August Blog from Gardener George Dolling: Wildflowers

This is a month when wildflowers are beginning to set seed but unfortunately these days many wildflowers don’t have the opportunity to produce seed as road verges are cut too early and most hay meadows are cut much earlier than in previous times, so the flowers of the meadow don’t really have a chance.The traditional species-rich hay meadow, which was once far more common than today, was really a side effect of traditional farming practice. 

When artificial fertiliser and modern grass cultivars became available, the days of most traditional meadows were numbered, as increased nutrients favour the grass over the flowers (which thrive in low nutrient soil), and also allow many meadows to be cut twice in a year, leaving no chance for wildflowers to grow.It should also be remembered that yesterday’s farmers were not on the whole any more inclined to conserve wildflower meadows than today’s farmers are, it’s just that the methods they had at their disposal happened to leave room for nature in a way which modern methods don’t.

When To Cut Wildflowers 

This year has been particularly dry, so many wildflowers have set seed a little earlier than in other years. However, for those of us who’ve cultivated areas of long grass or wildflowers, it’s still best to leave them as long as possible before cutting them back. the only thing to be avoided is the danger of rain flattening long grass and creating a thatch, this is known as ‘lodging’, and it can stifle regrowth in the spring, so it’s best to have rough areas cut back and cleared before November.

The good news is that even though wildflowers are now harder to find there are many still to be seen if you know where to look.

Five Wildflowers to Look Out For

The now surprisingly uncommon Corn Chamomile and Corncockle are still giving a good display and are popular with pollinators.

Corn Chamomile

Meadowsweet appear in damp places locally sometimes in large stands, but it’s less common that once it was. Tea can be brewed from the dried plant. And some flowers are still coming out, as is the case with this Devil’s Bit Scabious (the unusual name is a reference to its knotched root, which was thought to have been knawed by the dwellers of the underworld).

Devil's Bit Scabious

Finally, an underated flower is Yarrow. Its soft, absorbent leaves were once used to staunch bleeding. 

Indeed Achilles is said to have clasped it to his wounded ankle for all the good it did him, hence its Latin name: Achillea millefolium.


For more about George’s wildflower meadow in Great Shefford please see here.


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