South of the river and north of the house, there is a big expanse of grass and flowers and life that I like to walk around at least twice a day. It’s a nice place to be. But this isn’t the only area of grass that is left to grow at this time of year. There are half a dozen or so little flower meadows dotted about the gardens of the Priory. These are where I have planted drifts of daffodils in the lawns. For six to eight weeks after they’ve finished flowering, I leave them be, mowing around them and waiting for the foliage to die back.
And then, eventually, I strim the long grass and start to mow normally. This does, unfortunately, leave pale patches on the lawn (you can see two in the above photo up against the banks of the East Pond). But after a few weeks they green up and disappear.
But some of these Daffodil Islands survive longer than they need to. You see, I can’t bring myself to strim them. There is one in particular over by the West Pond. Here it is:
The daffs are long, long gone and it really ought to be cut back now but I can’t bring myself to.
It is so pretty and beloved of bees and butterflies, that I can’t. I can’t and I won’t. So don’t ask me. At least for the time being.
If you look back at the first photo of the meadow you’ll notice how the grass is much longer than that in this ‘Island. But if we continue to mow the former as we have been, removing all the cuttings, then one day (probably years after I’m carted off) the big flower meadow will look like the small patch above. A drop of concentrated meadow essence.
Further areas that I have left uncut are the banks of the two ponds:
In the past, I strimmed these steep banks several times during the summer after the daffodils had died back. But, whilst there are nettles, docks and thistles in amongst the good stuff and I realise that the banks look terribly neat and trim and sculpted when strimmed (rather nice actually – Ed), they are better a little ragged, a little shaggy and full of flowers. I think.
I will need to strim them at some point or else I shall be up to my earlobes in alder and elder, bramble and willow.
There is reed mace growing in the East Pond for the first time and I like how it merges with the unshaven banks; I am concerned, however, at how invasive it may become.
Last autumn, along the base of a section of the beech hedge, I planted crocuses and this year have avoided mowing it whilst they died down
And then I got quite fond of the look of it (monk’s tonsure and all that) and then, and then
and then another bleedin’ spotted orchid appeared. What is it with orchids – are they trying to be as common as muck? And how many more are there that I must be mowing over year on year, just waiting for the opportunity to throw up a flower spike. Two a penny at the Priory it seems. Extraordinary. But I’m not complaining. Still, it is another area of lawn I can’t yet start mowing. Not until the orchid has seeded.
The other area that I am not strimming this year, in order to allow it to flower, is the ditch that connects the two ponds.
|The meadow is to the left and the north lawn to the right|
And it is responding marvellously, full of flowers and insects and froglets. The latter avoid me by jumping for cover when I walk past. But I see them.
All these temporary wild areas will, sadly, be strimmed in time. They have to be in order to avoid them being colonised by scrub and tree. But for the moment vibrant, colourful, abuzz and full of life they are integral to the garden.
9 thoughts on “Mini-Me Meadows”
Hi GITD, it is a wonderful place though I don't know whether I'm brave. Thanks for your kind words.
Hi Diana, meadow wouldn't be a 'natural' habitat. Here in Sussex it would soon be colonised by birch, ash and blackthorn and then in time by oak. Historically they would be mown for hay (hay meadow) or grazed.
Hi Queen Kareena, now that I'm into my third year I'm beginning to realise that maybe the gardens are too much for one person – four days a week. I'm having a think as to what the solution might be.
Hi Mark and Gaz, I think it'll be for every year now. It saves so much time not having to strim the banks every other week, that I don't think we have the resources to go back to doing that. Plus it just looks that much better.
Hi Jason, sadly I don't think I'm going to make it to Dixter this year. The meadow there is fine and has been an inspiration.
Hi Bridget, sounds lovely. I haven't quite decided when I shall start cutting stuff back. Probably September but perhaps earlier if it starts looking straggly.
Hi Donna, Thanks. Had to look up string trimming but yes – one and the same.
Hi Stacy, strimming the banks is a horrible job especially in summer. Hot, tiring, prickly, noisy and a little alarming as they are quite steep and become increasingly slippery as the cut vegetation builds up. The thought of a herd of deer in the garden (even pretend ones) sends shivers up my spine.
Your essence of meadow is really wonderful–a whole different set of flowers than the meadows I've seen in the northeast. (Or here, but that's probably obvious.) Maybe when it's time to strim you can pretend you're a herd of deer or something, and then getting rid of the long grasses will feel natural and right, only better, because you'll time it properly and know when to stop, which even imaginary deer wouldn't.
That is one gorgeous orchid.
I am guessing that strimming is string trimming. I never heard the term before. The meadows are beautiful and remind me of where I am from in Pennsylvania, but with different plants. Fields of meadows with walking and riding paths through them. What a lovely place you tend. Donna in Niagara Falls
We leave a long strip coming up our drive, only mowing the edge to make it tidy. Each year there are more and more wild flowers in this area, I love it. We usually strim it in September when everything has self-seeded.
I feel your pain over the orchids, terrible to have them just popping up everywhere (send a few my way if you like)! The expanse of lawn and meadow is quite incredible; I do like an area of garden that is given over to meadow, the wildness of it is very calming.
We were at Dixter a couple of days ago and similarly there is a lovely bit of meadow there which you can wander through. Meadows are the kind of places one imagines in sepia tones.
Happy mowing and strimming.
Temporary they may be but just as special, a treat for this year at least!
Fascinating. The wildlife in the un-mown areas should be beneficial and they don't look messy, just a little relaxed, maybe? I can't imagine how you keep up with it all. Orchids – I'm so jealous!
You strim, what would nature do to maintain a meadow? Here it would be fire in the fynbos, allowing the orchids, we saw Disas up on the mountain. Would sheep grazing prevent the tree seedlings? (I know, you have to strim when you have to ;~)
David, I'm so very glad you haven't strimmed, where a sense of tidiness suggests you should. This is a wonderful place, this priory; you're very brave to persist with such love for it. What I can see is that you've maintained a sense of sacredness and peace, in a site that would lose its identity otherwise.