When I first wrote this page, it linked in to a couple of websites offering free wildflower seeds. However, those offers have since expired, so I now find myself thinking up ways for people to get hold of wildflower seeds for free.
This time, I'm not going to link into temporary offers, because I only have to go back and sort out broken website links later. In addition, such offers are seen far less frequently these days. They tend to require a purchase of something else. So I'm going to approach this topic differently. Instead, I have put together a list of suggestions of how you can obtain free wildflower seeds for bees and other pollinators.
You can also check my list of wildflowers loved by different species of bees (as well as other pollinators, of course!).
Wildflower habitats are crucial to wildlife, but in many countries, these habitats have been drastically reduced. This is bad news for the pollinators that depend upon them.
Why has this happened? A few
reasons, but especially:
Whilst I am in favour of seeing more wildflowers around, to an extent, I urge you to have a good think about things before you throw lots of seeds around in your garden:
The final point may seem a strange thing to write. Mostly, I would assert that wildflowers are always great. However, sometimes it is better to have a well planned garden with carefully selected flowering shrubs, plants, bulbs and so on.
Here is a list of ideas:
Take into account the local flora
If you are going to plant wildflowers, take a look around your local area. If you have major abundance of a particular wildflower, you could think about leaving it out of your garden since it is provided elsewhere, and opt for something else that meets the needs of bees.
For instance, if there is a lot of knapweed and hemp agrimony in your area (including along roadside verges), perhaps choose something else, perhaps something that needs help to extend its range.
Choose something that works and something you like
I like Rosebay Willowherb, and though very valuable, I felt it could be intrusive in our small garden space. It is definitely worth thinking about the height and spread of a plant and what will work in your garden space.
Beware of plants that spread rapidly and are difficult to remove!
Bees love dandelions but most gardeners don't want them in the garden. Personally, these days I allow a few to blossom in spring when there are fewer flowers around, but remove any I don't want later in the year.
I previously experimented with hedge woundwort in my garden too, but decided I wasn't keen on the smell of it, and it spreads rapidly via seeds and underground rhizomes. It has been very difficult to get rid of.
In terms of wildflower seeds you may easily acquire for free, in my view, ox-eye daisies, corn cockle, cornflower and poppies are a good choice and work well in most gardens.
Foxgloves are excellent too, and I have these in my garden, but I believe they are toxic for humans and so they might not suitable if you have young children.
In smaller gardens especially, sometimes it's better to be very selective in your choice of wildflower, and how you use them. The garden has to work for you as well as the bees - and this is perfectly possible.
Having tried initially to convert
our small lawn into a
wildflower patch (mini-meadow) a few years ago, I changed my mind about how to manage my garden.
I had persevered with trying to create a sustainable, long-flowering mini-meadow for a couple of years, but it didn't really work as I had hoped, and to be perfectly honest, we did not enjoy the garden, nor did we attract many pollinators.
Furthermore, we wanted to grow a few food crops: raspberries, plums, sometimes beans and courgettes, and I was keen to install a greenhouse for growing tomatoes.
In short, it seemed neither we nor the bees really got the benefit from our patch of land, so I made changes. I now have flower borders, and have choice wildflowers incorporated into them, among carefully selected plants for bees. This works better for me - and the bees, and I now get a greater variety of bee species than before!
I now keep the grass cut short, apart from areas of clover, daisies, buttercup, Welsh violets, and selfheal, plus a few spring bulbs (crocus and snowdrops) and dandelions in spring.
Borders and flower patches
Below is an image of a small patch of garden behind my greenhouse. It is great for pollinators, having Jacob's ladder, lamb's ear, toad flax and campanula.
In terms of wild flowers, it also had hedge woundwort (which I later abandoned), wild Acquilegia, and fox gloves.
Elsewhere I have poppies and daisies.
Since I made all the changes, over time, I was able to attract hairy footed flower bees, wool carder bees, mason bees, chocolate mining bees and leaf cutters, as well as a good variety of bumble bee species and the honey bee.
Update: I now have a page about planning a bee garden, with a free, printable PDF download.
Good luck with your wildflowers!
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