Since I decided to try to grow a wildflower meadow, I’ve been documenting the wildflowers on my one West Cork Acre each year. You can chart my progress by taking a look at One Acre, One Acre – One Year On, and One-Acre Three Years On. (Hmmm – what happened to Two Years on?)
I’ve found new flowers and learned something new each year and this year was no exception. I’ve set aside a portion of my garden as a perennial wildflower meadow. My strategy, based on my reading of best practice, is not to cut it until the autumn, and then cut and rake it once everything has more or less finished blooming. The raking is important, since leaving the cut grass fertilises the soil, and what you want in a wildflower meadow is soil that is as impoverished as possible.
A perennial wildflower meadow is what happens when you provide minimal intervention – just sit back and let whatever comes up, some up. But when a lawn has had years of cutting, and the grass is thick, one intervention that is recommended is to scatter the seeds of Yellow Rattle (above and below), a native wildflower that helps keep the grasses sparse, allowing other flowers to gain a foothold among those thick, tough roots.
This year, the meadow flourished. The Yellow Rattle had seeded itself very successfully last autumn – so much so that I was wondering if I now needed to thin it a bit – oh the irony. Along came my young friend Niamh and patiently harvested as much of the seed as we thought she should. Some of it went to her house, and the rest I scattered an area of the meadow I seemed to have missed before.
The other thing that happened was that I discovered that bracken had invaded part of the meadow (above). Left unchecked, bracken will take over and choke out everything else. It’s an important plant in its natural habitat and provides food and shelter for several invertebrate species – but it’s vital to manage it in a situation like this, if you can. Niamh pulled out what she could and stamped down the rest. I will need to keep on top of this or my meadow will drown in bracken.
The wildflower meadow is only small one part of our One Acre. For the rest, I try to cut as little as possible and just about every day I wander around, trying to record what’s coming up. I was so entranced at what was happening in May that I made a little slideshow called Lying in the Grass. Here it is again – every single flower was photographed in one week in May this year, all on my one acre .
The months of June and July are the height of the wildflower season and all parts of the acre sprout flowering plants – the lawns, the stone walls, the hedges, the gravel driveway and the boreen that our neighbour uses to get his cattle across the top of our property – it’s where the Chamomile grows.
I continue to be delighted at what comes up all over our acre – the colour and variety is amazing, and I feel like I am doing my part for our pollinators. But mostly it’s just – beautiful!