31 December 2006 - 12:00am

Creating a meadow

Being potty about plants, I always have to have a new gardening project on the go. Strongly influenced by our student son who is home for the summer and passionate about ecology, the latest plan is to turn part of the garden into a little wildflower meadow. A trip to the wildflower farm at Langar (www.naturescape.co.uk tel. 01949 860592) early In July was really inspirational. We followed it up with a fair bit of research and garden visits and Project Meadow is well and truly up and running.

The site we have picked is in some light woodland under a group of silver birches. Peter stopped mowing the area in May, and self heal, stitchwort, hawkbit, red and white clover, herb robert and birds hop trefoil have all sprung up on their own. A little management is needed even in the wildest meadow, so I’ve regularly pulled up the ‘nasties’ such as ragwort which is poisonous, and thistles which invade horribly if left alone (although I admit I was tempted to leave a few for the goldfinches).

Plants have been chosen that will enjoy either semi shade or, if planted at the front, sunny conditions. We bought a mixture of little pot grown specimens and seed to see which works best. The plants we simply popped in in little plugs. The seeds will be sown at intervals between now and the spring; we will mow closely selected areas and scarify the soil to break it up a bit. The seed can then be sown and tamp it down well. Some seeds, such a cranesbills, need rubbing with sandpaper to break to seed coat a bit and get them to germinate more easily, a technique called stratification Others are less fussy. We will be exploring more planting opportunities, especially with grasses to create a natural looking meadow which will attract plenty of wildlife.

So, next June and July we should have a meadow full of colour. If Project Meadow actually works, as well as the above mentioned plants we will have oxeye daisies, lady’s smock, wood cranesbill, vetch, red campion, and ragged robin. I’m also going to experiment to see if some of the easy plants which seed themselves around in my borders will do well in these conditions, such as the tall white campanula, welsh poppies and hardy geraniums, which would complement their cranesbill cousins.

I can see myself now next summer, wandering in a floaty frock in the sunshine, through a beautiful meadow. I’ll let you know if it works as well as I imagine it!