The Orange Tip

details in the dirt

Month: October, 2013

Pictorial Meadow Catch-Up

Meadow doneIt might be slightly late in the year for an annual meadow review, but while the sky is grey and the leaves are coming down by the boat load it’s nice to be reminded of the colour that already seems a lifetime ago..

Back in April I decided to sow a stretch of annual meadow using a Pictorial Meadows seed mix. I’ve wanted to do this since arriving at the garden years ago, however the task never made it to the top of my things-to-do list quickly enough in Spring each year and so the opportunity was always missed. The length of ground I chose was roughly 16m x 2m and of the fairly free-draining, light soil indicative of this area of South West London.

Pictorial Meadows have built a reputation on providing high quality meadow seed and key advice services in a fairly new field of horticulture. Founded by leading naturalist garden designer and professor at Sheffield University, Nigel Dunnett, their client and project list is now extensive, including the stunning meadows commissioned for the London 2012 Olympic Park.

I chose a seed mix that would maximise colour and impact while providing a food source for insects in a fairly quiet and otherwise infrequently visited area of the garden. The mix was listed on the Pictorial Meadows website (www.pictorialmeadows.co.uk) as ‘Standard Annual’, which includes poppy, cornflower, toadflax, Atriplex and Coreopsis flowers.

Bare earthThe first step was to remove the top layer of grass and weed. As the garden houses probably the largest population of Alkanet residents I have ever encountered, there was some additional deep-root digging required in order to prepare the ground for rotorvation. Once rotorvated, I then trampled the soil and raked over.

Seed Seed with sandThe seed was then mixed with sand; this enables both a more even distribution when sowing, and a visible contrast with un-sown ground so as to indicate where you have scattered seed. I sowed my meadow in early June, which was far later than intended and consequently the strip only began to reach decent flowering around mid September. The ideal would be to sow around mid April, which I will be doing next year for certain. Regardless, however, the results were fantastic; nothing beats the sight of an annual meadow in sunshine. It draws you in and the colours absorb you to distraction. I think we must have some innate, deep-set connection with the cornflower meadow, perhaps reaching back to the cornfields of our ancestry.  To stand and watch it seems to chime with something within; I would highly recommend having a go, even if you only have space for a meter or two.

Autumn Leaves

20131021-103817.jpg
Noting the slow demise of the tulip tree leaf; all collected from the same tree on the same morning. I would love to see it in it’s natural habitat at this time of year, spread across the deciduous forests of East Coast North-America.

October Stacks

20131015-074227.jpg

This year I have to admit to up-scaling the mechanics of my meadow cutting process in a bid to save a bit of time and labour. I stretched to a power scythe (courtesy of the ever-frustrating eBay) which has made all the difference this year.
A power scythe or, ‘sickle mower’, cuts grass low at the base, pushing the sword through two crossing blades along a wide bar. The cut is very clean and surprisingly much less destructive to meadow dwellers (frogs, toads, nice etc) than other commonly used machines like strimmers and ride on mowers.
Although I was only able to get both the meadows cut by the time Autumn was settling in, we were lucky enough to have a few days sunshine to give the impression of a late Summer afternoon as I finished off the stacks.

20131015-074256.jpg

20131015-074308.jpg

20131015-074324.jpg

20131015-074702.jpg

20131015-074727.jpg

Caught in the Chicken Coop

20131014-225736.jpg

I found a robin caught inside the henhouse run this afternoon, and a mouse moving in the direction of the mower up in the top meadow. The sudden dip into Autumn seems have caught everyone off guard.

20131014-225754.jpg

20131010-102322.jpg

Placing Bulbs

20131007-140741.jpg

That time of year again (always getting to it later than I would like) when the pencil and paper come out and I’m playing with bulb combinations in the picking beds. There’s not a lot to it but do need to take into account flowering times, colour matches, height and succession.
I’ll be placing the order this week and then be planting right up until mid December; beginning with daffs and putting in Tulips last.

Agryranthemums

20131005-104206.jpg
Favourite continual flowerer, still going stronger than ever around this time of the year. It’s tender, so goes in for the winter, but year on year I’m coming to rely heavily on it.

Apple Harvest

20131001-095013.jpg
Collecting apples this year was fun. Despite the meadows still being up in the orchard -a complication frustratingly owing to faulty machinery- the picking was easy. Our apple trees were planted about 5 years ago, comprising old varieties grafted as standards; the specifics of which are sadly omitted from any planting records I have managed to locate. The harvest this year was nothing short of a bumper; so much so that I have been filling small packets of mixed varieties for friends for the last few weeks, and I know other fortunate apple tree possessors have had a similar experience.

20131001-095057.jpg

20131001-095132.jpg

20131001-095206.jpg

20131001-095228.jpg