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logo: PlantlifeFeatured Charity: December 2016 -


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We are Plantlife

Wild flowers, plants and fungi play a fundamental role for wildlife, and their colour and character light up our landscapes. But without our help, this priceless natural heritage is in danger of being lost.

Plantlife is the organisation that speaks up for our wild plants, lichens and fungi. From the open space of our nature reserves to the corridors of government, we’re here to raise their profile, celebrate their beauty and to protect their future. Join us in enjoying the very best that nature has to offer.



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As part of the partnership, Plantlife is offering a 50% to any CJS reader who would like to join Plantlife for the first time.  Visit http://shop.plantlife.org.uk/collections/membership  and choose Individual, Joint or Family membership. When you reach the checkout, just enter the code CJS in the box on the right of the screen which asks for your address.


The meadow maker

Trevor Dines (© Richard Williams Photography) 

Creating your own wildflower meadow? Spread a little bit of magic with yellow rattle, nature’s own lawnmower, says Plantlife’s botanical specialist, Dr Trevor Dines


Ever thought of establishing a wildflower meadow? It’s perhaps one of the most rewarding ways to bring native flora and other wildlife into your garden. What could be more attractive than a swathe of oxeye daisies, buttercups and knapweed swaying in the breeze on a warm summer evening?

But one of the biggest challenges is getting the grass under control, especially if you’re creating the meadow in an existing lawn or area of rough grass. If it’s too vigorous, it simply shoulders aside the flowers you want to encourage. Thankfully, though, nature has provided her own weapon for us to deploy.

One of the biggest challenges when creating a wildflower meadow

is getting the grass under control. But yellow rattle suppresses

 its growth by about 60%, creating space so that other flowers

have room to grow

Most meadow flowers are perennials, growing fresh new shoots from their roots each year and spreading slowly through the sward. But yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is different. It’s an annual plant, completing its entire life cycle in one year. It produces large quantities of seed, protected inside inflated seed pods that rattle when they ripen and dry in late summer, hence the name. In the olden days, this sound was used as a cue to the farmer that the hay was ready to cut.

During April and early May, the seeds germinate and grow quickly,
with characteristic paired leaves that are attractively corrugated and toothed. But underground, something sinister is happening. As their roots grow, they seek the roots of grasses growing nearby. Once contact is made with the victim’s root,
a fist-like structure grows around it (a haustorium) that penetrates the tissue. Hundreds of these connections are made, so the yellow rattle plant is tapped into almost all the grasses growing around it.

The effect of this can be astonishing. As the yellow rattle draws water and nutrients from the grasses, their growth is suppressed, sometimes by as much as 60%. This literally creates space in the surrounding vegetation so that other flowers have room to grow. In fact, there’s a direct correlation between the number of yellow rattle plants per square metre and the diversity of other flowers in a meadow.

Known as ‘the meadow maker’, yellow rattle does such a good job that I wouldn’t attempt to create a meadow without it.


Sowing the seed

Yellow rattle can be a little tricky to get established in the garden, but follow a few simple steps and you should be able to get it going. Once you have, it will appear each year and work its magic by itself.

  • Yellow rattle seeds are short lived (18 months to two years) and must be sown fresh. You can buy seed, but make sure it comes from a specialist supplier who can guarantee freshness. A better option – if you know someone who already has it in their meadow (maybe a local nature reserve or farmer’s meadow) – is to ask if you can collect some seed in June and July.

    Yellow rattle does such a

    good job that I wouldn’t attempt

    to create a meadow without it.

  • Collect it by taking the dried stems and shaking them into a paper bag. The seed falls out easily and you should be able to collect enough quite quickly. Allow about a handful of seed per square metre, but remember that you only need a few plants to grow in the first year and these will go on to produce lots of seed in the future.
yellow rattle, illustration by Andrew Evans  

Illustration by Andrew Evans

  • To sow the seed, cut your meadow for the first time as normal between July and September and remove the clippings. Then use a rake or garden fork to scratch away any thatch – the layer of dead grass and moss that builds up on the soil surface – to expose some bare soil below. This scarification is really important – the seed should be able to reach the soil surface.
  • Sow by hand straightaway, scattering the seed on the surface of the exposed earth. This must be done before winter as the seeds need several weeks of winter cold (stratification) in order to germinate the following spring.
  • Press the seed into the soil either by walking over the meadow or by using
    a small roller.
  • Don’t be worried if only a few plants germinate in spring. They’ll grow and shed their own seed into the sward (you don’t need to scarify the soil each year) and numbers should increase year on year.
  • Alternatively, if you’re sowing an entirely new meadow in an area of specially prepared bare soil, sow the yellow rattle along with all the other seeds in the autumn.


These days, with our culture of quick-fix gardening makeovers, people often want instant results. But you can’t rush a real wildflower meadow and part of the joy of a meadow is seeing the gradual changes over time. As your yellow rattle gets established, you’ll see the grass become thinner and more open, and more flowers will be able to spread. It really is your best friend in the meadow.


