There is a patch of ground in my garden that has definitely got the upper hand. It started as a sulking vegetable plot full of stones and rampant sun flowers. That era over, the next was a green manure crop of Phacelia tanacetifolia. Budding up, I failed to cut off the flowers and the next thing was a zinging blanket of metallic blue flowers pulling in bees from all round the neighbourhood.
Interesting that this did not reseed itself ferociously. Just as well as the next attempt was an annual meadow – largely left over packets of seeds with one opium poppy dried head shaken liberally. The poppies totally took over. For at least 10 days we had a picture postcard mini ‘meadow’ but after that, lanky leaves and a messy patchwork of random plants. Even squinting at it did not improve the look. See below:
Third time lucky, or I did hope so. This time we were going to sow a meadow of perennials. I had been to a lecture by James Hitchmough a few years ago and that, fired up by the colourful haze at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park lit a fuse. My packet of seed cost £75 for 50g. Scrap gold price today in UK is £11.06 so you can see we have made some investment. The mix is called Patchwork Quilt and it is a product that that seed business hugs to itself like a clam. I rang up today to ask what should be germinating in the mix. The customer services lady simply (and understandably) would not give me the recipe. She did give a part indication: achillea, campanula, centaurea, dianthus, mallow and wild carrot.
We cleared the ground in late last September, sowed our seed in 3 different directions, tamped it down and covered with a sand sterile mulch as far as possible. (Ran out of sand mid-way). I must add that as I opened the packet, I really berated myself for not gathering my own seed mix. However, it is a practice to make experiments in our garden with sowing and growing plants so that I can recommend them to customers.
I shall not be trumpeting the merits of perennial meadow sowing as I can see no germination of the plants mentioned above. By coincidence, I visited a charity garden yesterday and their autumn sowing has totally failed. Nothing but thistles and annual grass were coming up in their patch. It works (we all remember the Olympics) but it is not such a seamless process.
I will be patient and watch over our patch for the next few season. I know that wild carrot, for instance, can be quite tricky. But meanwhile in the middle, we have planted Heptacodium miconioides otherwise known as Seven Son flower of Zhejiang. It sold itself to us last summer as an arching fall shrub with dragon claw leaves and sweetly scented flowers in the late summer. If the perennials refuse to grow, at least we have this glorious member of the honeysuckle family burgeoning there.