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Wildflower meadow


 
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Gardensgalore
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Location: West Cork

PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2007 3:58 pm    Post subject: Wildflower meadow Reply with quote

I wonder if any of our learned members have created and maintained a wildflower meadow, if so I would love to hear their experiences. Some gardening books give a few hints, but seem to gloss over the problems like 'how to control the docks, nettles and bracken which appear'. I have a piece of garden in mind about 20 x 25 metres gently sloping to the South. The soil is reasonably fertile and well-drained, overlying what I think are deep glacial deposits, with stones ranging in size from sand up to the dimensions of a family car. It is fairly open and sunny, with wind break trees some distance away on all sides. Oh! and pH is about 6.5.
Over to you guys.

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JennyS
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2007 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Gardensgalore - I was hoping someone else would be brave and answer this one!
You'll find much more comprehensive info, but heres a start.

'Wildflower meadow' is a pretty loose, cover-all term - occurring in a non-garden enviroment there would be (or have been) different types depending on the habitat......

Short grassland often on sand, chalk or limestone:
Often more / less nutrient-poor, grazed short by sheep and rabbits so not too much competion from grasses.
Low-growing or adaptable flowering plants like Knotted Pearlwort, Doves-foot Cranesbil, Lesser Birds-foot Trefoil, Centuary, Eyebright, Wild Pansy .....often perennial.

Hay meadows:
Not too many of them around any more! The grass would have been mown for hay in summer then stooked, leaving barer patches for seed germination before the grass started to re-grow. Damp or dry ground. Taller growing plants, often perennial.
Found a lovely one near the coast - there were Marsh-orchids, Ragged Robin, Yellow Rattle, Common Birds-foot Trefoil, Speedwell, Ox-eye Daisies ....
They rely on the grass being cut and then removed a few days later, leave the cut grass lying there and many of the flowering plants will not survive.

Water meadows:
Wetter ground, taller plants that can compete with grasses, Meadowsweet, Purple Loosestrife, Yellow Flag (Yellow Iris) Marsh Marigold and Lady's Smock earlier in the year......

Corn fields - devastated by agro/chemical industry!
They would have provided a habitat for annual plants that need bare ground for the seed to germinate - like Corn Poppies which die out in grassland. The plants adapted to flower and set seed below sickle-height!


Back to your bit - it sounds like you're in the 'hay meadow' category.....
If the patch of land is already grassland you'd do best to get 'plant plugs' or grow on the wildflower seed in a nursery bed or trays and then plant out when stronger grown as sowing seed into existing grass isn't going to be successful.
A good tip is to grow plenty of Yellow Rattle in a wildflower patch as it is parasitic on grass and will weaken the competion.

If you're planting in bare or previously cultivated ground you can buy wildflower mixes with less competitive grasses, but as long as that ground is bare it will also get seeded by everything else growing around there.....

It would be wise to remove as many nettle and dock roots before starting! Bracken won't manage to survive frequent cutting so unless the ground is dense with it that should be less of a problem.
Natural wildflower meadows are usually seasonal and rely on being cut or grazed as part of their cycle - in a 'created' meadow stripping / mowing and then removing the cut grass is vital to stop the thugs taking over!

It is possible to buy wildflower seed 'mixes' for different situations, and also seed of individual species.
It is VERY IMPORTANT to only plant wildflower seed grown in Ireland as British / Continental varieties can have a different genetic make-up to native varieties of the same species.

Hope this gives a few helpful pointers.....

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Gardensgalore
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2007 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Jenny,
You have obviously gone to a lot of trouble with that reply, for which I thank you.
You have given me a little hope and come up with a few new tips. I wonder if a strimmer is an acceptable substitute for a scythe when cutting the hay.
Can you germinate Yellow Rattle and grow as normal plugs, or does it need a grass to host it from day one? And does it seriously weaken the grass? If it does, then I can see other uses for it as well.
Would it be sensible to strip off the existing turf or black plastic mulch the ground for a while, then plant up plugs and let wild grasses re-establish naturally?
As usual, one good answer poses lots more questions.
Thanks again
Richard

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JennyS
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2007 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi - might have to answer in sections....

"I wonder if a strimmer is an acceptable substitute for a scythe when cutting the hay. "
Definitely, or equally a mower on highest setting - but its very important to leave whats cut on the ground ONLY for a couple of days (to let any seeds drop) and then clear.

"Can you germinate Yellow Rattle......"
I don't know about germination or growing on, but theres a UK wildlife forum you might be able to post that as a question on, otherwise www.wildflowers.ie might be able to help - they are the only suppliers of irish-grown wildflower seed, plugs and mixes I've been able to come across, could well be others....

Yellow Rattle - Its definitely parasitic on grass, but I don't know to what degree, or whether it needs specific grasses as host plant.

"Would it be sensible to strip off the existing turf or black plastic mulch the ground for a while...."
I don't know a definitive answer to that one.
My own feeling would be that bare ground is going to invite unwanted germination, and if you've existing grass cover it seems a bit daft to remove it, unless you are going to do a full reseed.
If I had existing grassland that i wanted to create a 'hay meadow' effect in I would keep it cut regularly until I was ready to plant either plugs or stronger plants in it.
But I honestly don't know the 'proper' answer to that one!

Theres an awful of grasses that would blow in on the wind, and docks, and you need narrow-bladed grasses rather than the broad-bladed agricultural grasses that would be the most likely self seeders.

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2007 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am about to write a week by week piece on creating a wildflower area within your garden for the weekly newspaper column I write.
I will post it up here, beginning next week, if you would like to have a look at it.
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Gardensgalore
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks GPI,
would be obliged.
Richard

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2007 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The piece that I am putting together on sowing wildflowers is located here... http://www.gardenplansireland.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=988
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