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Meadow Gardening

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For an open, sunny site with well-drained soil, you should chose some of the following plants that are ideal for such a place: ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), field scabious (Knautia arvensis), lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum), annual poppies (Papaver rhoeas), cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus). For a place with damp ground you should try some of the following: meadow-sweet (Filipendula ulmaria), ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). For shady areas, like places beneath large trees, you can choose dog’s-tooth violets (Erythronium dens-canis) and snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis).

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A common meadow generally peak in summer, but you can add plants that will prolong the season of interest, like spring, early summer and autumn flowering bulbs. Spring bulbs that can be easily naturalized in grass are: crocus (Crocus tommasinianus, Crocus vernus, Crocus chrysanthus), wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudo narcissus, Narcissus poeticus), snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) and tulips. Early summer bulbs that can be used to add interest to a meadow are: starry-flowered quamash (Camassia quamash, Camassia leichtlinii). Autumn bulbs that can be used are: Colchicum autumnale and Crocus speciosus.

For a natural look of your meadow you should also chose the right grass mixture. Look for grass seed mixtures that don’t contain any vigorous, hard-wearing rye grass, because those will compete with the flowers and will swamp them. Choose fine turf grasses like bents (Agrostis) and fescues (Festuca).

Sow your meadow in early autumn or in spring if you live in a colder area or your garden soil is too wet. Try to eliminate all perennial weeds then cultivate the soil. If you plan to establish a meadow on an existing grassland, such an orchard, try to reduce the fertility of the soil over one or two years by mowing and removing the clippings weekly, then introduce pot or plug-grown wild flowers in spring or autumn.

Keep your meadow in good shape by regularly eliminating vigorous perennial weeds. For a spring-flowering meadow do not mow between early spring and mid summer and cut the sward from mid summer onwards. Leave the mowings to dry and shed their seed before raking up and removing. It is worth collecting some seeds to grow on as pot or plug plants for next year. For later summer flowers cut the sward from early autumn onwards and again as grass growth begins in spring. Gather the spring mowings immediately.

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