Wednesday, 11 April 2012

An annual wildflower meadow

This spring's big garden project, now that the barn is done, is the sowing of annual wildflowers in the area by the compost heaps and the fire site.  That makes it sound very utilitarian!  I hope the end result won't be.  I have tried to establish perennial wildflowers in the new orchard higher up the field.  A perennial meadow is a much harder task than I had understood when I started out.  The native daffodils are doing well and some of the spring flowers are fine, with primroses and cowslips establishing and a surprising burst of sweet rocket sitting at the edge of the skirts of the apple tree.  Last year we had ox eye daisies, yarrow, fox and cubs as well as meadow buttercup, plantain and some of the lovelier, finer grasses.  But the knapweed and the field scabious were single, solitary presences and there is clearly far too much of the lush, tough grasses like Yorkshire fog.  I have tried to sow yellow rattle to weaken the grass but my two seed trays full of the stuff  have produced only one plant.  The orchard is still beautiful and I persevere.

The new project is a different form of wildflower gardening all together.  This, I hope, will be a large area of annual wildflowers which will shimmer and dance with colour.  At the moment it is not:


The contractors who built the barn had to remove quite a bit of topsoil to create the hard standing in front of the building.  They spread it for me between the new hedge, just out of view to the left of the picture, and the native tree walk, looking like nothing much to the right.  David who works in the garden a day a week (and without whom the whole enterprise would turn to dust) raked it and today I spent three hours digging out the perennial weeds which had appeared since its raking.


It is both a mindnumbing and an oddly satisfying task: two barrowloads of dandelions and docks, now all piled up on a pallet in order to dry out sufficiently to be burnt.


Doesn't look much different for it!


I am sowing a mixture from pictorial meadows  The mixtures need a richer soil than the perennial meadow which might be a problem here where our soil is fertile enough but stony and in need of supplementing with compost and manure.  You might have seen the pictorial meadow mixes in use in the programmes by Sarah Raven on sowing wildflowers to encourage pollinating insects.   These have been running on the BBC earlier this spring.  If you are at all interested and didn't see the programmes they are worth watching if you can find them.  I am adding some of my own seed to the mix, using plants which have been growing successfully up here, principally a red papaver somniferum, some double purples and calendula.

In an ideal world, come the summer, it might look like this:


I wonder if it will?

55 comments:

  1. Wouldn't that be something else Elizabeth! Beautiful for sure. gail

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    1. I really hope it going to work Gail! I am going to supplement the seed with some of my own from here which I know thrive up here.

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  2. Imagine them all moving gently in the breeze. Think I'd be spending most of my day lying in there somewhere avoiding the housework. :) Will you sow the seed by hand or using some mechanical device?

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    1. I intend to sow by hand and to mark the area into rough metre squares. I am raring to go now. I just want the seed to come!

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  3. What you are encouraging and directing will grow more beautiful each spring! I hope you will also find it amusing that I when I visited Kew Gardens on Palm Sunday, I saw quite a few bright little golden dandilions proudly blooming alongside other more encouraged flowers in some of the lawns.

    I admired their gumption! xo

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    1. Dandelions have plenty of gumption here Frances! In fact they are the kings and queens of gump!

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  4. I hope it looks like the photo!....after all that work.
    I haven't had much luck with wildflowers here. They grow where they will - in cracks in the rock, in the gravel and practically in the road, but they won't grow in prepared ground!

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    1. Oh so do I pondside, so do I! I am trying to tell myself that if it doesn't work it can go back to grass and it is not the end of the world but I may not be able to let that happen without the odd tear!

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  5. I can't imagine how much backbreaking work this whole project will turn out to be, but I am positive it's going to look beautiful. Gardeners truly are both visionaries and optimists - being able to see what 'can' be where there is nothing. I'll look forward to updates as the year progresses.

    The cherry blossoms are *finally* starting to bloom in Seoul - at last!

