Since the 1930s, wildflower meadows have become one of the rarest habitats in the country. An astonishing 97% have been lost over the past 90 years. Meadows provide a diverse range of wildflowers, which in turn creates a more diverse habitat for wildlife and insect life.
Here at Parham, the Garden Team has been working to create a meadow in the Orchard and Nuttery within the Walled Garden. Throughout the summer, the grass in this area has been left to grow tall and thick which does not allow space for other wildflowers to flourish and grow – a key part of any meadow foliage. Therefore, the Garden Team has started to manage the grassland to allow for the growth of wildflowers.
To create the desired effect, the Garden Team have had to reduce the vigour of the grass. This is done in two ways. Firstly, by introducing Yellow Rattle, or Rhinanthus minor, which is a parasitic herbaceous plant that derives its nutrients from other living plants. In this case, the Yellow Rattle feeds off the grass, resulting in a reduction in the grass’ growth rate. With a less rigorous crop of grass, the wildflowers, including wild daisies, have a chance to grow and spread in their place.
The second method is to cut the grass in late August and into early September. Once cut, the grass is removed, rather than leaving it to rot down, which helps reduce the fertility in the soil.
This is also the perfect time to cut as any wildflowers that are already in flower in this area, are coming into seed. As the grass is mown, the seeds are dispersed, and will settle into the soil, ready for next year. The Garden Team will also support this new growth by sowing more Yellow Rattle seed that was collected from the Garden last Autumn.
The Garden Team intends to extend the meadow project into the Pleasure Ground in the future to continue to encourage this scarce habitat.