Wildlife Gardeners behind one of the Eurasian plantings in the Merton Borders
This made me think about why I feel these plantings could offer a sideways look at why people want to plant “wildflower meadows” in their gardens. In my introduction to the conference I noted that “meadows” mean different things to different people, and suggested that what many people yearn for is the real or implanted romantic memory of open fields full of wildflowers and butterflies.
We heard from Jenny Steele that with time, patience and careful management this can be achieved. It isn’t easy however, with major problems over high fertility causing grasses to outgrow the flowers, as well as weed incursion from the old soil layer.
Stuart Ball from John Chambers Seeds talked about growing meadows from seed, and James Hewetson-Brown showed how special wildflower turf can be a quick solution. Both of these methods exclude competitive grass, achieving a colourful display relatively easily, but as we all emphasised, only after very careful preparation of the site, and subsequent management. But neither approach is really a “meadow” – the essence of which is historically managed grass for fodder, with the flowers as a bonus on top.
James used a phrase I found instantly compelling, referring to these “non-meadows” as “Wildflower Spaces”. I’ve been searching for a word that is much broader than “meadow” or “flowery lawn”, but captures the romantic essence of what we are looking for – large expanses of flowers which we can walk through, at least at certain times of the year. Even the best SSSI meadow won’t look good after extensive trampling. Furthermore, “real” meadows only carry flowers for a short season, while these other approaches can be in bloom for much longer.
I’ve always “had it in” for stripy lawns, so I’m keen to get on with the “Lawns” section of this website, where we can discuss improving lawns for wildlife, as well as the quicker new alternatives. On that score, I’m delighted that after 25 years of cutting and removing arisings, plus no weedkillers or fertilisers, my lawn is beginning at last to look awful. That is to say, it’s getting full of flowering broad-leaved (largely) natives. I’m experimenting with cutting desire-line paths, and leaving the areas where the grass is weak to grow long and flower. I love it!