21 October 2021

There's nothing nicer than a pop of natural colour that a patch of wildflowers can bring to a space - whether it's in a garden, park or area of common land. Sowing wildflowers is also a wonderful way to bring people together to be part of a local community activity, which is why we're backing the #BillionSeedChallenge this autumn, encouraging people to come together to plant seeds in a bid to boost the UK's diversity in the run up to COP26. 

We asked our friends at the National Wildflower Centre (NWC), part of the world famous Eden Project to tell us all about wildflowers!

Wildflower meadow

The NWC uses wildflowers to bring biodiversity, delight and colour into the lives of communities across the UK.  This year, an estimated 1bn wildflower seeds were harvested by the NWC's 'Wildflower Warriors', a small team of dedicated volunteers who hand collect and clean precious wildflower seeds for conservation and restoration projects.

"Being involved wth volunteering with the wildflower seed collection is beneficial in several ways as it involves being outdoors, learning about wildflowers, connecting with nature, doing something with a positive goal, as well as being social and meeting like-minded people.  In all, it gives us the feeling of being part of a worthwhile project!" Brian and Sue - NWC Wildflower Warriors

Species collected include poppy, corn marigold, corncockle and corn chamomie along with many of the species included in the planting guide below. Joining partners including Rotary, RVS, Marie Curie and /together, the NWC is inviting communities and individuals to work together for our planet in the run up to COP by planting builbs, seeds and trees to bolster nature.

What have wildflowers ever done for us...?

Wildflowers were once a significant part of the British landscape until WWII when huge amounts of meadow were ploughed for arable farming.  There has been a drastic loss of 97% of UK wildflower meadows since that time, and today, wildflower meadows account for less than 1% of the British countryside leading to a subsequent decline in biodiversity, which has been widely reported in recent years.

But why does that matter?  We know that wildflowers provide critical habitat for pollinators, beneficial insects and wildlife, which is essential for ecosystem function and health.  On grasslands, wildflowers help boost crop yields, add natural proteins to the diets of livestock and provide erosion control on cropland.  They also help manage and filter stormwater, create groundwater filtration systems and reduce the impacts of drought.  Not only all that, but they look great too and provide a beautiful interface between humans and nature, contributing to our health and wellbing as well as that of our planet.

Wildflowers:

  • connect people with the natural world
  • enable individuals and communities to actively increase biodiversity
  • transform underused spaces into vibrant living landscapes
  • help pollinators that are currently under threat
  • contribute to pride of place
  • provide opportunities to learn about nature and biodiversity.

What to plant:

October is right at the end of the wildflower planting season as the soils are just still warm enough, before the frosts have come.  Autumn is a fantastic time to plant bulbs and trees, so if you can't find the seeds you need right now, you can still join in with the #BillionSeedChallenge with these.

A small amount of seeds can make a big difference, just 2g of seed will cover a 1m patch of soil and is enough to give biodiversity, insects and pollinators a boost.  No garden...?  Pop some seeds in a container or window box. No need to worry about compost or rich soil either - many wildflowers thrive in nutrient poor soil. So channel your inner Wildflower Warrior and simply clear a patch of earth, scatter to sow and wait for them to grow next year!

Top ten wildflower seeds to plant this autumn:

  1. Red Campion (Silene dioica)
  2. Ox Eye Daisy (Leucanthenum vulgare)
  3. Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
  4. Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)
  5. Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
  6. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  7. Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
  8. Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)
  9. Corn Marigold (Glebionis segetum)
  10. Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) 

Not only are wildflowers good for the planet, they are really good for us too!  Our connection to wildflowers is undeniable - inspiring art, creativity and conservation so join the #BillionSeedChallenge and get planting!

Check out our wildflower planting guide