There are three basic types of wildflower area. They can be combined on one plot.

Tussock grass area:

This is an area of grass that is not cut every year. The grass is allowed to die back naturally at the end of each growing season.

The species that can be introduced into this habitat include teasel, yarrow, knapweed, tansy and plantain. Once established, these plants are able to compete with long grass. Knapweed is particularly good and is an important source of food for several species of butterfly.

Pros: The uncut vegetation provides an over-wintering habitat for butterflies and other insects. It enables them to complete their life cycle from egg to adult. Seeds that remain on plants such as thistles and plantains provide food for birds through the winter.

Cons: Some members of the public may complain that it looks too untidy. It may need some management if docks and/or thistles become too dominant.

Cornfield annuals:

These provide a good floral display, as well as being a good food source for insects and birds. Species in this category include cornflowers, corn marigold, corn cockle, corn chamomile and poppies.

Seeds need to be sown on bare crumbly soil. The flowers will not grow in existing grass. Turf should be removed or turned over. The sowing can be done in late April or early May. Sowing at other times is also possible.

Pros: Flowers tend to be large and colourful, popular with the public. Good supply of pollen and nectar for insects, followed by seeds throughout autumn for birds.

Cons: A lot of work is involved. The plants are annuals and may have to be resown every year.

Meadow flowers:

The seeds should be sown in the autumn or early winter, into bare patches among existing grass. Cut the grass short and then rake or harrow it (use a cultivator tool). Bare soil can be exposed by creating divot marks using the heel of a boot or a spade.

The key species is yellow-rattle. This is an annual flower. It is semi-parasitic and suppresses the growth of coarse grasses. This allows more light to reach other meadow flower species. Providing fresh yellow rattle seed gets a prolonged period of chilling over winter, followed by moisture and sunlight in spring, the plant germinates well.

Cut grass again in Spring (late March) and remove cut grass. The meadow should be cut or strimmed again at the end of August or in September, once the wild flowers have set seed. The vegetation should be allowed to lie for a couple of weeks to allow seeds to fall, then collected and taken to a recycling depot.

Once yellow-rattle is well established, gradually add more meadow flower species to the area, e.g. eyebright, stitchwort, speedwells, oxeye daisy, greater trefoil, clovers. Perennials benefit from the grass being kept short in their first year, while they are establishing their root systems.

Pros: Should provide a good food source, consisting of nectar and pollen, for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects, throughout the summer.

Cons: Requires a lot more work than the other options.

General:

Some species will need to be controlled by manual weeding to stop them from colonising large areas. These species include ragwort, docks, thistles and creeping buttercup. These species are all valuable food sources for insects so should not be removed entirely.

It is necessary to contact local councillors before starting a wild flower project on public land. You will also need to contact the local council and gain their permission to manage a wildflower plot.

The local schools may like to be involved. Perhaps the children can help with sowing the wild flower seeds and trampling them in. Nature walks with the children around the neighbourhood of the school could be arranged.

Newcastle City Council Ecology Officer is Derek Hilton-Brown. He can be contacted at the Civic Centre for advice on establishing wild flower areas.

These are only suggestions. Other methods and sowing seeds at different times to ones we have suggested are possible.