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Garden ProjectsMiscellaneous

Preserving wild areas in your garden

Meadowsweet wild herb

Meadowsweet cottage garden

This year I have slowly begun to move my garden into the field in front of my house by extending the lawn and creating a new orchard. The area is small as fields go, about 2 acres, but makes a large garden so I didn’t want to make it too complicated (and have too much to look after). For 15 years a local farmer had been cutting the grass once a year for silage but for the last two years I have left it alone to do its own thing.

Natural grass area garden

You can’t see it that well from the photo above (taken 6 weeks ago before it started flowering) but I have left a big ‘S’ shaped piece of ground (about a third of the field) to grow wild to give some contrast with the lawn around it. As usual the bit I left alone has turned out the be the best part of the garden with ‘weeds’ like creeping buttercup, vetch, plantain, thistle, meadowsweet and wild grasses making beautiful natural arrangements. It is fascinating to watch it transform with new plants introducing themselves and jostling for space.

Meadowsweet in wild field

Meadowsweet has become particularly prolific due to the damp site, it provides a backdrop of frothy white flowers with deep red/orange stems and is far prettier than anything I have gone to the trouble of planting. It is just about to flower now when it will also fill the garden with its characteristic sweet scent. It is an interesting plant as the roots and stems smell completely different from each other; the roots and leaves smell medicinal (a bit like ‘Euthymol’ toothpaste) while the flowers smell of almonds. The flowers are a frustration for the bees as they are attracted by the scent, they do their job pollinating the plant yet it gives no nectar in return!

Meadowsweet is also a medicinal herb and is the first plant Salicin was extracted from which is the precursor to Aspirin. It was also commonly spread on the floor in medieval times as an air freshener.

Buttercup wild vegetable garden

Anyway, the point is the wildflowers that grow in your area are often the most interesting and the most beautiful. They are also home to important insect populations and are a haven for bees so when designing your garden try to leave room for formal and wild to co exist. The wild part is infinitely more fascinating and doesn’t require any work.

Raised pond shop
2 comments
  1. Paul Shepherd

    Hi, do you cut the area that you have left at the end of the growing season? I have a similar size field but have a continual problem with blackthorn suckers popping up everywhere so I cut twice a year to keep them down.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Paul
      I don’t cut the area and just let it do what it wants apart from digging out clumps of rushes which will take over if I let them (it is a relatively wet and acidic site). I don’t have any problem with blackthorn but did have an issue with brambles coming in from the edges of the field, this is why I have lawn around a central wild area to create a bramble free ‘mote’. I don’t know how all this is going to play out in the long term but 4 years in I don’t have any issues and an area that is getting more diverse every year.
      Thanks for getting in touch!
      Andrew

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