The sweet violets began to flower a couple of weeks ago in the verge across the road and also in my lawn.
Having planted wildflower plugs throughout the garden last spring, I was delighted not only that they are thriving, but that self-seeded primroses and violets have spontaneously appeared in their midst.
Why do wildflowers matter?
There’s no doubt that early spring flowers lift the heart, hinting at the floral abundance to come later in the year.
During March and April, lesser celandines smother the banks of the chalk stream, wild garlic throws out its thick strappy leaves in the woods and pink honesty flowers speckle the verges.
Wild garlic is appearing in the woods
These early wildflowers don’t just bring us joy, they also provide a lifeline for many invertebrates.
Native wildflowers are a valuable resource for insects. As the two have evolved together over many thousands of years, many insect larvae have become specialist feeders on particular indigenous plants.
With more than 40% of invertebrate species declining and a third endangered, the more wildflowers we encourage in our gardens, verges, hedgerows and woodland, the better!
There are so many spring-flowering wild plants out there to get excited about. Here are some of the species that you might see blooming in the next few weeks:
Just down the road, the council leaves a wide grass verge unmown in spring which is quickly submerged under a sea of cowslips.
Once a common grassland flower, cowslip populations have dramatically declined since the 1950s.
Where it still thrives (often in verges and grassland untreated by chemical herbicides) it offers a source of nectar for early beetles, bees and butterflies.
If you’re lucky, you might even see the hairy caterpillars of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly or striped caterpillars of the plain clay moth feeding on the leaves.
This sunny member of the buttercup family thrives in woodland and along damp hedgebanks.
I’ve seen them out as early as January and the flowers often persist until May. As a winter and early spring-flowerer, lesser celandine is a valuable source of nectar for insects including queen bumblebees.
A wonderful sight in the countryside, but too vigorous for most gardens.
The sight of a woodland floor carpeted with white anemones is one of the joys of spring. This star of dappled shady places is pollinated by hoverflies that visit to feed on its nectar and pollen, although its seeds are often sterile, so it generally relies on slowly spreading by root growth.
This delicate wildflower grows in damp grassland and along water margins. Its dainty lilac blooms open around the time that the first cuckoos call, hence one of its common names – the cuckoo flower, and it is a larval food plant of both the orange tip and green-veined white butterflies.
With their multiple white flowers on starry heads, ramsons or wild garlic is an important food plant for many early pollinators.
This is another vigorous grower that is generally better left to enjoy in the countryside rather than in the garden.
Also great to forage and cook with:
Bugle (Ajuga reptans)
This garden stalwart is common on scrub and grassland and woodland clearings. Its flower spike, covered in masses of tiny blue blooms, provides food for lacebugs, bees, and a range of moths and butterflies, including green-veined white, marsh fritillary butterflies and the silver Y moth.