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Experienced gardeners know the quiet satisfaction of doing something at this time of year specifically to look great next year. In fact I'm lookig forward to the next NGS Open Garden Day (Sept 3rd) being over so I can rip into some other jobs that would be too carnage-inducting to attempt before a public viewing.

Like so many, we have fallen for the delights of meadows and pseudo-meadows at Lawson Park. For the last few years we have used Pictorial Meadows seed mixes in some very poor areas in front of the hostel, to magnificent effect (see pic). Until this year. Despite sowing it twice (not cheap) and weeding it very avidly we have an abismal show of mainly weeds and a few corn cockles. Perhaps duff seed, erratic weather, slugs or all of the above.

Partly based on this, and on my observations of how few native annual plants flower in a single season at this altitude / climate, I've decided to try sowing a hardy annual seed mix now (in fact it would have been better a few weeks ago but fingers crossed for a sunny September). The idea is that these seeds germinate and grow to a few inches before holding out the winter and resuming growth in spring. This would be nature's way, of course. Beautiful natives thriving here such as angelica sylvestris and arctium lappa do just this.

The area we hope to transform is the 3m curtiledge of the building on its east side (the Lake side) at the top of our lawn / meadow. A total of about 100 sq metres of mainly gravel, poor but sunny (for here) and well-drained. If our plan works we will have a Disney-esque technicolour band of colour round our grey walls for most of summer 2012. Adam has flame burned it of its worse weeds (again, this in some way mimics nature's rejuvenations) and I followed this with a rough forkover. The species we have chosed to sow were based on the most successful from our Pictorial Meadows experiments, plus I threw in some Phacelia for its insect-attractiveness. I mixed some 200g of phacelia, cornflower, corn cockle and corn marigold from Moles Seeds with coir and a little seed compost to make it handle easier. We have in the past tried to handsow at the recommended 2-3g per sq metre and it's very hard to be mean enough with the seed. I then took the unusual step of brushing the seed / coir vigorously into the gravel to bed it in. I now hope for just the right amount of sun and rain to get these wee seeds ahead before what may be a 3rd apocalypic winter in a row at Lawson Park!

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This year's disasterous annuals from Pictorial Meadows :-(
This year's disasterous annuals from Pictorial Meadows :-(
2009's great show - same seed mix, same space
2009's great show - same seed mix, same space
We''ve burned off & prepped circa 120 sq m round our building
We''ve burned off & prepped circa 120 sq m round our building
The fresh annual seed about to be mixed with coir
The fresh annual seed about to be mixed with coir
Brushing the sown seed into the gravel helps it bed in
Brushing the sown seed into the gravel helps it bed in

Thanks to Lisa & Sally we have two Exmoor ponies on our wildflower meadow, eating up all the old grass and flower stems over the coming weeks.
Our meadow is too steep and wet to cut with machinery, and though we had a fair bit of fun strimming it en masse a few years ago, we managed to cut just about a third in 4 days! You soon realise that the 'wildest' bit of your garden could easily be the most high-maintenance if you do as the books say - which is generally one or two cuts a year with all the debris removed to minimise soil improvement (the enemy of the wildflower).

The Cumbria Wildlife Trust gave us some management advice recently which stated that occasional grazing could be an acceptable way of keeping the grasses in check, and as ours is a late-flowering meadow this is the time of year to do it.

Just got to remember to poop scoop regularly!

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Narnia chez nous

Mon 18 Jun 2007

Google earth, eat your heart out!
This aerial photo of the farm and garden shows the formal Kitchen Garden to the far west (the ubiquitous mountain bikers can be spotted on the turning circle), ornamental gardens towards the house, and to the south the extensive wildflower meadow.

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Lawson Park Farm, May 2007

Lawson Park Farm, May 2007


Mowing under the influence

Mon 11 Jun 2007

Mowing the pathways in the wild-flower meadow last week, I plugged in my iPod to drown out the racket of the petrol-driven mower. During the majestic throes of 'Shot from both sides' by Magazine I began to get into my stride, when the mower halter violently. I bent down to unclog the blades and yanked out a handful of damp grass only to find a revoltingly dismembered - but still alive - toad.
Suggestions for other sounds to mow to?

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