Thursday 15 March 2012

Field notes

A year or so ago, I borrowed a book from the Admiral, 'Making Wildflower Meadows' by Pam Lewis. This was a delightful read, the author taking the time to explain how hay meadows evolved, the steps required in re-creating different sorts of meadow and a brief description of the types of plant once common in the fields of our countryside.

Truth be told, it was like reading about another world. Sadly, when I was but a young Tenselet, in the 60s, there wasn't the profusion of flowers and grasses that there had been even two decades earlier. In fact, it's only recently that I've come to appreciate what was lost to increased mechanisation and the herbicide revolution. This gently-blooming realisation only kicked in about 6 years ago. It was during a visit to Coton Manor in Northamptonshire where, along with the formal gardens and a Bluebell wood, there is a wildflower meadow, at its best in June/July.

Another delightful jewel in the wildlife crown is the BBOWT reserve at College Lake. Here, a Cornfield Flowers project has been running since the 1980s, in an effort to conserve these rare and beautiful flowers.

More recently, in 2012, BBC TV ran a short series entitled 'Bees, Butterflies and Blooms', in which writer, broadcaster and gardener Sarah Raven began a floral crusade to encourage the nation to plant more nectar-rich flowers. The hypothesis being that there is a severe shortage of different types of nectar available for pollinators, so that bees who can't find a healthy variety of food are not as vigorous and so succumb more easily to pests and diseases. It's a bit like humans not flourishing without their "five-a-day" of fruit and veg. The three episodes covered villages and farms, towns and gardens and, finally, cities. In the first programme, one of the places featured was Sticky Wicket, the garden created by the afore-mentioned Pam Lewis. I took this as my cue to purchase her book for myself and do my bit for said bees and butterflies.

Whilst Tense Towers is only vast estate if you're about the size of a Ladybird, there is room for a little experimentation. A few weekends ago, I dug up the straggling shrubs and pathetic plants that were eking out an existence in the narrow border that sits against the eastern wall of the house. The soil is quite impoverished and, being sheltered from the worst of the English weather, rather dry. Hopefully, this will mean that the usual crop of perennial colonisers (the dandelions, nettles and thistles of this world) will find it difficult to maintain a foothold and allow a wider variety of flowers to grow.

Having removed all the previous growth, roots and any large stones, I laid some temporary netting over the border as I didn't want the local cat population to think that it had the right to "improve" the soil structure with impunity.

I had previously sought the advice of habitat guru, JD, of Rotton Yarns fame, as to where to source indigenous wildflower seed. His suggestions were mirrored by the Suppliers list in 'Making Wildflower Meadows', so I duly sent off for 100g of Special Cornfield Mixture from Emorsgate Seeds in Norfolk. This morning's mail delivery brought a little packet of germane goodness to my desk and I'm now looking forward to getting down and dirty with a fine to medium tilth.


holdingmoments said...

Sounds like a very worthwhile project.
Hope to see some pictures of the progress.

Imperfect and Tense said...

I hope I can oblige, Keith.

The Herald said...

Hi Graeme, I too watched the Sarah Raven programme and it inspired me to dig up part of my lawn to plant some wild flower seeds! Although the ground would be more suitable for making pots the seeds went in on the 12th..the waiting now begins!! this space!!...[;o)

Imperfect and Tense said...

I can't help thinking that we've inadvertently heaped a whole load of pressure on ourselves! However, I take comfort from the fact that something will grow, just not necessarily what was expected. And whatever it is will most likely have some wildlife benefit :o)

Spadger said...

Good man!!! Keep going - don't give up!