#GrowWildStories: Getting the 'wildflower bug'

Sarah in the garden
How a local Brownie Guide leader gave the ‘wildflower bug’ to over 600 people

We spoke to Sarah about her work spreading the joys of wildflowers with her community during the first UK lockdown.

“I first became involved with Grow Wild through my work with children and young people. The wildflower seed kit initiative seemed to marry very well with things we did at school, with the Guides and with the local churchyard, which we run as a community project; we try to keep as many wildflowers as we can surrounding the church. With the Guides, we also worked in conjunction with our local water board to create a wildflower area. They had just installed machinery on a pumping station and wanted to make the area prettier. We've been developing the disused ground using our Grow Wild wildflower seeds, and it looks so much better! When we harvested the seeds at the end of the season, the Guides took some of the seeds home, and I always pass them on if we ever have any spare. I've shared some with the local school and used some as prizes when I was running a scavenger hunt around the church. We’ve been able to make the seeds from our kit go so much further in this way.

The best thing about being involved with the Grow Wild seed kit initiative has been the engagement from our local community. We’ve really been able to get across the message that these are not weeds - they are flowers in their own right, and they have something valuable to contribute.

“We’ve really been able to get across the message that these are not weeds - they are flowers in their own right”

Something that has been a little bit difficult for us is that we are located in the Thames basin heathlands. As it’s a protected area, we have to be careful about where we scatter the seeds. We need to get permission because what we sow could potentially disturb the local habitats. That’s why we have sown more seeds in the churchyard. Now, even some of our once dreary verges are home to plants that you wouldn’t find just anywhere!

So far, we’ve engaged with an estimated 600 Guides, Brownies and Rainbows locally, which is by no means a small number. The seeds have been sent to Guide groups in other areas too, so we’re building a network of wildflower growers that extends much further afield than just our local community.

Bee pollinating a flower

For the groups I work with, I think the most interesting thing about getting involved with Grow Wild has been watching the wildflowers grow, seeing what comes up, and learning which species do well in different conditions – observational learning. They’ve been most engaged with the seeds they’ve taken home, as they’ve been able to see them every day, water them and care for them regularly.

We used the Grow Wild online resources to inspire the Guide groups but also to inform our regular “wildflower of the month” poster project, where we might include some science (for example, I took the information about the air cells in buttercups from the Grow Wild website) or some information on the folklore or medicinal properties of the plants. People have really engaged with that. We’ve had quite a few comments from people saying “I didn’t know that about wildflowers, I always thought they were weeds!” It’s a great educational resource.

During the first UK lockdown, I also made nature trails for our youth group around the streets, so if you were going for a walk within a mile of your house looking at the verges, you could see which different flowers were coming up and you would know where to look for them. We recently branched out into the next stage: we've moved on to the heathlands and shown people why these are special environments and went on to explain about the different heathland plants. We have been reaching people through the local parish magazine too, and we also point people to the Grow Wild website so that they can learn more.

My favourite wildflower of all the ones I’ve sown and spotted locally this year has to be the Bee Orchid, Ophrys apifera, which I was lucky enough to see growing nearby over the summer!” 

If you’d like to learn more about wildflowers, visit our wildflower gallery to see the different varieties and practice your identification skills.