Do you dream of attracting butterflies and songbirds to your garden? You do? Would you like a non-stop display of flowers from spring to autumn? You would? Well, have I got the answer for you! Planting a meadow, small or large, in your garden will be good for the environment, beautiful to look at and easy to maintain. Time and patience are the two main commodities to growing a living, sustainable, wildflower meadow.
What Exactly is a Meadow?
A meadow can loosely be defined as an open space without shrubs or trees with a natural ecosystem of native grasses and wild flowers growing intensely together. Unlike a lawn, a meadow does not need mowing, watering or fertilizing. Nor does it have to be complicated or expensive.
A tall grass meadow is more suited to larger spaces as it can reach a height of over 2m. If you are designing for a large space, bear in mind that that this could cast a shadow over other plants that require sunshine. Short grass meadows work very well around buildings and small areas of the garden.
Different Types of Meadows
There are many types of meadows around the world: alpine, coastal, desert, prairie and wet, spring to mind. Meadows will naturally occur after disasters such as fire, flood or volcanic eruptions. But today we are going to look at incorporating the English country garden postcard version into your garden.
What is a Man-Made Meadow?
Simply put, it’s just a fast-track to the natural process by choosing to grow specific and suited species. A man-made meadow can be created in your garden with beautiful wildflowers and natural grasses designed to thrive for many years with low maintenance planning.
Where to Start?
It’s best to start small and simple. The space you choose in your garden can be as small as 3m. x 3m., but sunlight is needed for it to thrive. Usually, a major factor for growth is preparing the correct soil for the plant. However, when designing and planting with native grasses and wildflowers the tables are turned, and the opposite is true. The selection of plants is tailored to suit the existing soil conditions whether it be sandy or clay or somewhere in-between.
Not Sure About Your Soil?
Take a small handful of soil from approximately 30 cm. down. Squeeze your hand tightly, release and see what happens next. If it stays together in a ball shape you have clay soil. If it falls apart quickly you have sandy soil. If it’s soft and crumbly and easy to work with you have hit the jackpot – this is more than likely loam.
Varieties to Consider
Here are just a few from the hundreds of beautiful options to choose from:
Vanilla Grass – also known as Holy or Sweet Grass. It smells similar to newly-mown hay and vanilla. Sounds like heaven! This is a short perennial grass with gold-green flower heads in May and June.
Marsh Foxtail – or Alopecurus Geniculatus. A low growing perennial yielding red/brown flowers from May to July. Perfect to plant at the edge of ponds as it thrives on a damper site.
Quaking Grass – or Briza Media. A very attractive meadow grass that produces a purplish /green flower that appears to ‘quake’ in the wind. Peaks in June and July and loves the sun.
Common Cat’s Tail or Bromopis Erecta. A perfect hardy choice as it is resistant to cold and drought and is also tolerant of most types of soil. Almost invincible!
Favoured wild flowers include cowslip, ragged robin, sorrel and of course the white ox-eye daisy. Or instead of individual wildflowers you can sow a wild flower and grass mix from a packet.
When to Plant?
Mid to late November would be an ideal time to sow your chosen plantings as nature has an in-built programme that requires freeze / thaw activity to soften the seed shells which in turn facilitates spring germination.
Wild Flower Turf
It’s possible to create a meadow on a bare patch of ground by means of laying a wild flower turf. It may be cheating a little but ordinary turf can be produced in rolls, so why not a wildflower one? It will usually contain a mix of 50% grasses and 50% native wildflowers which will usually include yarrow, bugle and yellow rattle. Several varieties with all types of soil requirements can be purchased from specialist suppliers.
“While it is relatively easy to recognise the perennial grasses and seed-eating sparrows as characteristics of meadows, the ecosystem exists in its fullest sense underground. What we see above ground is only the outer margin of an ecosystem, that explodes in intricacy and life below.” Amy Seidl- Ecologist.
For more information on meadow grasses and wildflowers to plant in your garden please contact North Leeds Garden Design today.