There’s a reason I chose to call myself the Tea Break Gardener. I don’t always do everything by the book. Sometimes cutting corners is a false economy but when I decided to stop mowing the grass in my orchard to create a meadow, the benefits were obvious – for wildlife and my time economy.
Here’s a look at six plants that are enjoying the longer grass under my fruit trees.
Fritillaria meleagris – Snakes-head fritillary seed heads
Hopefully you can see the soldier-like stems and seed-heads in this picture, amongst the buttercups. Snakeshead fritillaries are so beautiful and look fabulous en masse in grass meadows. However there is little point planting them in a lawn that you feel the need to mow.
Over the last two years I’ve bought about 100 bulbs to plant under the fruit trees to try and get a colony going. As more are added each year, it’s hard to know how many are coming back but a friend has managed to get the process of naturalisation going after 3-4 years of annual plantings and allowing them to self-seed.
Mine flowered very well this year and are now developing seed-heads. When these are ripe I will pop them and sprinkle them around a wider area. I don’t intend to mow here until the autumn but even if I did, the earliest I’d mow would be late July to give a chance for the seeds to find the ground.
I’m not sure yet which variety of Dactylorhiza this is but it is one of many common wild orchid types such as the Marsh Orchid or Spotted Orchid.
It was a precious gift sent to me by an Alpine Garden Society member who I am yet to meet but with whom I have been in contact through Twitter and Facebook. Receiving a carefully packaged plant, wrapped in moss, was a great thrill. She’s also promised to send some seed once this sets later in the year and I can sprinkle them around in the hope of getting a colony going.
Whilst we assume that wild orchids are rare – and some certainly are – there are many common varieties that can be spotted if you look carefully. This picture was taken last June and shows a patch of orchids in a field near my home. They look so pretty and compete very well with the grasses and daisies around them.
In the same field as the orchids are huge drifts of ox-eye daisies. I like to sit amongst them and hear the insects buzzing and chirpring. The field overlooks the garden of children’s author Roald Dahl and each time I sit there I think that he too explored this meadow and took inspiration from the insects there for the characters in James and the Giant Peach.
The picture below was take last summer and I’d say the field will look this way two or three weeks from now. The farmer leaves the field until early autumn before mowing.
Having seen how successful Ox-eye daisies are at colonising road side verges and meadows, it’s possible that they would eventually find their way to my little orchard meadow but I’ve decided to grow a few from seed to help things along.
I was tempted to sow them direct by sprinkling them around but decided instead to raise a few little plugs to plant out into the grass once I mow in the autumn. This should get them going a bit more quickly. I sowed the packet this week and am eagerly awaiting germination.
Buttercups are a favourite from childhood. We would always pick them as children and hold them up to each-other’s throats, the golden glow on the skin confirming our love for butter. The yellow beam is thanks to a sheen on the inside of the petals, as if hey have been painted in varnish. Even now I like to get close to marvel at the glow. I’m sure many people consider these weeds but if there’s ever a place for them in a garden it’s a meadow like this one.
What’s great about leaving an area like this un-mown is the plants that arrive uninvited. So far there’s only one of these but it’s definitely a poppy. I’m not sure which sort but it looks more like one of the oriental varieties than one of the common field poppies.
I’ve never grown species tulips before but I thought I’d give some a try. I chose these multi-headed Tulipa turkestanica as they looked very pretty in the Gee Tee Bulb Company catalogue, and planted them last November. In theory they’ll come back next year, although I’m worried how they’ll compete in this thick grass.
I certainly hope they’ll revisit. Back in March they looked very pretty, opening out their mauve flushed beigey petals in the sun to reveal a golden yellow throat. Right now the seedheads look pretty too – striped dark green and grey.
I hope to bring more updates from the meadow as the season progresses.
If you want to read other contributions to the Six on Saturday link up of gardeners click here to go to the page of host The Propagator.