Wild Flowers

The range and type of wild flowers that you may find growing in your garden will depend upon the region of Britain in which you live, the type of soil you have, how exposed your garden is, and how intensively it is cultivated.

A neglected garden will probably be rich in wild flowers, growing from seeds dropped by birds, or brought by the wind from other places.

A dedicated gardener, on the other hand, will probably regard any wild flower as an intruder — a weed to be completely eradicated.

Weed or plant?Wild Flowers

However, many of the plants now cultivated in our gardens can be found growing wild somewhere in the world. The wonderful flowering climber, Clematis montana, grows wild in the Himalayas, while the pretty little hardy Cyclamen neapolitanum grows wild throughout Italy and Greece.

At home, the Common Daisy, Be//is perennis, is thought of as a lawn weed, while the double-flowered form is a valued garden plant grown in containers on patios and along border edges. Even the Greater Plantain, an invasive weed in light and cultivated soil, is searched out by plant enthusiasts in its more decorative forms.

Some plants that are cultivated in gardens may scatter their seeds on waste land and so become naturalized as wild plants. The Romans introduced many plants to Britain that subsequently escaped to become part of our landscape. Other plants were introduced later. One form of crocus (Crocus nudiflorus), for instance, a native of the south of France, is also seen in parts of the North Midlands — and nowhere else in Britain. It is thought that the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, who owned property there, introduced it to Britain.

Another ‘wild’ plant that was introduced is the Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) which yields saffron. It grows wild locally and gave its name to Saffron Waldon. It comes from the Middle East and, as it needs a warm climate, it does not really thrive in the British Isles.

Living free

Other wild flower escapees owe their existence and spread to accident and the industrial revolution. The Oxford

Ragwort, originally from Mount Etna, was grown in the Oxford Botanic Garden as long ago as the 17th century. Later its’ wind-born seeds established colonies along the Great Western Railway, where the swish of the trains gradually carried the seed towards Paddington Station and London. During the Second World War, Oxford Ragwort colonized bomb sites in London, brightening the rubble with its yellow, daisy-like flowers during the summer months.

For the enthusiast

It you would like to learn more about wild flowers, there are several specialist societies and clubs you could join, both locally and nationally.

  • Your local library usually has a list of local botanical societies whose aim is to protect and study local wild flowers.
  • The Botanical Society of the British Isles can be contacted through the Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7.
  • The Wild Flower Society, Rams Hill House, Horsmonden, Tonbridge, Kent is an association that caters for amateur wild flower lovers.
  • The Council for Nature supplies the addresses of local County Naturalist Trusts, which are ideal for conservationists. The Council can be contacted through the Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park, London NWI.

Protecting wild flowers

If you want to grow wild flowers in your garden, buy a packet of mixed wild flower seed. Many nurseries now stock these. Alternatively you can buy and raise seed of individual wild flowers, such as the beautiful Clustered Bellflower, Wild Pansy and Cheddar Pink.

To protect the flowers still growing naturally in the countryside, observe the following checklist of DON’Ts.

  • DON’T dig up wild flowers, when on holiday or rambling through the countryside, so that you can plant them in your garden. In this country it is now illegal to do so (unless you have the landowner’s permission) and in any case there is a strong chance they will not establish themselves in your garden.
  • DON’T pick wild flowers for pressing and drying. In many parts of the country, such as the National Parks, the flowers may be protected. It is better to take slide photographs of the flowers in their natural surroundings and enjoy their images on a screen. Remember to takes notes of where the plant was growing and the time of year it was photographed. This information will help to enrich your hobby.
  • DON’T pick wild flowers at all. Many species of wild flowers that were once widely distributed have been decimated by continuous picking.
  • Remember that by picking one flower, you are stealing the seed that would produce many new plants.

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