Posted: Tuesday 3 July 2012
by James Alexander-Sinclair
The idea of skipping hand in hand through fields of waving daisies and beaming cornflowers, or seeing fields of gently swaying wheat, studded with scarlet poppies, is compelling.
It’s now prime time for flowery meadows - a romantic notion if ever there was one. The idea of skipping hand in hand through fields of waving daisies and beaming cornflowers, or seeing fields of gently swaying wheat, studded with scarlet poppies, is compelling.
However, you must never underestimate how difficult this is to achieve successfully. The prerequisite is that the soil must be poor, so poor that grass does not thrive. This is because strongly growing grass will always grow better than any wildflower, and eventually it will smother everything - except the odd spirited thistle or buttercup.
Most people’s gardens are a bit too fertile to make a decent meadow - especially after those of us from Gardeners’ World have urged you to enrich your soil with lots of mulch and organic matter! Sorry.
There are alternatives. If you get the chance to go and visit the Olympic Park (either during or straight after the games) you will see acres of planted perennial and annual meadows. The blend of plants is specially chosen to flower for a long time in normal soil. And there is a smaller version, behind the glasshouse at RHS Garden Wisley, which consists of mostly American prairie plants, like echinaceas and rudbeckias.
I have the beginnings of an annual meadow planted here. It has suffered a bit from the weather, but is just beginning to flower with a fine crop of linarias.
Do not be downhearted if you do not have the right soil, enough space, or sufficient energy to make your own meadow. Look around. Where is the worst bit of soil most likely to be found? Yup, you got it: in the middle of a road. Central reservations and motorway embankments across the country, are packed with goodies at the moment.
The photograph above shows one on the A43 just outside Northampton.