Featured 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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The meadow maker
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.
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,
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.
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
We 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
For more information, visit http://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/wildflower_garden/pledge_a_plant/