Thursday, 18 September 2014

Taming the wild patch

Most gardeners pull out weeds and plant cultivated varieties.  Lately, I’ve been doing exactly the opposite.

We started the wild patch some years ago by sprinkling some wild flower seeds.  The initial results were a bit disappointing because the seedlings were massacred by slugs. However the survivors did well and gave a pleasing display. Since then, the patch has been overtaken by ground cover garden plants and it is long overdue for a clear out.  The photo below was carefully composed to hide the unwanted plants.

Wild patch with teasels, purple toadflax, red valerian, hypericum and many others.
I had been at a loss as to what to do next. After the slow start we had previously, I didn't want to use mixed seeds again. Then I read Alys Fowlers article on stitchwort. The article lead me to the British Wild Flower Plants website where it is possible to buy wild flowers as seeds, plugs or half-litre pots. There were so many lovely wild flowers to choose from I didn’t know where to start.

Newly planted lady's bedstraw.
I have bought my flowers now and have found the British Wild Flower Plants people absolutely lovely to deal with. When I asked about a species that was not on their list, they said they still had a few of those and added it to the list especially for me. We were able to sort out a date when I knew someone would be in to receive my precious plants and the Interlink Express delivered them without any problems or drama.

However, before I could get my wild flowers, I had to have a clear out. I removed all those unwanted plants. While the geraniums are prolific, the euphorbias were the real problem. Their roots run deep, break easily and regrow as soon as you blink. I also removed as much cinquefoil as possible.  Although it is a wildflower, it is a real thug and I wanted to minimize the amount around my new plants.

As I worked through the patch, I was delighted to find just how much the surviving wild flowers had spread. I found myself carefully working round common yellow and purple toadflax, primroses, teasels, hypericum and the tubers of wood anemones. I also got tough with some of the more vigorous wildflowers such as marjoram and bloody cranesbill.  I’ve reduced the amount by about half to give everything else room to grow. All this has taken about half a day each weekend for the last half-dozen weeks.

Meanwhile, I have been deciding which plants to buy. I want to be sure that they have a reasonably good chance of growing well in our garden and so have been looking out for plants that thrive near where we live. 

Newly planted fox-and-cubs (diagonal line from bottom-left to top-right) and scabious, right.
My first “must have” was fox-and cubs, which is an orange flowered member of the dandelion family.  It brightens up many lawns and twittens in the area.  I added field scabious to my list after seeing it growing happily on the bypass.

Peacock butterfly on fleabane, in Ashdown Forest.
I first became aware of fleabane in the car park for Old Lodge nature reserve in Ashdown Forest – a pool of glorious yellow flowers covered in butterflies and hoverflies. Having seen it in Hempstead Lane near the horse rescue, it went on my list. My last purchase for this part of the garden was lady’s bedstraw. I can’t remember where I saw this but I have hopes of it being a good ‘doer’.

I have also sprinkled various seeds including a brightly coloured thistle and some corncockles that, a few generations of plants ago, were given to us by a neighbour.

I’ve deliberately left the edges messy, retaining some of the ground cover plants in those areas.  Partly it’s because, in proportion, they are attractive and partly to give the tiny creatures that live in the patch somewhere to hide and overwinter. Now, all I have to do is wait until the show really starts next summer.

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