Strolling through a meadow on a warm day in search of brilliant poppies, delicate daisies and such colourfully named varieties as Bacon and Eggs and Scarlet Pimpernels is a wonderful adventure. Indeed, the fun of identifying wild flowers can encourage so many things in your child – an appreciation for the wonders of nature, a delight in colours and shapes; even a child’s bent for becoming a botanist.
While most children quickly take up the challenge of searching for a Weasel Snout or Bats-In-The-Belfry, introducing your child to the world of wild flowers also nurtures a love and respect for the world around us. As they observe plants throughout the year – from the first buds of spring to the barren earth of winter – children learn about the seasons. And if you have a regular patch or local beauty spot where your family ventures for weekend walks, your child will come to love her favourite flower’s annual reappearance. It is also a fabulous opportunity to introduce a family tradition that encourages children away from those ever-tempting games consoles and outdoors, where all generations of the family can get involved.From toddlers to grandparents (and every age in between), this kind of excursion is both inexpensive and will create times that will live long in your child’s memory.
A rural environment or nature reserve is the best place for these blooms to flourish, but even if you live in a city, there are usually great parks nearby that you can explore. Or you could even create a slice of wild flower heaven at home – it doesn’t require as much effort or as much space as you might imagine. Apart from attracting insects and other creatures to your garden, wild flowers also adddiversity to your own patch of the country.“Even if you don’t have much space, you could use a pot to grow a minimeadow,”says gardening writer and author Martyn Cox “You can buy meadowseed mixes that have wild grasses and flowers, and scatter them across the pot. Or, if you have a lawn, let the grass grow long in one corner and get wild flower plugs to dot in. Creating a mini meadow is a great idea – you don’t have to change the garden, just a corner.”
Ten wonderful wild flowers
1. Cornflower Once dotted all over golden cornfields, today you’re more likely to find the cornflower (right) in gardens during summer. It grows to 80cm.
2. Cowslip This yellow, sweet-smelling flower is rare, but you may find it in woods and meadows from April to May. It grows to 15cm.
3. Scarlet Pimpernel Found across theUK, but rare inScotland, its red flowers bloom from May to September and close at the first sign of rain. It grows to 25cm.
4. Meadow Sweet (Queen of the Meadow) This sweet-smelling plant (left) can be found in marshes and near water meadows between May and September. The undersides of the leaves are soft and it grows to 120cm.
5. Goat’s Beard (Jack-Go-To-Bed-At-Noon) At midday, the yellow flower closes – hence its nickname. Found from June to July across theUK, it grows to 70cm.
6. Bird’s Foot Trefoil (Bacon and Eggs) Favouring grassy banks and dry sites, this flower (right) is found throughout theUK. Its seed pods look like a bird’s foot, while its yellow flowers are streaked with red, giving it its nickname. It flowers from June to October, growing to 30cm.
7. Lady’s Smock (Cuckoo Flower) The flowers, which look white from a distance but are actually pink or mauve, close when it rains. It blooms when the cuckoo arrives in March and disappears around June or July – when the bird usually stops singing. Found in wet and marshy areas, it grows to 35cm.
8. Teasel So-called because it was used for combing – ‘teasing’ – the knots out of sheep’s wool, these purple flowers (left) can be found on roadsides and in fields in summer. It grows to two metres.
9. Shepherd’s Purse A white flower that is easy to recognise with its heart-shaped seed pods that look like an old purse, it grows all year round up to a height of 30cm.
10. Red Clover (Bee Bread) Found in fields and on roadsides, these pinkish flowers (right) are food for cows and sheep and a source of nectar for bees – hence its nickname. Found from May to October, it grows to 30cm.
More green living from Junior:
Ten wonderful woodlands in the UK
The benefits of birdsong