The trials and tribulations of the wildflower patch

Friday, July 12, 2019

This is the second year at the wildflower patch for us. Call it optimism, naivety or blind ignorance but I was sure that after the work we put in last year it would be a good year for the flowers; a larger patch by a long stretch, more light as the hedges have been given a good lot of remedial attention, a heck of a lot of seed and rain at the right time. Perfect. Or so I thought.

There are certainly a lot of flowers so far. The purple one I want to call bugloss (which it seems isn't) and borage are by far the most prevalent at this time of year, there are hundreds of flowers. Next up the dill are taking hold. Their acid green frills really strike contrast against the purple and blues.

 There are so many flowers in bloom, of course it's fantastic.

One area has been completely dominated by grass, It started last year and hasn't cared to stop. It's breaching it's pleasant patch and is threatening to spread everywhere. Yellow rattle is supposed to be good for suppressing grass as it's parasitic.
Next issues in quick succession were the thistles and nettles which cropped up everywhere taller than all the flowers we were trying to grow. We spent hours and hours manually pulling out thistles and some nettles on the topmost areas. Even with a decent pair of gloves I wouldn't recommend an afternoon of thistle tugging to anyone; it was a grim couple of hours of self flagellation topped off with gratuitous nettle stings to complement the scratches and stabs of the spikes. Our arms looked a picture.
I know that thistles and nettles are essentials for some wildlife and believe me there are still loads left very nearby but they will not be permitted to run riot through the dedicated wildflower patch. It did look severely depleted after the mass exodus of thistles an I had doubts about whether the trampling may have put pay to anything desirable growing. (See below, one of our thistle heaps)
I needn't have worried. Things grew.
Including things we didn't want.
Cue mugwort. Heard of it? Nope, nor me but I had seen it often enough. It was hard to identify as it doesn't really have flowers to look at. They all blend in with the plant.
About a million of these suddenly shot up and once again, the wildflowers were completely obliterated by these tall beasts. Taller than me, with whopping woody stems. These were unforeseen as there just weren't any last year. Another deflation in my hopes. What to do?! We gloved up and set about yanking them out. I wouldn't recommend it, they don't want to come up and you're probably doing more harm than good it the roots (or rhizomes) stay put.
C put forward the theory that the fact that the patch is in far more daylight now has meant a whole different lot of things want to grow, which I hadn't considered.

So what did we do? Well, after an agonising deliberation we plumped for cutting off the flowers to stop them going to seed and swamping the patch then spraying each one to hopefully kill it down to the root. 
I suspect whole huge patches of the wildflowers will be instantly killed off too but it's collateral damage. They'll be wiped out by the infiltrators regardless and the last thing we want is more bad seeds to pollute the patch.

I can't deny I'm disappointed that this hasn't been the smooth journey that you might be lulled into thinking this my be. Remember when I mentioned that the official way to make a wildflower patch takes 7 years? They might have a point.
Vigilance is the name of the game from now on to stop large swathes of unwanted plants taking over. I know there will be more mugwort as there were some smaller stems elsewhere .

In the meantime though there are some utterly divine sights to see. This is one hell of a colour fade.
 C suggested mowing paths. I was reluctant as it would mean losing some flowers but he was right (of course) as it not only means we can stroll around inside to enjoy the flowers but also can reach more weeds without trampling more than necessary.
 The hum is incredible and there have been huge numbers of bees and wildlife drawn to the blooms.
Check out the caterpillers. Actually groundsel was threatening to take over another area but we didn't manage to do much about that.
The future of the flower patch is uncertain at present. The threat of unwanted tyrant weeds coming back with a vengeance next year throws the whole project into doubt as my 'plan' stretched as far as mowing in autumn, raking off the matter minus the seeds then sitting back to enjoy a whole patch of beautiful flowers emerge next spring.

In the meantime though, we'll enjoy what this year brings.

Take care,

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