Meadow Magic

Time for a quick catch up on the meadow areas ahead of our courses at the end of the week. There’s nothing very photogenic going on in Caroline’s new patch, which at the moment features a whole load of Rattle, clearing the way for more seed in the autumn. At least it has taken well and the bumblebees are enjoying it. All the wildflower annuals we have here this year are spring sown, so still not in flower yet, and interestingly it looks like no Cornflowers or Poppies have made it through the dry spring. In contrast to Archie’s meadow! This is the meadow we stripped of top soil and sowed last year in the corner of one of Archie’s potato fields on the A303, just east of Sparkford. We not only seeded it with a mix of perennial wildflowers and grasses, but splashed it with annuals too for some early colour and to help suppress the weeds. As a point-and-click photographer I haven’t done it justice, but what do you think?Annuals at Archie's meadow

Cornflower in Archie's Meadow, June 2010

The movement in the wind of the grasses we have used is as magical as the flowers. What happens next? In the short term there are more annuals to flower. The meadow is bursting with Corncockle, which will turn it purple (just coming into flower at the bottom of the Cornflower pic) – more photos to come in our gallery section. Once all the species have flowered we’ll cut it. I’m not sure whether it will be possible to wait until all the annuals have set seed; if it does we’ll use the green hay to seed an adjacent bare area. This will leave the developing perennials, which will then have time do to some further growing. The meadow will look quite different next year. It may increasingly look like the area we have at home, but as we prepared the ground so differently – by stripping off the topsoil rather than have the pigs on it as we did here – I’m not sure quite what it will look like… Our main meadow area at home is currently swamped in Buttercup and Rattle, with Red Clover, Oxeye Daisies and Sorrel also out:
Related Posts:
Archie’s Meadow Goes Bananas
Yellow Rattle
Archie’s Meadow – Update


Annual Wildflowers in Your Garden

annual wildflowers in the gardenAs part of Gardener Mike’s fantastic veg garden extension we’re doing a fair bit of companion planting. In addition to some traditional annuals – Nasturtium, French marigold, and Poached Egg plants – we’ve put aside a bed for annual wildflowers. Not only will it look stunning, but it will be a nectar magnet for all sorts of helpful pollinators in high summer. We weeded a south facing sunny bed next to the base of an old greenhouse, so the soil is poor – full of hardcore. Perfect. Annual wildflowers in the gardenI sowed a chunk of our Cornfield annual mix around three weeks ago, and now you can almost see the seedlings growing as you watch. This mix includes some of our most beautiful native flowers, like the Cornflower – now astonishingly rare in the wild. Frustratingly, many folk seem to leave their annual wildflowers to get on with it once they’ve sown them, with the consequence that they just disappear after a year. Ours will keep on repeating, as I’m going to follow Richard Brown of Emorsgate’s regime:

I can’t wait to post the pictures of what the bed will look like in June – or better a video, so you can see the bees, butterflies, and hoverflies zipping around it. Absolutely vibrant. I promise that you won’t be able to resist – better start thinking where you could fit one in now…

Related Posts: Place Names Sarah’s Wildflower Bank

Place Names

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) and Honeybee

Reading one of my Christmas pressies, the fascinating Dictionary of English Place-Names, it struck me how odd it is that we think of the “everyday” as being so unremarkable. We live in an area that’s been occupied for – well, at least 4,000 years – so it’s not surprising that we are surrounded by a rich and odd sounding collection of village names. We live in Lamyatt (pre Domesday Book, meaning “lamb’s gate”), next to Ditcheat (before 842, “gap in the dyke”, which was presumably on the Fosse Way running past the village) and Castle Cary (from the River Cary, pre Iron Age). We live on Creech (Celtic for “mound”) Hill, where there is an Iron Age fort that looks over to Chesterblade, derived from the Old English for “fort” as well. I’ve lived there for nearly 10 years and have an interest in archaelogy and local history, but hadn’t really thought much about the derivations of the words. I suppose it’s a fact of modern life that we’re not more aware of our surroundings.
I have the same problem getting people to think about buying native plants. Despite the fact that most of us couldn’t remember the last time we saw a wildflower meadow, because we treat these plants as commonplace we don’t bother thinking about them. Which is a pity really, because like the Cornflower I snapped in our cornfield annuals last year, many are no longer commonplace at all. At least our place names won’t go extinct – which thought gives me an excuse to play some Flanders and Swann…

Oh dear – I had hoped for a cheery missive to greet the New Year. Happy 2010!