A Wet Summer’s Gardening – The Wildflower Meadow

Well this project started with a heap of sub and top soil and the threat of huge weeds developing, so what to do?

Bare Bones

Well I always wanted a wild flower meadow but assumed it had to be in grass. Just then on the tv comes Sarah Raven’s brilliant series on BBC  Bees Butterflies and Blooms. An attempt to get corporations and groups to plant insect friendly flower meadows on any available ground. The attraction to me was that the flower mixes used were colourful and with a long flowering season rather than a fantastic two week flush then green. As the series implies they were also designed to provide nectar for insects especially honey bees which are struggling everywhere due to mite and loss of habitat.

To start the project the landscaped mound was allowed to rest and throw up any weed seed on the surface.

Baking in the early summer

Now I’m an advocate of organic gardening where possible but there are instances where you have to look at the big picture and I decided that what I was trying to achieve would be too time consuming if I were to have to hand weed so out came the dreaded weed killer. This was in early Spring. Then the sun shone, and shone and shone, remember that? Well the weed was reluctant to grow and  die and time was running out for sowing the project. I decided to sow some of the mix in seed trays and then prick out to plugs,  firstly to give them a head start and secondly to give me a clue as to what they plants looked like!

I used the De Jaeger mix that Sarah had used, Pictorial Meadows Pastel Mix, some trial price Thompson and Morgan Honey Bee  mix, some very old seed in a pot from Aldi of all places! (I have no recollection of ever buying it!) and some other packets of annual wildflowers and Cosmos seed.

With the weather still unseasonable warm I decided by mid May it was now or never. I hoed off any weed missed by the weed killer but tried not to disturb too much soil to prevent another crop coming through, This meant planting those little plugs out in dried out soil, poor things. At the same time I mixed all those seeds together with a bit of sand to help with the broadcast sow,  this also helps to see where you’ve been and went for it! I readied the sprinkler, another thing I’m not happy using, and crossed my fingers. Well I used the sprinkler twice and then it rained, and rained and rained, well you know how this goes you were there! What a soggy summer! Only my ducks enjoyed it, they’re the brown and white splodges.

The Original Puddle Ducks

Only Ducks could enjoy the weather this summer

It was so wet I hardly bothered going up there to see how things were growing. The plug plants benefitted from the rain but I was convinced all the seed would have been washed down the slopes and I would end up with a ring like Friar Tucks hair around the mound! I also didn’t bother keeping the chickens out as I couldn’t think of a method of ring fencing and prayed they wouldn’t notice the mostly tiny seeds. They are determined and destructive if they choose!

Determined Chooks, There is always a way

Around mid June I noticed a fuzz of hungry looking seedlings on the front slope, the area I threw the most seed after I realised there was nowhere near enough and it was better to put it where it would have most impact. Some of the plug plants were by now well established and streaks ahead of the seedlings and starting to flower. Coming from a commercial nursery family business these were all new to me and I’m having fun/difficulty putting names to them all.

Mystery meadow flower

RHS Wisley tell me this is Clarkia

Well now it’s high summer and the meadow is flowering beautifully and I’m very pleased with it although bees seem in short supply and I have only noticed a few butterflies about too, presumably the bad weather has hit them hard.

Meadow in Bloom

The finished meadow in bloom July 2012

We have a Bumble Bee nest in the front hedge and they are loving the Cardoons that self seeded in the border outside my studio. We are calling this border Land of the Giants this year as there is also several over wintered Nicotiana “Only the Lonely” or “Sylvestris” (I forget which I planted now). Label, always Label!

Giant Cardoon Ornamental Thistles. Bumble Bee Beds

Will post more pictures as the season progresses.

Been out today to take individual photos and the meadow is buzzing with insects!  There are a couple of flowers I haven’t been able to identify from the seed packets so if anyone can help I would be grateful.