“Before that, gardeners, landowners and farmers who create meadows had no way to connect and share knowledge or exchange tips and news,” she explains. “We hope to change that.” Grasslands are important, she says, not only because they are so vital for biodiversity, for pollinating insects and as part of our literary and cultural heritage, but because of their contribution to well-being. A 2019 study found that time spent in well-managed alpine meadows resulted in reduced stress, including lower blood pressure, for participants.
“Being in a meadow full of insect sounds and seeing swallows and swifts melt is transformative,” says Donna. “It’s calming and improves our well-being – and if the lockdown has shown us anything, it’s that we need more places like this.”
It packs a punch
Plantlife botanical specialist Dr Trevor Dines agrees. He is one of the UK’s grassland experts and a dedicated preacher himself, having created a crowning meadow on land he acquired in North Wales. He was stunned by the biodiversity that materialized on his three hectares.
“Nowhere else has all the punch like a meadow of wildflowers,” he says. He calculates that his meadow was home to nine million flowers last year, producing enough nectar to support half a million bees a day, as well as to capture and store carbon.
He created it by scouring the existing grass and spreading seed-rich green hay from a nearby ancient meadow. “I’ve been talking about prairie restoration for years, but it’s only when you come face to face with the practicalities yourself that you really understand it,” he says.
However, he is equally passionate about mini-meadows, from garden strips to old cemeteries and roadsides. “A square meter of meadow can hold up to 570 flowers,” he says, enthused by the deliciously named geranium, bistorte, betony and green-winged orchids he has seen over the years.
The good news for gardeners is that creating a mini meadow couldn’t be easier.
“If you have a lawn, just decide not to mow part of it, like a Mohican haircut, and see what happens,” he says. “It can be that simple.”
Gardeners can also engage in Plantlife’s “No Mow May” program, in which they leave their entire lawn uncut for that month, which can encourage new flora to appear. “If you then decide to mow a shorter area, try to keep that cut every three or four weeks instead of every week,” advises Dines. “You will be amazed at the shorter flowers that will emerge and provide nectar for all kinds of pollinating insects.”
These insects become food for birds and small mammals, increasing biodiversity and encouraging helpful predators such as toads and hedgehogs to venture into gardens. Reducing mowing also saves time, money, and lowers the carbon footprint, he says, and you can easily add visual interest by cutting a mowed lawn in your meadow.
He advises buying native wildflower seeds, preferably ones that suit your county and its soil type, and believes that while you can only manage a tub on your balcony, “Every flower counts.
Asking local councils to reduce unnecessary shoulder cuts and asking your local church to consider a no-mowing policy in all or part of their cemetery can also contribute massively to the increase in grasslands, he says.
“What I discovered is that every meadow is different, even the smallest table-sized gardens,” he says. “They change every day and that’s what makes them so fascinating and rewarding – you never know what you’re going to stumble upon. “
Five fabulous meadow flowers