Devil’s-bit scabious


Growing a wildflower meadow in your back garden isn’t quite as simple as you might think – but it’s important to try, says writer Jane Adams

About ten years ago, I decided to grow a mini wildflower meadow on what was a rather forlorn patch of grass. It was lumpy and weedy, and I could tell it really didn’t want to be a lawn. Actually, allowing it to grow seemed an obvious win. I wouldn’t have to mow it and pollinators like bees and butterflies would benefit from any extra flowers. From what I’d read, insects needed all the help they could get.
But I swiftly found out thet proper wildflower meadows are deceptively hard to grow.
In that first year I planted chamomile, knapweed, orange hawkbit, bird’s-foot-trefoil, yellow rattle, and devil’s-bit scabious plug-plants to boost the diversity of plant life. My old lawn buzzed and crawled with insect life, and I felt pretty smug.
The following year hardly anything grew except the devil’s-bit scabious.
I know now what I did wrong. I didn’t research what wildflowers would and should grow in my sandy Dorset patch. I hadn’t considered the rich mosaic of interconnected plants and fungi that were needed to make a lowland meadow – even one as small as mine. In short, I thought copying nature would be simple, and it wasn’t.

The common carder bee on devil’s-bit scabious
Image: Jane Adams

A few fragments
In the UK we’ve lost a staggering 97 per cent of our species-rich grassland since the 1930s. That’s equivalent to 7.5 million acres; and quite a few of those acres would have been in Dorset.
Over the years meadows were mismanaged, undervalued, and unprotected. What took hundreds, even thousands, of years to grow disappeared almost overnight.
But we do still have fragments of flower-rich meadows in our countryside. We just need to join them up so that wildlife can flow from one to another. Which is why conservationists are keen for us to create green corridors for wildlife and plants by growing wildflowers in our gardens. Just imagine if we could sew a giant living patchwork of native flowers right across Dorset.
In the meantime, the devil’s-bit scabious, and the bees that hang from their button blooms, are a joy to watch on my old lawn. And they are a reminder we can all do our bit to help wildlife during this ecological crisis.


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