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I have a meadow area and want to extend the range of plants in it. It's stiffish soil but not really heavy clay, badly drained in places and hard in summer. Former agricultural land, grass since 1960s. Lesser knapweed goes well, scabious persists but doesn't increase much. various buttercups have good and bad years. I have yellow rattle trying to reduce the grass a bit and it does work but it's got a way to go. I'm not a native purist and was wondering if any of the more robust invasive plants around the garden might survive in grass. On my list of possibles are persicaria, echinops, assorted geraniums, and some of the more invasive asters. I shall probably try it anyway but wondered if any of you have tried this and have suggestions.
I think you're right in trying to reduce the grass growth by introducing yellow rattle. Another way of doing this is to remove all mown grass from the meadow as this will reduce fertility (but you probably know that already). I've had wildflower meadows in the past, but have never tried to introduce garden varieties into the meadows. What I have found is that sometimes plants establish more easily around the edges of the meadow first, and then spread their way towards the middle, so if you're introducing things like geranium I'd put them around the edge to begin with. Maybe some of the native Herb Robert would mix in well there too - it's probably a bit more tenacious. Something else that does well in damp clay-ey meadows (in my experience) is Lady's Smock http://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/L/LadysSmock/LadysSmock.htm.
What a lovely project - photos would be lovely at some time
Thanks. We have lady's smock on a lower piece of grass which floods if we get a lot of rain, it has good years and bad. I'm hoping for good next year after all the wet. I'll move a few pieces up to the meadow and see how it goes. I suppose there's nothing to lose by trying anything I've got. I know it will be too dry in summer for prairie type planting though I'd love to see something like that.
The other difficulty that I didn't mention is that after years of long rank growth before we arrived, all those weeds of neglect have moved in, hemlock (not giant), cow parsley and suchlike. I love cow parsley but not everywhere.
I'll look out some photos and see if I can get them on. I'm pretty new to this site and haven't done pic yet.
If the meadow's been neglected for that long, then the most important thing is to get it 'topped' and the mown grass removed after flowers have set seed. If you've not got many flowers there yet I'd not worry too much about them setting seed - seedlings won't survive if the grass is lush anyway - I'd cut and remove the grass several times each year, starting in May - leaving a growth of about 6"-8" which will ensure that even if you remove bloom or seed spikes any perennial plants will survive. Or you could rent it out for a couple of years for grazing
Wow, that's looking gorgeous already - properly managed it'll soon look amazing - crying out for snakeshead fritillaries and Ragged Robin - and that mound could take some pulsatilla vulgaris - I'm green with envy
On a good buttercup year it is impressive, wouldn't want to spoil it by anything too garish. I've always considered it too dry for frits and ragged robin etc but I might give it a try anyway. Another summer like this one and they'd be fine.
I think its worth trying fritillaries - I used to live very close to the fritillary meadows at Framsden in Suffolk, although part of the meadowland was often quite damp, there were fritillaries higher up the slopes too. Ragged Robin ought to be ok there, and what about Moon Daisies (Ox Eye) - they grow wonderfully on a bank next to the inner ring road here in Norwich and cheer me up after a long hard day Cowslips on that bank too, and primroses by the hedge - Jack by the Hedge too - I'm getting carried away now - it's your meadow.
I'm planning a 'hedgerow garden' for a patch between our two big ash trees - if they survive that is
PS: I just thought, wild violets with the primroses - I'll shut up now
No, don't stop. Lots of these plants are elsewhere in the garden and can be transplanted. The ox eye daisies do OK out there. Cowslips less so, I think the grass ends up too long for them but if it gets cut sooner I lose other flowers. I'll keep moving things about til I get it right
OK, a couple more - purple vetch is happy in longish grass, and insects love it and it's such a beautiful colour- shades of indigo and violet, and birds foot trefoil (as children we called it eggs & bacon) grew in the damp meadow in front of the house where I grew up - another one the bees love
How gorgeous ! So jealous !!
We have been trying to turn a "field" into a "meadow" for four years now and it still looks like a patch of waste ground. When you wander in amongst it there are quite a lot of different wild flowers (quite a few that Dove has mentioned above) - including a roving patch of yellow rattle (never seems to come up in the same place year on year). But we never get that overall wildflower meadow look. I've been told that the only way is to resort to glyphosphate, but I keep resisting .... lets give it "one more year" !
Why on earth would anyone suggest using glyphosate on a developing wildflower meadow ?
Your meadow is a wonderful big space to have fun with. As it is close to Remembrance Day, I was wondering if the Flanders poppy might be an addition. I know it naturalizes well. I live in British Columbia in a small town with quite a high elevation and around me are alpine meadows with lillies and columbine, asters and geranium and a lovely little orchid that somehow survives cattle grazing. Good luck with your lovely meadow.
Yellow rattle moves about because it's an annual and comes up where the seed landed the previous year. It's parasitic on grass and reduces it quite nicely. What i'd like is something that's parasitic on hemlock.
It is hard to create the traditional meadow look, time and patience are needed. CAP suggests orchids, that would be lovely, I wonder which species might work out there, I'll give it some thought and see what I can get hold of.
Not the poppies though, different sort of meadow, the poppies and cornflowers etc belong to the cornfield, ploughed land. They can't cope with grass.
We were lucky in finding a good mix of grass species here when we arrived. In a dryish year they're magnificent on their own.
Sue10, don't give up. Just keep planting plugs of anything that suits your soil, or maybe grow them on for a season before you plant them. Let them seed and eventually some will take a hold.
We have a small meadow area in our London garden on clay soil. This year we decided to remove the grass as the soil was too rich and wildflower seeds struggled to compete. We have sown hardy annuals and planted perennials and in the Spring will sow the tender annuals. Below is a list of the plants we have chosen for the new meadow.
The glyphosphate suggestion was from the wildflower seed company (we were in the area and went in to see them for some advice). He said that unless we got rid of the grass (we are starting with a grassy field) then we didn't stand a chance of getting anything else to take.
Didn't take their advice - have tried seeding small patches and sowing batches of seed in trays and then planting the slightly larger plants in as plugs, neither of which has been very successful. I will try your suggestion of starting from the edges next spring.
BTW - does anyone know the best time of year to sow yellow rattle seed ?
Sow yellow rattle now or even earlier. It needs the winter cold to germinate and don't mow after about February. Just scatter around, scrape a bit if you like. I agree about sowing things into grass not working well and it's true in a lot of cases. For yellow rattle it's the only thing to do. It's parasitic on grass. I wasn't expecting it to make the dramatic effect that it did. In areas where there's been yellow rattle for a couple of years the grass is much diminished.
For other things I now grow on and plant larger than plugs, at leat a 3 inch pot.
Very helpful - many thanks. Best get my rattle seed ordered tonight !!
I was surprised at how easily yellow rattle germinated in our grassy meadow and I think I sowed it early Spring, it's also an attractive little plant. The thing I love about having a meadow is the excitement when the flowers appear in Spring from scattering the seed in Autumn, it's brought a whole new dimension to my gardening and its only a small patch but I love it
Things do vary don't they. I had no luck at all with yellow rattle when I sowed it in spring. Then I read that it needed winter cold, sowed in autumn and it's been seeding itself ever since