Wildflower Meadow

One of my favourite areas in the garden is our wildflower meadow. Dr. Dave Goulson, in his book A Sting in the Tail, describes wildflower meadows as ‘close to heaven’ and I would certainly agree with him. Our meadow is a work in progress. It is possible to clear an area of grass and sow a seed mix of ‘wildflower meadow’ but it’s hard to get a truly native mix. Many of the mixes available here in Ireland contain species that would be found in a British wildflower meadows though not necessarily an Irish one! In addition, where I have seen this done, the meadows look great the first year and then the grasses start to take over again.

We started our wildflower meadow in what is also our orchard. I’ve gathered wildflower seeds from the surrounding hedgerows and fields and scattered them in this area. I have also ‘move’ wildflowers that come up in my vegetable patch or lawn to the area I want them. I do this with ox-eyed daisy a lot. This year, the ox-eyed daisies didn’t put on such as good display as last year. I’ve a feeling it’s probably due to the wet weather.

Ox-eyed daisy

Ox-eyed daisy

However, the yellow catsear Hypochaeris radicata, haveย  increased significantly just by collecting and scattering seeds.

Catsear

Catsear

One of the great successes has been the introduction of yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor. This plant is parasitic to grasses and so reduces their vigor allowing the flowers to get better established. It’s called yellow rattle or hay rattle because when the seeds dry they rattle in the wind. I originally scattered some seeds in one small area but I can find it all over the garden now. Last year, I purposely scattered seeds in our new poultry field and there are quite a few plants there this year.

Yellow rattle

Yellow rattle

There has always been plenty of white clover, but this year the red clover is also doing well.

Red Clover

Red Clover

We will cut the meadow when everything has set seed, usually in September. The last to flower will be the knapweeds and scabious. Last year, I only had a couple of plants of each but over time they will increase. One needs to be patient. Some of the seeds I will collect and scatter where I want the plants to grow. It’s important to remove the cut grass once the seeds have fallen, otherwise the decaying grass will increase the fertility and generally the flowers do better in relatively poor soil.

The beauty of a flower meadow is not just in the flowers but in all the insects that visit it. At the moment these are some of the commonest insects about. The solitary bee is a leaf cutter bee (Megachile vesicolor). The photo is from last year but I saw one today flying with a large cycle of leave in it’s jaws!

 

 

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23 thoughts on “Wildflower Meadow

  1. bettylouise31

    Nice meadow. I am not a fan of wildflower mixes. The seeds that germinate are the ” invasive ones”. The “better ones” usually don’t. Also the seeds come from a general area. The one you label yellow rattle we have similar species called Butter And Eyes. A fieldfull of oom is a beauty. Get started somewhere and it takes over.

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  2. sehrish_bibi

    In my country specially the area where I live there is no trend of meadow at all but people are used to grow 3,4 kinds of flowers in small plastic bottles or in ceramic pots which are placed at main gate to welcome any one. Its you who introduced me idea of meadow in original form. Well, I like it. Its lovely and beautiful to have natural view at your own. nice one. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Marija

    There is something about a wildflower meadow that invokes childhood for me. Seeing your wonderful photos of flowers and plants grown for the benefit of wildlife and not as a money-making crop is inspiring. Your patience in collecting seeds and seeing one or two plants multiply into many is admirable…such a wonderful investment for the future ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Wildflower meadows were so much more common in the past – I think the UK has lost about 80% of their native meadows. So yes you are right – it is an investment:)

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      1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

        I’m lucky. The fields were I grew up (and have returned to) are still fields, though a few have been planted with forestry, but at least still good habitat

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  4. Melissa Shaw-Smith

    What a lovely idea to grow your own wildflower meadow. There’s nothing quite like a Connemara summer meadow–orchids, lady’s bedstraw, ox eye daisy, scabeous, bird’s foot trefoil, yarrow, thyme–aah, the color, the scent, and the lark rising high in the air above it all, singing it’s heart out. Makes me homesick!

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      We have a few orchids come up the last couple of years but interestingly where we keep the grass shorter. Love lady’s bedstraw too and it grows in a bank just down the road so should try and get it into the meadow too. I can nearly smell your flowers

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  5. Jane

    I was so pleased when you talked about Dave Goulson’s book as it is mentioned in his article (Beds, Cambs, Northants – Wildlife summer Magazine) along with his new A Buzz in the Meadow. I shall go out and buy them both. His article is called ‘Bumblebees need your help’ and is brilliant. Quite inspirational – and it is wonderful to see your techniques in your beautiful wild meadow.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Did not realise he had a new book out – I will have to get. He’s a great advocate of bees and lovely writer!

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