Last year in this 6.5 acre Cotswold garden another gardener and I created a circle of wild flowers which equated to an area of 40 square metres which surrounded a stone monument. The monument was surrounded by an area of established grass, and so because of this we had to strip away the top layer of turfs. At the time of beginning this project in mid February my plan was to sow the wild flower seed, which comprised both native and non native species, by mid March.
The intention of the sowing schedule was to establish sufficient germination so that the project could be well underway for the National Gardens’ Open Day, which always falls at the end of May on the Bank holiday weekend. On the day that we were removing the turfs there had been little rain, inevitably making the task more challenging. It took the two of us two and a half hours to remove the top layer of grass with the use of a turfing iron and garden spade.
REDUCING SOIL FERTILITY
In removing the sods of grass an effort was made to take away, in addition, about 100mm of soil below the the layer of grass in order to reduce the fertility of the soil. This, I hoped, would reduce the germination of any invasive weed seeds that may be blown in from the nearby field. I did realise, however, that in removing such a small amount of soil from beneath the layer of grass it may have a minimal effect, but any effort taken to reduce the likelihood of transference of weed seeds is better than none at all.
Once the grass had been removed the soil was lightly forked to a depth of about 25mm and consolidated by putting just a little amount of pressure with our feet over the surface area. This process was carried out three times and then raked over before the wild flower mix was sown.
SOWING THE SEED
The non native species of wild flower seed were – Fairy Toadflax, Purple Tansy, Bishops Flower, Red Flax and Painted Daisy. The native species were – Corncockle, Cornflower, Corn Marigold, Field Poppy, and Scentless Mayweed. This particular mix is conducive for areas of conservation. Other wild flower species which were included in the total wild flower mix are Red Orache and Californian Poppy.
I mixed the seed with a small amount of grit sand to enable me to see that the seed was evenly distributed within the circle. When sowing the seeds of wild flowers it is very difficult to guage the area that you are covering, as many of the seeds are dark in colour. So using this method ensures a more thorough spread of seed.
The suggested sowing rate is about 2 grammes per square metre, and so this equated to 80 grammes of wild flower seed. Once the seed was sown we gently raked it in.
No watering system was set up as the objective was to rely on rain fall to assist with germination. Any excessive watering could cause the seed to rot, which would of course inhibit germination.
With the assistance of several sessions of light rain the seeds started to germinate three and a half weeks later. The most prolific germination was that of the Red Orache. At the time of Open Day, at the end of May, a carpet of various seedlings could be viewed, comprising shades of green, red, and purple. The contrasting leaf structures at this stage of the formation of the flowers were eye catching. Many visitors took photographs, which was very encouraging. I knew, with the visiting garden groups which were to follow over the next coming months, that they would have the pleasure of enjoying a mass of colour; something to really look forward to.
The project turned out to be a great success with a display of wild flowers from late June – late October with the ‘hangers on’, the Cornflowers, flowering right up to the end of November. The flowers were not as bright or well structured in their formation but, nevertheless, still eye catching and uplifting on those duller autumn days, and a ‘breath of fresh air’ on the sunnier days.
Very little weed species appeared to impede the process of the growing of the flowers, after all, throughout the 4-5 month period. I think this was due to -
* Turf Removal – This meant that freshly exposed soil did not harbour any existing weed seed species residing in the soil.
* Possibly removing 100mm layer of soil.
Both of the above factors allowed the wild flowers to establish successfully and to overcome any competition from weed seeds germinating. The weed that did appear was the annual weed groundsel which was removed carefully before the seed dispersal process. The latter has the potential to produce a flurry of up to one million offspring in one season. It has been decided that the circle of wild flowers will be an ongoing seasonal feature in the garden. This year I have sown the same wild flower mix as last year, and once again in mid March. The same pattern of germination is occuring as last year with prolific germination of the Red Orache ahead of the other species.
SELF SEEDING PROCESS
Prior to this year’s sowing of the wild flower seeds in mid March I noticed that some of the wild flowers from last year had started to re-establish from the process of self seed dispersal. These species are -
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