How to create a wildflower meadow

July 10th, 2017

Creating a meadow from rough grass or lawn

Key facts to understand

  • It is important to ‘cut & collect’ to mimic animals grazing (use to make compost)
  • Don’t hesitate to cut the meadow where there are still some flowers, if you wait until there are no flowers you will end up with dominant species such docks and knapweed
  • There is no need to remove top soil as a means to reducing fertility, instead establish Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)

Reasons to create wildflower meadow

  • Massive decline in insects species and numbers
  • Insects (including bees) tend to be underweight, infected (imported diseases) and stressed (loss of habitat) all at the same time
  • 70% of bee friendly plants sold by leading garden centres contain neonicotinoids (systemic insecticide)
  • Reduce mowing, saves time and money
  • Attractive, brings wildlife into the garden (insects & birds) and helps biodiversity

This is a meadow which is full of coarse grasses (e.g. Yorkshire fog) & docks, very few flowers. Tall grasses smother wild flowers; more grass than flowers.

This meadow has not been ploughed nor treated with fertilizers for at least 50 years, there are over 20 different species/m2. Lots of fine grass species; more flowers than coarse grasses.

Yellow rattle
Yellow rattle is a semi parasitic grassland annual, it reduces the vigour of grass and allows wildflowers to establish and thrive, it also reduces mowing requirements. It loves Yorkshire Fog grass and Cocksfoot grass.

Yellow rattle is established from seed in September (no later), sown onto bear soil (e.g. upturned 1m2 patches of turf*) although it germinates February / March (requiring the winter chilling). Establishment can be unpredictable (for example the cold wet spring of 2016) however it usually establishes very well, taking 2-3 years to build up. Use fresh seed sown at a rate of 0.1-1g/m2 (less is required in the shade where grass is weaker, more is needed where grass is strong).

* Different ways of creating bare gaps in the sward

Cut the grass short in the autumn then:

  • Lift and flip over 1m2 patches of turf at intervals throughout the meadow area
  • Harrow or rotavate strips at intervals (e.g. up hill) aiming to expose 50% bare soil
  • Winter grazing with stock (e.g. sheep) as their hooves open up the sward

How & when to establish wild flowers
Delay trying to establish wild flowers in your sward until you have got a good cover of yellow rattle, this may take up to 3 years. Then plant small 9cm plants into the sward or use ‘Green Hay’ from another meadow (contact other meadow owners, for example members of the Moor Meadows group below sell this). Expose some bare earth then spread fresh green hay (same day as it is cut).

If you have a very small area of land that you want for a meadow (e.g. 5m x 10m), rotavate it all, sow yellow rattle (September) and plant wildflower pots and plugs (e.g. scabious, knapweed, betony, bedstraw… depending upon the soil and aspect). You could do the ‘stale seedbed’ technique prior to sowing yellow rattle.

Stale seedbed method – prepare the bed as if it was ready for planting but instead of planting water it and allow all the weeds to grow, then without any futher digging, spray off the weeds then sow / plant.

Rabbits love to dig up freshly planted pots, you might need to put some chicken wire over the top for the first few months.

When to cut
You do not have to stick to exact times each year, the most important thing is to cut 4 times each season. If you have a very large area, you can divide it up and cut at slightly different times.

  • Cut when the grass first falls over
  • Then cut the new growth twice during the summer (on a high mower setting)
  • Give a final cut at the end of the summer

Cutting tools
Strimmer, sythe, mower on high setting if it can cope with long grass althernatively a sythe mower or tractor mounted topper.

Notes by Angela Morley ( taken from Meadow Makers Conference 1/7/17

Further information

Summer in the garden

July 4th, 2017

Single roses are valuable to insects, here Rosa moysii is acting as a bee magnet

Rosa moysii has now stopped flowering and will soon be covered in unusual shaped red hips, its pretty leaves and upright habit continue to provide interest to the border.  Beneath, Viola cornuta & Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ have been flowering non stop since May.

Willow fish

July 4th, 2017

My fish have settled in in the Abbots kitchen

Glastonbury Abbey summer exhibition

June 16th, 2017

Installing willow fish in the Abbot’s Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey yesterday.   I don’t have a head for heights but exhibition manager and curator Mary Gryspeerdt had no such fears.

The summer exhibition runs from 1st July until September

New house & garden – near Bristol

May 3rd, 2017

This is the second time I have worked for these clients, this time a new house is being built and the challenge is to make the garden fit with the surrounding topography without creating too many retaining walls.  Currently 1000′s of tons of stone has been excavated and the house will be on split levels.

Beautiful hanging baskets

April 20th, 2017

Castle Gardens garden centre in Sherborne make the most beautiful winter hanging baskets.

In this basket I can see low growing / creeping rockery plants:

Arabis, Euonymus, Veronica, Alysum, Erodium, Ajuga, Lysimachia nummularia, Aubretia

Plus plenty of violas, narcissus and a ‘tail’ of ivy

New plans for garden – Alton

April 20th, 2017

I first visited this garden in 2004 when I did some design work and planting plans.  I have been invited back to help with another phase in the development of this garden; how gardens change, owner’s requirements change, how everything changes!

Photography by Martyn Sheppard

March 9th, 2017

Martyn Sheppard spent a day in my studio photographing my latest work for SAW Art Weeks Festival 2017  ‘Prospect’

I have uploaded more pictures on my  ‘Sculpture’ page

New pub garden – The Litton

March 4th, 2017

The wait is over and The Litton is open for business, there are lots of exciting features in the pub and the garden is a lovely space to relax in too!

The landscaping has been done by Green & Gorgeous of Frome

Exhibition in Shaftesbury

February 8th, 2017

I am a committee member of the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival and our first festival is being launched at 10am on Friday 16th February in the Market Place.  This is a festival to celebrate James Allen, the first man to breed snowdrops and who lived in Shepton Mallet, there are full details at

As part of this project we have cultivated links with the now well established Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival and  I have been invited to exhibit some of my willow work at their pop up gallery during their festival http://www.shaftesburysnowdrops.

17 Bell Street, Shaftesbury SP7 8AR - what was Bell Street Cafe (right next door to the Arts Centre)
Friday 10th February – Saturday 18th February