Wild flower meadow project (March 2021)

The seeds planted last autumn are beginning to germinate and grow.

As you can see, a multitude of different wild flowers are coming through. The grass was specifically selected to be slow growing to give the wild flowers a chance.

And some early plants are now in flower.

Red Deadnettle Lamium Purpureum

We planted some Fritillaria Meleagris in 2019 and an additional 1500 in 2020. These are now coming through and are creating a wonderful display which should only get better with time.

And the English Bluebells are also coming up.

English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Lastly we planted an additional 1000 Narcissus Pheasant Eye to create some drifts across the meadow.

So the meadow is developing well and we have high hopes. Later in April we will have some plugs to supplement the meadow under the trees.

Wild flower meadow project (January 2021)

Happy New Year everyone.

I was asked the other day “how is your wild flower meadow coming on” which made me realise that an update is long over due. My last update was last April and at that stage I thought things were developing OK.

May 30th

Along side the fence there was a strip about 1.5 metres wide where I had added extra soil to fill a depression in the original sheep field. This was beginning to look promising.

The annual mix that had been added to the seed was beginning to look good together with some perennial wild flowers.
And there was evidence of Yellow Rattle in the grass

June 20th

By mid June this strip was looking great although we could see it was mainly the annuals that were flowering, not quite the wild flower meadow in our dreams.

Looking across the meadow it was clear that the only really successful plant was the original grass. The meadow had sheep on it for many years but I had been told that if I cut the grass really short and scarified the ground before planting the wild flower mix then it should be OK. Clearly the grass was too vigorous and maybe the ground to fertile.

I contacted our local wild flower seed supplier, Naturescape, for advise. They suggested a number of ways forward but they all involved killing off the original grass.

July 6th

The first task was to cut the grass.

The grass prior to cutting.

I had already purchased the mechanical scythe and this was its first outing together with the operator with a very lock down amount of hair. (in the UK lock down hairdressers where closed)!

It made short work of cutting the grass.

Next it was now time to kill off the grass. I do not normally use glyphosate in our garden but needs must. After a couple of weeks the grass had died back and I rotavated the ground to break up the surface layer. This action also encourages weed and grass seed to germinated so after another four weeks I sprayed the glyphosate again.

By now the ground was looking clean and ready for seeding. However, before seeding we decided to plant some more spring bulbs.

The drifts of Narcissus Pheasant Eye had been beautiful earlier in spring and we took the opportunity to plant more.

Another 1000 Narcissus Pheasant Eye, 1500 Snakeshead Fritillaria Meleagris  and 1000 English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta all planted over a couple of days!

September 1st

The ground was now ready for seeding. This time on the advice of Naturescape we had a bespoke mix made up. Normally a seed mix for a new meadow would be 20% wild flower seed and 80% grass seed. We had a 50% wild flower seed mix made together with the least vigorous grasses.

October 19th

The ground has been seeded and the autumn leaves are beginning to drop

December 15th

The seeds are beginning to germinate and we are keeping our fingers crossed!

The wild flower seedlings and some grasses

Closer up a good range of wild flower seed has germinated. At this stage we would not expect all the seeds to have germinated. Some need winter frost and others will not appear until April/May.

So far so good. What I have learned is the importance of having a clean seed bed before you start. Unless you are sowing in particularly poor soil then you will probably need to eliminate any existing grasses ec.

We are all hoping 2021 is going to be a better year. Mass vaccination should help us all get back to normal although I fear it will take six months before we can start to relax a little. Thank goodness we have our garden to continue to enjoy.

Wild flower meadow project update (August again!)

In May I mentioned that we had been so keen to get started that we had purchased a lot of bulbs for planting in the meadow. As the legal side of the purchase took longer than expected we had to plant the bulbs elsewhere.

Before we seed the meadow with wild flowers these bulbs needed planting. But how best to do this given hundreds of small plant pots and hundreds of Narcissus bulbs. However, these simple tools came to our rescue.

The bulb planting augers are fantastic.

Holes can be created at a fantastic speed ready to drop the compost in.

This one is a drift of the Fritillaria Meleagris (Snakeshead) seen in the May blog.

The augers come in three sizes:
Snowdrops, anemones & crocus (small) – Ø1.25” x L18″ (Ø3cm x 45cm)
Daffodils, tulips & iris (medium) – Ø1.75” x L30″ (Ø4.5cm x 76cm)
Alliums & bedding plugs (large) – Ø2.75” x L24″ (Ø7cm x 61cm)
and can be brought from Crocus

We had seen these Narcissus Pheasant Eye in the RHS Rosemoor Garden and wanted to create a similar effect. Using the medium auger making the holes for the bulbs was easy.