►  Buy your wildflower seeds from Plantlife’s online shop. Visit http://shop.plantlife.org.uk or call 01722 342730

Second article:

logo: PlantlifeWe are Plantlife

For over 25 years, Plantlife has had a single ideal - to save and celebrate wild flowers, plants and fungi. They are the life support for all our wildlife and their colour and character light up our landscapes. But without our help, this priceless natural heritage is in danger of being lost.

From the open spaces of our nature reserves to the corridors of government, we work nationally and internationally to raise their profile, celebrate their beauty, and to protect their future.

The future of wild flowers isn't cut and dried. Join us.



Trevor Dines (© Richard Williams Photography)Creating a wildflower garden

Want to grow your own shady characters and cornfield jewels? We’ll show you how, says Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist, Trevor Dines


One of the greatest pleasures in gardening is trying to decide what to grow – there are, after all, over 75,000 plants available. In the face of this global cornucopia, you might imagine that our own native flora would get shouldered aside. On the contrary, native flowers can take centre stage in the garden. In fact, our stunning flora can be woven into the tapestry of all garden styles, from informal cottage to stylish and contemporary.

Nearly 300 of our wild flowers can be considered to be ‘garden worthy’. By that I mean they are attractive, easy to grow, well behaved and readily available. While my own judgement might be somewhat subjective – I love tall bog-sedge (Carex magellanica) in my garden, but appreciate it might not be to everyone’s taste – the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have bestowed their highest accolade, an Award of Garden Merit, on 257 cultivars of native plants. This includes 20 cultivars of heather and seven of bloody crane’s-bill (Geranium sanguineum), representing 94 species in all. 

Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

 Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

© Andrew Gagg/Plantlife 


Looks familar? 


 Some of these ‘garden worthy’ flowers will be very familiar – plants such as pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) and columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) are firm favourites needing little introduction. Others, such as bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum) and coralroot (Cardamine bulbifera), deserve a much wider audience.

Especially interesting are some really common garden plants – things like shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) and Jacob’s-ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)
– that are sold for a few pounds in nearly every garden centre in the country, but which many don’t realise are very rare native flowers.


Coralroot (Cardamine bulbifera) © Trevor Dines/Plantlife

Coralroot (Cardamine bulbifera)

© Trevor Dines/Plantlife

Plantlife’s Wildflower Garden website (http://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/wildflower_garden/) celebrates these wild flowers and helps you make the most of growing them in your own garden. We’ll give advice on cultivation, help you select the best ones to suit your conditions, and bring you regular features, ideas and suggestions on how to make the most of wild flowers in your garden throughout the year.



Betony (Stachys officinalis) © Andrew Gagg/Plantlife

Betony (Stachys officinalis)

© Andrew Gagg/Plantlife 

 Sow and donate


We’ve also teamed up with John Chambers Wildflower Seed, the largest independent supplier of wild flower seeds in the UK, to bring you a special Plantlife range of flowers and mixtures suitable for every garden situation imaginable. All sorts of wild flowers are available, from betony (Stachys officinalis) to yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus), and an innovative range of seed mixtures, including ‘shady characters’ and ‘cornfield jewels’. A donation of 25p from each packet will come to Plantlife.

The seeds are available to buy from the Plantlife shop at http://shop.plantlife.org.uk/collections/wildflower-seeds


Wildflowers in cultivation © Trevor Dines/Plantlife

Wildflowers in cultivation © Trevor Dines/Plantlife



 Gardeners have a real generosity of spirit. For many of us, the plants we grow have come from family and friends – a cutting, some seed or a bit of root given for free. Over time, these plants become connections to memories of people, places and events that shape our lives. In my own garden, the everlasting pea (Lathyrus grandiflorus) was given to me by my late grandfather, the honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) is a cutting from my mother’s plant, which in turn came from Uncle Bill in Suffolk (he apparently found it in a local hedgerow).

Some of the things that we cherish the most, including plants, plant names and plant folklore, are passed down through the generations. We want to encourage this giving of plants and celebrate the heritage of our wild flowers in gardens.

#PledgeAPlant is a commitment to give a cutting, division or seed of a plant from your own garden to someone else. It may be a niece, mother, son or friend, anyone that you think will love receiving a plant from you.


You could pledge to give...

Some seed, such as Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica), foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) or columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris), in a little hand-made packet.

A division of your favourite perennial, maybe water avens (Geum rivale), celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) or chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).

Some bulbs of snake’s-head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris), bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) or ramsons (Allium ursinum) in an attractive pot.

Tell us on Twitter and Instagram what plant you’re giving from your garden and why. If you want to include a photo that would be great - just make sure you tag your post with #PledgeAPlant.

For more information, visit http://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/wildflower_garden/pledge_a_plant/


You’ll be taking part in a wonderful tradition of sharing our botanical heritage, building memories and making connections.



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