Pumpkins carved by the kids. Think they’ll do the trick, some of them do look seriously scary, I’d go as far as to say, disturbed!
Here in Kent it’s been a very dry and warm autumn, we seem to get a bit of rain once a month at the moment. The result, abundant flowers in the cutting beds, the house is full of blooms and there are plenty for gifts. This was a little thank-you posy for a friend. I like the purple sage leaves with the pink dahlias, cosmos and penstemon.
I’m gradually working around the garden, taming and modifying, trying to create a manageable plot, before I start carving it up into more borders. At present I’m tackling an out of control bamboo that’s attempting to colonise the whole garden. Once cut back I’ll take a mattock to the roots hopefully eradicating the menace. Whilst clearing this forest I found a large muddy brown bottle, half filled with rain water and the most disgusting contents that I will not go into! After a good deal of bleach, lots of scrubbing and the use of ‘magic balls’ (amazing metal balls which clean dirt and watermarks from the inside of bottles and vases), I have a fabulous new vase. I love the bottles large size and short neck. It’ll be perfect for a couple of long shrubby stems.
Most of my vases are up-cycled. Before I put any glass container in the re-cycling I consider its flower worthiness. Your supermarket shop can inadvertently provide you with beautifully shaped glass containers, spice and mustard jars often come in perfect vase shapes. I also love home scent reed bottles, which are great as single stem vases. You just need to keep your eyes and mind open, even if the potential flower vessel is in a rotten smelly state!
There are two ways to create a wild flower meadow, one which will take some time, effort and money, the other is quick, easy and cheap. Bet you can guess which option I took!
If you want perfect swaths of meadow flowers reminiscent of the amazing wildflower landscaping around the London Olympic park in 2012, I recommend the first option; stripping turf, rotavating, sowing special seed mixes and ta-da, you’ll be rewarded with a fabulous meadow; well in the first year, you might be a bit disappointed in the second, still a great meadow but it won’t self sow quite as prolifically as previously.
If you’re just after an area of garden that looks naturalistic with a few wild flowers and is a haven for wildlife, save yourself some time and money and go with my favoured second option.
For most wild meadow flowers to thrive the soil needs to be poor in nutrients, so a well tended, manure enriched part of the garden is not going to work that well, if this is what you’ve got, go for poppies and a cut flower annual mix which will give you a pretty garden meadow effect.
The perfect spots are often already grassed, in the past I created a lovely meadow in a mini orchard at our old house. Now I want to recreate the effect along the banks of our ditch and pond. This is an area we leave to its own devices, just regularly mowing a path and strimming the longer grass once a year in August. It’s already a haven for wildlife but we’d like to attract more and add some colour to enhance the walk around the pond.
To give wild flowers the chance to thrive they need a bit of space, lush thick grass is going to smother any self respecting wild flower when it attempts to set seed. A clever solution to this problem is to grow Yellow Rattle, this pretty yellow flower is parasitic on grass roots extracting water and minerals. In the past it was hated by farmers as Yellow Rattle can reduce a hay crop by 50%. This is just what we’re after. If the Yellow Rattle does start to take over, deterring wild flowers you can just cut it back before it sets seed one year. The trick is to sow Yellow Rattle seed now in Autumn as it needs a long period of chill to enable germination in Spring. The easiest way to sow Yellow Rattle is by scrapping away a small patch of grass, digging the soil so it’s not too compact, watering and then sprinkling a few seeds. Repeat this every few feet in the area you want to establish a meadow.
I then wait till spring to sow wild flower seed into pots with low nutrient seed compost. Once established in early May, I then pot out into the meadow area, allowing them to thrive and set seed starting the annual cycle of a wild flower meadow.
After the meadow is planted there is just one rule. Cut the meadow once a year in late July/ August, after flowering, leave the ‘hay’ to dry, allowing seed to disperse and set for next year. After a week or so remove the hay as you don’t want it to rot down into the soil adding nutrients.
I look forward to posting some blooming meadow pictures early next summer.
Below are some suggested wild flowers for different sites:
Woodland / shaded area
Nettle Leaved Bell Flower
Square St Johns Wort
Upright Hedge Parsley
Wild fox glove
Clay soils in an open aspect
Ox Eye Daisy
Sandy soils in an open aspect
Ox Eye Daisy
Chalk Soils in an open aspect
Ox Eye Daisy
The low, warm, golden, autumn sun has lured me out into the garden, the morning rays highlighting blooms, transforming them into beautiful jewels.
I tried to capture the magical atmosphere with pictures, but sadly they don’t quite compare to the real thing.
We’re enjoying the autumn bounty from the garden. Squashes are not only a delicious kitchen delicacy that’ll store throughout the winter. They also make gorgeous table decorations. The usual bunch of garden flowers have made way for a platter of squashes, their colours are inspiring, with fabulous depth, more enticing than a Farrow and Ball colour chart!
Every year I grow a few Cape Gooseberry (Physalis) plants; there orange fruits encased in a paper lantern have a unique zing which I find very moreish. They can also be served as an indulgent treat by pealing the paper lantern back to reveal the berry which can be half submerged in melted chocolate then allowed to dry, delicious!
My apple thinning quest earlier in the year has paid off. The boring tedious task of thinning bunches of apples down to a pair has meant we have a lovely crop of apples this year.