has done to the native red squirrel population in the UK and Ireland. Unlike the squirrels, however, the differences in plant species may be very subtle. Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), for example is a native variety in Britain and Ireland. Many attempts at conservation have mistakenly planted a sub-species (var. sativum) which has been developed as a fodder crop. It is subtly, but definitely different than the truly native variety and has sometimes caused the very opposite effect to the well-meaning intentions of the conservationists.

Foremost amongst all of the gardening adages should be “what’s planted in the garden stays in the garden”. That this is a policy that requires regular review and attention was, to my embarrassment, taught to me the hard way. When we arrived here in Mayo, we planted Yellow Flag Iris along a small ditch at the edge of our land. We had, we thought, done the responsible thing and planted them in plastic drainage pots. It was after several years of admiring from afar, that I noticed that the Iris had escaped, and was galloping across our neighbouring farmer’s field. Hours of digging in a boggy, rocky field followed in order to try and rectify our ‘leak’. And this was required the next year, and the next. Plastic pots may work in many areas, but they are not enough to contain the exuberance of Flag Iris in our part of the world.

Forethought when planting is also important, and not just with the accepted invasive species. Flowers are designed by nature to go forth and multiply and have come up with a number of ingenious methods in which to do so. Seeds often travel further than one might expect, especially as a number of plants have the policy ‘go forth my children and thrive, but not where you can steal my food and space’. I have a soft spot for ornamental poppies., but have to accept that they produce seeds in the tens of thousands. Whilst the land around me is not particular conducive for poppies, I have to balance that with the fact that it’s grazing land: and ornamental poppies are bad news for any animal that eats them. So I need to remember to remove the seed heads every year. Similarly, I would love to sow Red Clover as a green manure, but have to bear in mind that my neighbour, a sheep farmer, may not be best pleased if they were to spread to his land as Red Clover can have a contraceptive effect on sheep.

These principles are not just for us in our rural environment. Wildflowers can spread like wildfire in the right conditions. Whilst this is a often a fantastic attribute when cultivating our own garden, we need to bear in mind that our neighbours may have different tastes.

Seedaholic has gone to some lengths to ensure that the wildflower seeds that we sell are produced within the British Isles.. For example, Cornflower seeds are produced by plants in Hertfordshire. We do not import substitutions for any of our wildflower seeds from outside the British Isles or Ireland, and have a strict policy of never substituting wildflower seeds. We strongly encourage the sowing of natives and wildflowers, but ask that it is done responsibly. Please do not plant seeds that we sell you in the wild unless considerable research and consultation with a local conservation expert has been carried out. Wildflowers are good, but they are not always good in your local environment.

© 2011

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