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    1. Hope your cherry blossoms are beautiful - can we have some pictures, in words or images? I love the idea of visionary and optimistic gardeners! I don't mind at all being part of that company!

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  6. Wildflower meadows are really beautiful, I'm sure that all your hard work will eventually be rewarded by a scene as lovely as the one in this photo.

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    1. I hope so! it will be heartbreaking if not, but might just not, we shall see.

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  7. When it comes to wild flower meadows nature (and the BCC) always seem to achieve better results than I can. I've just sown an ex-builders site with a coastal meadow mix and an old seaweed dumping site with flowering lawn mix. so we'll see what it looks like in a couple of months.

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    1. Would love to know how it comes out! I am wary of sowing seeds direct and rarely do it in the rest of the garden so why I should think this will work I don't really know!

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  8. I hope it will! It looks as though you've done a brilliant job - well done.

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  9. I'm just now reading Elspeth Thompson's "New Country Garden" and she suggests interspersing flowers with ornamental grasses, especially in meadow settings. Grasses come in all sorts of lovely colors, heights, and thicknesses, some with wavy flaggy bits at the tips, and they make wonderful backdrops for blooms and thicken up the look of the meadow where sometimes flowers alone might be sparse. The photos back up her theory wonderfully, I might add. Good luck! Wish I had a meadow to play with...

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    1. It's a lovely book isn't it? I do have a logic grass in the orchard and shall let some grow in this area, maybe. The problem is always that the grasses which want to grow take over and are not the delicate beauties but the thugs!

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  10. All I can say is good luck! There is nothing nicer than lying in the sun in a wild flower meadow - or rather a meadow that just happens to have lots of wild flowers in it and awash with the buzz of insects. Good luck. Incidentally I do hope you include some orange Californian poppies - the scarlet reds are OK, but the burgundy ones make the whole thing a little chocolate boxy and unnatural.

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    1. I love Californian poppies and have both chosen a mix which includes it and bought an extra few packets of seeds to add to the mix! Not sure this is allowed!

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  11. Elizabeth, we sowed a wildflower meadow in our orchard - it was a flower/ grass seed mix - http://www.seed4lawns.co.uk/s4l-flora-8-legacy-country-meadow-gp-wild-flower-mixture-59-p.asp. You can get other varieties to suit your soil. Lots of campion, daisy and cow parsley - I am manually adding poppies and cornflowers at the moment. You get a really good show - not always a lot of grass though - mine has come up about 80 % flowers but I think this is because the soil is probably a bit too rich. Good luck with the planting!

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    1. Sounds beautiful Natalie I have gone for pictorial meadows. Now getting cold feet and growing things under glass too!

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    2. Looks wonderful Elizabeth - I love the vibrant colours

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  12. Just written reams - to have it disappear as I went to look up Nigel Dunnet from the University of Sheffield whose work on 'wild', natural landscape planting is worth Googling. I think he's advised re the planting around the Olympic Village - and this is my only interest in this summers bean feast.

    Enough to say - wish your meadow well.

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    1. I think my mix came from work developed by this man at Sheffield- must check the exact detail.

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  13. Wow Elizabeth. That is going to look fantastic. I prescribe a long hot bath and a large glass of wine after all that work!

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    1. I like your prescription there Jane!

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  14. Oh, I do hope so. That looks so beautiful and I wish I had space for one such meadow.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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    1. I think you can do a lot for pollinating insects with quite a small area Maggie. That's certainly what I have read.

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  15. *Sigh* how very beautiful it is going to be. Had to giggle reading this given your most recent comment to me about going for it .... I think ur meadow will be the size of my whole garden lol!

    I have planted a Sarah Raven wild flower red, white and blue mix at the lottie so that I can pick them for the tables at our Jubilee Street party with all the neighbours. Also gown some red/white/blue sweet peas.

    Look forward to seeing the pix when this is in bloom though.

    PS

    I did reply to your camera query over at mine x

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    1. I love the idea of growing blooms at the allotment Zoe. thanks for the reply re the camera, interesting!