After about 10 hours around 1000 Narcissus Pheasant Eye had been planted. That’s the good news – the bad news is that there are another 1000 on order!

You might think we have stopped doing our main garden. Not a bit of it but the meadow is our current significant project.

A quick look around the main lawn at the borders reveals some very full late summer borders. The roses have recovered for the third time after summer storms had totally stripped them of flowers.

Wild flower meadow project update (August)

Things have certainly moved on since this project started. We now have a fence (except for the field gate which should arrive this week). The lime tree in the picture has had its canopy raised so I can walk under it. This should create a dappled shade enabling wild flowers to grow under the tree. In the recent exceptionally hot spell (34c) it also provided one of the coolest parts of our garden!

The major and exhausting job has been cutting the existing grass and scarification to expose the soil prior to seeding.

The grass was first cut as short as possible. Even then there remained a lot of thatch as these fields have been a sheep meadow for several hundred years. Then my little scarifier has done the work to cut into the thatch and pull it up.

The thatch then needs to be raked up.

Without the right machine this is very much a manual job and quite exhausting it is too!

The thatch is beginning to loosen up so that when we seed the seed can make contact with the soil and hopefully germinate.

Interestingly although we have only brought about 26m into the field we do seem much closer to the pond. This pond was the fish pond for the rectory next door. It is therefore at least 300 years old and could have been a medieval fish pond. The level is maintained by a small weir on the stream which runs along the edge of the field.

So far I have scarified the whole field in one direction. Now I need to do the same in the other direction!

Right from the start we decided to get some mature trees. A visit to Majestic Trees and we now have three trees on order. A Liquidambar styraciflua

A Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolour’ and

a Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’. These trees will be planted in October when we should expect more rain. As you can see from the pictures they are on extensive watering systems.

Lastly we now have brought the meadow seed. We were fortunate to have a long established wild flower seed supplier near us called Naturescape. Discussions with them certainly helped us choose the seed. We have gone for three different seed mixes:

The ditch which forms the ha-ha at the edge of the garden is always going to be damp and we have gone for Wetland Meadow Mixture:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow2.50%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed9%
Filipendula ulmariaMeadowsweet8%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Leucanthemum vulgareOxeye Daisy7%
Lotus corniculatusBirdsfoot Trefoil4%
Lotus pedunculatusGreater Birdsfoot Trefoil4%
Lychnis flos-cuculiRagged Robin2%
Ononis repensCommon Restharrow2%
Plantago lanceolataRibwort Plantain4%
Primula verisCowslip3%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal8%
Ranunculus acrisMeadow Buttercup9%
Rhinanthus minorYellow Rattle10%
Rumex acetosaCommon Sorrel8%
Sanguisorba officinalisGreat Burnet2%
Serratula tinctoriaSawwort1%
Stachys officinalisBetony2.50%
Succisa pratensisDevilsbit Scabious3.50%
Tragopogon pratensisGoatsbeard2%
Trifolium pratenseWild Red Clover3%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch3%

The areas under the Lime tree and the Horse Chestnut tree will always be dry and we have been advised that a Hedgerow Meadow Mixture would work well there:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow3%
Agrimonia eupatoriaCommon Agrimony4%
Alliaria petiolataGarlic Mustard7%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed6%
Digitalis purpureaWild Foxglove3%
Filipendula ulmariaMeadowsweet4%
Galium mollugoHedge Bedstraw4%
Geranium pyrenaicumHedgerow Cranesbill1%
Geum urbanumWood Avens5%
Hypericum perforatumCommon St. John’s Wort2%
Knautia arvensisField Scabious4%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Leontodon autumnalisAutumn Hawkbit2%
Leucanthemum vulgareOxeye Daisy5%
Malva moschataMusk Mallow5%
Malva sylvestrisCommon Mallow4%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal5%
Silene albaWhite Campion5%
Silene dioicaRed Campion7%
Silene vulgarisBladder Campion2%
Stachys sylvaticaHedge Woundwort6%
Torilis japonicaUpright Hedge Parsley4%
Verbascum nigrumDark Mullein3%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch5%
Vicia sylvaticaWood Vetch1%

