River of Flowers works with the community to create wildflower meadows in urban spaces for the benefit of pollinators, plants and people.
It seeks to raise awareness of the role of wildflowers in the urban environment and in the cultural context.
A River of Flowers in a city creates diverse urban meadows comprised of early and late flowering native wildflowers, wild trees and hedgerows to provide forage over the whole year for bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators. They provide a continuous foraging resource for pollinators within an urban environment, forming a crucial wildlife corridor over a distance to allow pollinators access to a food source within their maximum flight distances.
In reality, there is only one River of Flowers encircling the world, which has been fractured over millennia by the intervention of man in the construction of cities, roads, canals and runways, and by modern agricultural methods of growing monoculture crops and using pesticides so that the distances between wild spaces have become further apart and forage has become harder to find. By creating a River of Flowers where you live or work, you will be helping to re-connect these wild spaces.
The following are key guidelines that we would hope you will follow in the development and maintenance of your own River of Flowers.
- Structure: A minimum of three urban spaces where wildflowers are growing such as a meadow is required to create a River of Flowers in a city: a Start, an End and at least one Interim wildflower meadow inbetween. This can be created over a distance of up to 4km. The addition of more interim meadows over time will serve to improve the overall impact of the ‘river’ of wildflowers for pollinators, plants and people.
- Connectivity: A River of Flowers connects. This can be a city wide spatial connection linking newly planted meadows to those already existing or it can be a connection between meadows planted by organisations to natural wild spaces and nature reserves, thus linking the city to the countryside. A River of Flowers also connects the communities that contribute to the ‘river’. A River of Flowers is determined by the need of the pollinators and not by man-made boundaries and borders.
- Authenticity: We recommend the use of native, wild plants of known origin since these are best to support our wild pollinators. Suitable plants can be selected by identifying wild plants already growing locally and by consulting local ecologists. In the UK, information on wild plants is available from the Postcode Database of the Natural History Museum. Elsewhere, botanical museums will hold this information. However, there are many flowering cultivated garden and edibles that provide excellent forage for pollinators, and places growing these can also be linked to the River of Flowers.
- Community-led: Connecting communities is a major part of our ethos. Our ‘rivers’ link neighbours and neighbourhoods, bring diverse communities together and engage new audiences that might otherwise not be involved in environmental action. Every River of Flowers is named after a city or part of a city e.g. River of Flowers London or River of Flowers: North London. The naming of each River of Flowers is important to enable members to gain a sense of belonging to their location, the River of Flowers community and to find the nearest River of Flowers. It makes it easier to plant native plants
- Inclusive: A River of Flowers includes all wildflowers growing in any urban space whether on public or private land, in food growing spaces such as city farms, allotments or orchards or on rooftops, roundabouts and roadside verges, and so on. A River of Flowers also includes all the communities contributing to the River of Flowers, such as schools, conservation groups, local businesses, beekeepers, local authorities etc. Anyone can join a River of Flowers if they want to grow wildflowers whether they are only two years old or over 90 years! If there is no River of Flowers near you, then you can start a new River of Flowers from our website and following these guidelines.
- Stewardship: The maintenance of any wild space is an important aspect of its potential success. Meadows need to be mowed at least once, preferably three times per year, in order to flower well and to knock back the more vigorous grasses, thistles, docks or woody plants that will be trying to take over. Good stewardship relies on developing good relationships between the organisations, community groups and local authorities that manage any meadows within a River of Flowers.
- Pesticide Free: Having a pesticide-free city is one of River of Flower's key objectives so we encourage you to develop your River of Flowers by avoiding the use of pesticides. Pesticides, especially neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides, are harmful to pollinators, and are considered to be a major cause of colony collapse disorder in honeybees. Creating pesticide-free cities will go a long way to supporting the longevity of our pollinators and wild plant communities. Tokyo, Toronto and Paris are already pesticide free.
- Sustainable: It is important to create sound partnerships and keep in regular contact not only with the community groups that plant urban meadows but also with us, the River of Flowers Organisation. Exchanging information is vital so that we can map, monitor and evaluate where and how well the ‘rivers’ of wildflowers are flowing, and continue to advise you effectively. In cities, where the attitudes of people must be taken into consideration, we recommend a mixture of colourful annuals with long lasting perennials because this will create meadows that appeal to people as well as pollinators. Consequently, they will be easier to maintain and be more sustainable. Sustainability relies on a good choice of native wild plants for each locality and an understanding of the types of pollinators that visit them. Trees, which are enjoyed by many bees, are the most sustainable wild plants of all. Wild plants do not need fertiliser and, unlike grassed areas, do not need to be continually mowed. Wild plants are cheaper than bedding plants and far better for pollinators
- Raises Awareness: Wildflower meadows help to raise awareness of pollinators in cities, so the more visible and engaging your River of Flowers is and the more local communities you can inform, inspire and include, the better. Creating a River of Flowers helps to demonstrate the importance of pollinators especially in relation to our food supply. It will improve local knowledge of wild plants and their pollinators. One of our key objectives is to attract new audiences to environmental action by bringing artists and scientists together by holding events such as festivals, talks and exhibitions. There are educational opportunities to be explored in the development and maintenance of a River of Flowers. In schools, a wildflower garden will attract pollinators so that they can be studied in situ. Studies on urban wildflower meadows have shown them to be beneficial to health and wellbeing. Planting wild starts a conversation with nature as well as encouraging people to be more active and sociable. Raising awareness helps citizens to understand how important nature is in a city and to make their city wild at heart!