Wild flower meadow project (May 2021)

Time for another update on the wild flower meadow. This is the second summer but as I explained things did not go well at first and we had to effectively start again. But I am happy to say that so far it is looking much better.

The weather has not been kind this spring. January to April we have had very little rain. And it has been significantly colder than average. As in our main garden the meadow is a few weeks late as a result of the weather.

The Narcissus Pheasant Eye are now in flower and are creating our vision of swathes of them across the meadow.

The cowslips Primula veris are now going to seed. I have just been told that cowslip seed is very expensive but this seed will be going back on the meadow. A neighbour had given me a chunk of seedlings each one only a few millimetres high. From this I nurtured about 150 plants which have now all been planted out although not all have flowered this year.

It is certainly the case that wild flower meadows are not easy to establish. We used a wild flower seed mix last September but in a couple of areas it was always intended to use plugs. Here is my last delivery of plugs together with around 100 Yellow rattle plugs. (More on this later)

Our Wych Elm Ulmus glabra has come into leaf. I explained the background to this tree in February and due to Dutch Elm Disease it is now quite a rare tree so we are delighted to see it starting its new life in our meadow.

What can be more English than English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta in spring flower under trees.

These were planted as bulbs last autumn by just dropping them into holes made with a small size bulb auger. Easy and so far looks successful.

As well as a variety of different foliage the one important plant for creating a wild flower meadow is Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor. It is an annual plant that likes to grow in grassy meadows. It is semi-parasitic on grass. … The grass is weakened by it – which is why wildflower meadow makers love it and farmers hate it. You can see it here with pointed leaves pointing out from central stem.

However in some areas we can see lots and lots of yellow rattle. The seed mix had around 7% yellow rattle so this should not happen. Interestingly the density of yellow rattle appears to be from little on one side of the meadow to lots on the opposite side.

The seed of yellow is designed to move in the wind. As the seed mix was sown on bare earth I now think the wind had picked up the Yellow Rattle seed and moved it across the meadow. Hence the 100 yellow rattle plugs which will now be added along the windward side of the meadow.

The good news is that we have a good mix of wild flowers growing.

We have now had some significant amounts of rain and we just hope the weather gets a bit warmer to really bring it on.

Wild flower meadow project update (April 2020)

Another four weeks in lock down! We have been so lucky to have a garden to play with and to enjoy. The weather for much of April has also been exceptionally warm and sunny. Some 10 degrees centigrade above typical April temperatures. There is lots to do throughout the garden but we have spent many hours on that chair just enjoying the moment.

The Snakeshead Fritillaria Meleagris has worked well. These were originally planted in 2018 in pots as the legal purchase of the land was taking forever. However we re-planted them in the autumn 2019 and they have come up looking as I had envisioned.

They are ideal for a meadow as they flower early and then disappear with very few leaves etc.

Looking across the meadow you can see some of the Narcissus Pheasant Eye with the Snakeshead across the middle. This was taken on 20th April and there is little to see apart from grass.

The new tree in the corner is Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ is just beginning to come into leaf. All the new trees have been put on automatic watering. The hose on the right is part of the system which connects to drip hoses around the trees under the bark chippings. Keeping new trees watered in the first couple of years is essential.

The Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolour’ as yet to show signs of leaf but this is not unusual as beech seldom gets any leaves before the end of April. Again it is on automatic watering.

The English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, have come out and should bulk up over the next few years.

Of course as well as the Bluebells the buttercup, Ranunculaceae, are also flowering.

This wild violet has also found a home in our meadow.

Where the seed mix was on bare earth there is a multitude of plants coming through.

And where we sowed the seed mix into existing meadow then you can see a variety of plants starting to grow.

One important plant for creating a wild flower meadow is Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor. It is an annual plant that likes to grow in grassy meadows. It is semi-parasitic on grass. … The grass is weakened by it – which is why wildflower meadow makers love it and farmers hate it.

Although this Horse-chestnut tree is just outside our fence we feel it is effectively part of the garden. This has come into leaf and the flowers are spectacular.

Under the Horse-chestnut tree we planted a seed mix for hedge rows. There is a large variety of plants growing here.

The drifts of Narcissus Pheasant Eye has started to look their best. The idea of planting them in a wild flower meadow was something I borrowed from the RHS Rosemoor garden.

Our lockdown continues into May. Take care of yourselves and I will update the meadow progress at the end of May.

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.