And for the bulk of the field a Summer Flowering Butterfly & Bee Meadow Mixture:

Latin NameEnglish NameMix Composition
Achillea millefoliumYarrow3%
Anthyllis vulnerariaKidney Vetch3%
Campanula glomerataClustered Bellflower1%
Campanula tracheliumNettle Leaved Bellflower1%
Centaurea nigraCommon Knapweed8%
Centaurea scabiosaGreater Knapweed5%
Daucus carotaWild Carrot4%
Echium vulgareViper’s Bugloss4%
Galium verumLady’s Bedstraw8%
Geranium pratenseMeadow Cranesbill2%
Hypericum perforatumCommon St. John’s Wort3%
Knautia arvensisField Scabious5%
Lathyrus pratensisMeadow Vetchling3%
Linaria vulgarisCommon Toadflax1%
Lotus corniculatusBirdsfoot Trefoil7%
Lythrum salicariaPurple Loosestrife2%
Origanum vulgareWild Marjoram2%
Prunella vulgarisSelf Heal10%
Rhinanthus minorYellow Rattle7%
Scabiosa columbariaSmall Scabious4%
Stachys officinalisBetony4%
Stachys sylvaticaHedge Woundwort3%
Succisa pratensisDevilsbit Scabious2%
Trifolium pratenseWild Red Clover3%
Verbascum nigrumDark Mullein2%
Vicia craccaTufted Vetch3%

In addition we added some seed of Cowslips, Oxeye Daisy, Greater Hawbit, Salard Burnet and Pignut. We will probably seed the area around the end of August.

One unexpected benefit of the meadow is it gives us another view into our garden.

A major new garden project starts

My last post was on 31st August 2018. Before then I had been blogging almost every week. Since then lack of time has taken over and we had spent a considerable amount of time out of the country. I want to tell you about a new venture in our garden which is going to keep me busy for several years but I intend to keep blogging as it proceeds.

We moved to our house twenty five years ago and shortly after moving in we tried to buy a piece of land at the bottom of the garden. The field is owned by the church and they were asking far too much at the time and the purchase did not happen although the vision remained. Recently we have tried again and an acceptable price has been agreed and we have added 0.3 acres at the bottom of our garden.

The area bounded in red indicates our new garden.

This photograph looks across the land to the fence at the bottom of our current garden. The large beech tree in the centre of the picture is now on our land.

This photograph looks back to the boundary with our neighbour and the corner (to the right of the tree) where the previous photograph was taken from. The large chestnut tree on the right is just outside our land.

The field has been used as pasture land for sheep for as long as people can remember. There is some indication of the ridge and furrow cultivation. Ridge and furrow was formed over centuries by medieval ploughing. The plough would be driven up and down a strip, year after year, decade after decade. This shifted material to one side of the plough, forming the ridge, whilst the furrow gets driven down. At the end of strips you get a headland where the plough turned.

Our intention is to create a wild flower meadow.

Unusually this spring the sheep have been kept on a different field and the grass has been allowed to grow. This has enabled us to better see what we have to work with. I would say that our meadow contains a mixture of native grasses with just a few coarse ones and a few more common survivors such as dandelion, plantain, yarrow, speedwell and meadow buttercup. Pam Lewis (Making Wildflower Meadows) suggest that such conditions are all good signs.

The views from the meadow are classic English parkland.

We had hoped to take possession of the land last October and we started planning.

A chance trip to Rosemoor RHS garden where we saw their wild flower meadow in progress.

And some very handy thoughts about where to begin. The Narcissus Pheasant Eye in the pictures above looked great and a 25kg bag of bulbs was purchased. There are a couple of areas shaded by trees which would be excellent for English Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta and 500 bulbs were purchased. I love seeing Snake’s head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris growing in meadows and 1000 corns were purchased. We were set to begin but the legal side went on and on and we have only just legally purchased the land!

The Fritillaria had to be potted up and will be planted later this year.

The bluebells were all potted up and some of them can be seen above.

The Narcissus have all been planed in various parts of the garden and will need to be lifted and replanted later this year.

So our next steps are:
1. Fence in the field
2. Start cutting the grass in July August.
3. Transplant the bluebells and Fritillaria
4. Lift and plant the Narcissus
5. Scarification to expose bare soil
6. Seed with wild flower mix and Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor
7. And………….

I will continue to blog on this project as it develops. Please let me know if you have any thoughts and suggestions.

View into existing garden from the meadow.