What do you think Prince Charles gave his mother, the Queen, to celebrate the jubilee of her coronation? No, not a set of gold plated steak knives or a couple of corgi pups, but a nationwide network of meadows – a scheme to return a meadow to each county in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and then encourage them to multiply. When I read this, my heart just soared. (Update 2020 – this project has been enormously successful and has, to date, returned over 10,000 acres of wasteland to meadowland in all parts of the UK)
This ambitious project by HRH Prince of Wales aims to turn back the tide that has seen 7 million acres of flowery meadows lost in the UK in my lifetime. Britain now has 2% of it’s meadows remaining – the rest lost to industrialised agriculture and urban development.
It’s the same sad story all over the world, including Australia with the accompanied decline in wildlife numbers and soil fertility – but the good news is that many regeneration projects are underway to restore these wild wonderlands.
I started becoming interested in the whole thing about meadows when I visited Great Dixter, Sussex, last year – where the Lloyd family have been dedicated to creating wild meadows on their property for the past 100 years – bucking the trend at their wholesale destruction. My interest was also fueled by my sister-in-law and her husband who tried to create a meadow in their garden and failed dismally – they had been TOO diligent in caring for their soil. The secret to a successful meadow is that it has to GROW ON IMPOVERISHED SOIL- untreated and unfertilized, as old soils would be. Wildflowers and grasses are not adapted to ‘rich’ soils and will not flourish.
WHY ARE WILD MEADOWS IMPORTANT:
- Flowery and grassy secrets are not lost to us forever.
- Food source for songbirds and wildlife – they provide insects and seeds for them to feed on, as well as habitat.
- Animals and insects attracted to these meadow plants do not die out either and help pollinate the plants around them.
- Meadows provide host plants for butterfly and moth caterpillars.
- Increased water infiltration into the soil.
- Increases nutritional levels in soil and encourages vital soil organisms to thrive – like earthworms.
- Lower maintenance costs.
- More drought tolerant.
- Carbon sequestration.
- They are beautiful.
- Somewhere for the fairies and little people to live.
AND HERE’S SOMETHING UNEXPECTED TO GET YOU EVEN MORE EXCITED! What do you think folk in the country did with their livestock when they were sick, before the age of VETS? They put them in the hospital meadow – a patch of ground that was rarely grazed but left full of wild greens, grasses, herbs and other flowering plants – plants with medicinal and nutritional qualities that had the power to heal!
I am sure that wherever you live in the world there is an unused lawn, an old sports field or a patch of waste ground, that is just waiting to be re-born! What about your nature strip?
Do you have an orchard that you are forever mowing – let it go wild – slash it a couple of times a year and see what pops up and what a difference these wildflowers and grasses makes to the variety of birds, butterflies and insects they attract.
IMPORTANT: Just don’t SPRAY with any pesticides, herbicides, feritilizers and agricultural chemicals – you could also help it along the way by broadcasting a special wildflower mix that you can get from a reputable seed supplier (Green Harvest/Eden Seeds/Diggers Seeds).The really serious meadow maker has a task ahead of them – the top few centimetres of soil have to be scraped off (this also gets rid of the exotic weeds and grasses) and then over-sown with more friendly species native to the area. What a worthwhile project though – just think how beautiful it will be??!! And, just think of the butterflies??!!
Your are coming back to me,The little creatures that make the world go round,And unsung tiny flowers alive with insect sound,The nodding grasses bending in the breezeTempting the chattering finches from the nearby trees.You are coming back to me.Diane Hart 2020
AUGUST 2020 My COVID lockdown project – to turn a crappy piece of lawn on my nature strip into a meadow. This has grown in five weeks and is alive with bees and butterflies already – yaaaaay!! Below is before and after.
- Growing a GREEN MANURE crop is the age old way of revitalizing poor soil and is a good starting point for a MEADOW PROJECT. Check out how to do it on this previous post. It’s easy and cheap. This is how I created my meadow in the photos above. Just click here
- Helmingham Hall Gardens, Suffolk, UK. A beautiful garden with a wonderful meadow. Click here.
- Great Dixter, Sussex, UK. A magical house and garden with 100 year old meadow. Click here