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  16. I hope your perseverance pays off. That last photo is just postcard-perfect. I have always loved wildflowers and since I'll be in India come summer, cooped in a city apartment, gardens like yours will be my share of Eden. Looking forward to the meadow and all my good wishes for it.

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    1. Hard to imagine you in India when this might be flowering Suman. I hope both forms of transplating work fine!

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  17. How wonderful if it did! I share the difficulties of wf meadows- however much rattle seed I accquire, very little establishes- how do RHS do it? Bulbs are good, and the native perrenials have their season But I am going to make a border a la Raven next summer....

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    1. I will let you know about establishing wild rattle. Tim who has replied below has a lot of very well established wild rattle and I hope to go and see him next week!

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  18. Lots of hard work for you...it looks but I'm sure it will be worth it! Keep on..keeping on! Joan

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    1. Very much aware of the work just now! Fingers crossed!

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  19. I've tried the wildflower meadow mixes--on a small scale--in several places where we have lived. I wish I could report success. I recall one such planting I drove past often in Vermont--it looked good for several years, with flowers that self-sowed. A bit different each year--and before I moved away it had gotten weedy.
    I've been tempted to create my own mix of seeds and scatter them through bare spots in the perennial borders.

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    1. I do think it is not as easy as one would like to think. I have some plants as plug plants which are in the greenhouse so I hope to fill spaces, although if I am honest there are nowhere near enough unless germination is pretty good!

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  20. Backbreaking work but oh how exciting Elizabeth. I don't know if you visit 'Our French Garden In The Beautiful Dordogne' but Rob has just sown a Pictorial Meadows mix. Looking forward to seeing how your two respective meadows develop.

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    1. I hadn't known about this Anna but will be interested to see his and compare notes.

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  21. What a lovely dream!!! I hope it all comes true for you, but I fear it's not the kind of 'magic wand' project that doesn't require a lot of work. Still, once it is established.......

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  22. I'm still getting borage .... lots of borage .... which probably arrived in a freebie Natuurfonds meadow flower seed packet a couple of years ago . And we do get loads of yellow poppies , too . All other wild flower mixtures look at our mini urban flower bed and just say , " Duh ! That is SO not a meadow " and refuse to germinate .
    But yours is bound to be beautiful , with such a good start . Looking forward to seeing lots of photos .

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    1. We get lots of poppies here so am feeling quite optimistic about them. As for the rest, I suspect it will be the case that things either thrive or die. Up here we seem to have more diers than thrivers but the stuff that thrives really does. The secret is to identify it!

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  23. I have been working on reinstating a wildflower hay meadow in the next Cwm below Moel Arthur. Yellow rattle goes crazy. We mow the hay early September and graze with sheep unil late Jan. Gradually introducing perennial plug plants. This is year 4 and the results are good. There are three acres with a small wood at the top. The field is SE facing. Come and have a look
    Tim Biddle. email ashbid3@bigfoot.com

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    1. Great offer Tim, thank you! Would certainly love to look!

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  24. A lot of work in the prep but am dancing at the thought of what this will look like in flower

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    1. As long as the flowers are dancing too!

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  25. A lot of work Elizabeth I am just beginning to get started with mine, but it is such a battle with the weeds, fingers crossed yours does turn out like the photo, I am sure it will, your garden always looks fantastic

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    1. We have nettles by the lorry load and docks and dandelions and bindweed, Posie! Just need to find a way to prevent them from taking over the world!

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  26. Goodness, I'm realising how large a project you have there! I would love to turn my 'lawn' into a flower meadow but I'm not sure I'm up for all the work it entails. I would just want to scatter the seeds onto the lawn and see what happens. (Dandelion takeover, I expect.) I'm lazy with those too and just chuck them on the compost heap, so that serves me right. I really am a Bad Gardener.

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  27. Oh, and by the way, I've just noticed that your blog has changed its look again. I like it!

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    1. Glad you like the blog! The problem with all this hard work gardening is when it doesn't work. Watch this space.

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