Somerset Arts Weeks

September 28th, 2017

I am participating in Somerset Arts Weeks at 3 venues and running workshops at both The Round Tower and Clayhill Arts.
Venue 3 – ‘Eternal & Ephemeral’ The Round Tower Gallery, Black Swan Arts, Frome
Venue 41 – Hide on the Hill, Nr. Panborough
Venue 55 – ‘Eternal & Ephemeral – East meets West’ Clayhill Arts, Bridgewater

Somerset Art Weeks 17 September – 8th October (check opening times with each venue)

One year on

August 29th, 2017

This small garden used to be dark and dominated by a large chestnut tree.  The tree succumbed to honey fungus and has been removed, some low retaining walls give a sense of space and the plants hum with bees.   The client had enough local stone for the low walls and a garden office provides a good focal point; set at an angle one can glimpse past it to the vegetable garden.

The landscaping was carried out by

Client recommends plants

August 4th, 2017

I spent a delightful morning re visiting a client in her organic wildlife garden.  It is now two years after planting and some gaps have appeared in the borders, these have been put down to to snail and rabbit damage combined with a high water table.  Astrantia, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ and Viola ‘Roscastle Black’ have failed whilst Thalictrum, Periscaria amplexicaulis ‘Fire Tail’ and Veronicastrum prove to be not only tough, but they don’t require staking and the later two are particularly good for the insects.

In another part of the garden, we happened across this  happy accident!  Agapanthus and Stipa tenuissima

Wildflower meadow ready for seed harvest

A date for your diary

July 31st, 2017

Fiona and I are getting ready for our joint exhibition which starts at Black Swan Arts, Frome  23rd September until 7th October.  Venue 3 in the new brochure which is out now!

New sculptures

July 25th, 2017

Holiday sculptures on Knoydart, a remote peninsula in Lochaber, western Highlands, Scotland.

I split rushes and stitched them using string to create a hollow form reminiscent of a lobster pot or a buoy floating above the lobster pot!  To escape the midges I perched myself on ‘the island’ whilst the tide was out however I didn’t quite finish before the tide was lapping at my feet.

Around the headland I found a rocky bay full of sea glass, in the garage there was some nice copper wire which I hope no-one will miss.

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

Fruity lanterns

June 20th, 2017

A day helping pupils at Horrington Primary School make beautiful paper and willow sculptures based on ‘delicious foods’

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