new beds, smaller lawn, meadow....

The new meadow shows in relief against the topiary we’re keeping.

The new meadow shows in relief against the topiary we’re keeping.

It’s been months since I wrote.  I’m loving my veg patch and have been posting on Instagram Stories but, checking back, can see that I haven’t written about my garden adventures here since April.  

I could promise myself that I will write more - once a fortnight perhaps but experience shows this doesn’t work. When I want to embed a new habit I need to do it once and then do it again.  Works much better for me.   If you haven’t tried it I recommend you do - next time you have a habit you want to form.   Because motivation follows action rather than the other way round it’s so much effective than will-power.  So, I’m satisfying myself with writing for half an hour today and then planning to do it again tomorrow.

Anyway, I digress. I sowed my meadow very late - in the first week of June and using a seed mix created by Nigel Dunnett, of Sheffield University, who designed the poppy filled planting around the Olympic Stadium, and the naturalistic planting that contrasts so fabulously with the brutalistic architecture of the Barbican.  His company, Pictorial Meadows offers mixes for creating delightful sustainable plant communities that need little attention to give a spectacular show.  Just what I needed in other words.  

I chose the Classic Annual mix - there are perennial ones available too, but I wanted a quick, one off, hit of deliciousness for my new beds as I was too late to access a good choice of herbaceous perennials* and anyway I want to grow as many as I can myself - partly because I’ll love it, but also to justify the expense of my new greenhouse! 

It was an impulse in late April that inspired me to finally tackle the huge, and annoying, lawn that stretched from the hedge on one side to the dark green yew/fence combination on the other.  A very flat, very green space - under the influence of regular poisonous doses that destroyed any weed, or creature, that dared to interlope, and adminstered by a company with green hand parts in its name.  

Oh it was perfect all right and had a certain elegance I suppose, in association with the square cornered, trimmed to within an inch of its life, box hedging.

But it was devoid of interest - there was no generosity or lusciousness - no love and certainly very little wildlife.  It wasn’t that there were no plants - we actually inherited two metal edged, tightly contained, 30 cm wide strips of cottage style ones that are currently waiting to be released from their prison and included within a whole new community.  

So - an impulse.   To extend my ownership of the garden beyond the potager and new greenhouse - to create a sense of place, support wildlife and add my own touch.  A desperation, in fact, to create a garden again - having left my beloved cottage when we moved I was bereft for a while as illness prevented me engaging with this one.  It was crazy really - gardening has such a propensity to heal - but I couldn’t.  For a while anyway.  

An impulse therefore, triggered the decision to create new beds in late April and, in, the process, a deliberate and smaller lawn.  At this point I need to own up - we have help in the garden.  I don’t enjoy digging and my husband isn’t handy, so I work with a lovely guy, Alan, who comes on Friday mornings, does the regular stuff and plots the more interesting ideas with me.  I love to bounce ideas around with him enjoying his sensible perspective and encouragement too.  

No shame - it’s horses for courses - if you love the heavy stuff, and you’ve got time to spend doing it, dig.  If you don’t, or you haven’t, and you can afford to support another family by employing a gardener, then do.  It makes much more sense to spend your time doing the stuff you love to my mind.  

Anyway.  Alan and I laid out the shape of the lawn following the scaled design I’d created months previously, before Tom, another wonderful chap, rotovated, collected the grass chunks by hand, added a load of compost and raked.  I should say at this point that the mix I chose isn’t a native wildflower** mix - just a mix of annuals***.  Still good for wildlife but is happy on more nutritious soil.

The meadow seed mix is sown in my new beds - no sign of growth yet.

The meadow seed mix is sown in my new beds - no sign of growth yet.

I sowed the seed in the first week of June, having created a web of string with small waving bits of silver foil to scare off the pigeons.  And we waited.  In fact we went away for a week, me with my heart in my mouth wondering if anything would come up and whether I’d be spending the summer looking at empty beds.  

Well - I needn’t have worried as there was a green haze when we came home and exciting weeks followed while the seed grew, and grew, until, one amazing day, I spotted the first flower, and then there were ten and then… 

Well now - surfice to say, the meadow is in full flow.    And it’s a delight, fulll of bees and butterflies and all things that hover.  It changes every day. 

I can’t name them all but here we have Linaria (toadflax, poppy obviously and corncockle I think… Oh, and some fat hen which has grown from dormant seed under the lawn - that wasn’t supposed to happen!

I can’t name them all but here we have Linaria (toadflax, poppy obviously and corncockle I think… Oh, and some fat hen which has grown from dormant seed under the lawn - that wasn’t supposed to happen!

And, using the meadow as an interim step has been useful.  It’s now clear that the lawn is still too big - I actually knew this when I drew the design but Nigel was nervous and I went along with him. It’s obvious to him too now - patience is a virture in marriage.   And shaping beds is a cheap way to add interest to a garden - so nothing lost.  We’ll get on with extending them come autumn, once the meadow is over.  

I’m currently having fun choosing seeds to sow in the next couple of weeks  - a range of natural looking perennials* to echo the protected meadow on the other side of the stream and offer a continuous picture of interest, and structure this side.   And I can’t wait.  

But the greenhouse needs a tidy first! 

The meadow in full throttle with sweet-peas and sunflowers adding to the joy on my home-made hazel wigwams.

The meadow in full throttle with sweet-peas and sunflowers adding to the joy on my home-made hazel wigwams.


*Plants with soft growth that disappear underground in winter and come back in spring - unless they’re evergreen, in which case they just stop growing and sit there over winter and, once they start again in spring, you cut off the old foliage.

**A wildflower mix would need soil that is poor - good garden soil would be too nutritious.

***An annual is a plant that will grow from a seed, flower and set seed all in the same year.