BLOG

There's a Meadow in my Garden

Meadows are joyous, uplifting places, with thousands of flowers jostling for space

July 2, 2020

Sown from a packet of seeds last summer, it flowered in April, waves of purple Honesty became a sea of blue Echiums by June, turning into frothy, white umbellifers in August. It is a place where our garden visitors linger, mesmerised by the sheer exuberance of flowers and astonishing numbers of butterflies and bumblebees. The meadow has a vibrancy and life if its own that draws people in like no other part of our garden. Each day reveals new flowers, surprise combinations. Is there such a thing as “Meadow Bathing”? Because when I walk through the meadow between thousands of jostling flowers, I emerge smiling, uplifted.

This little meadow is a riotous, happy place. And it has been incredibly easy to achieve.
newly married couple in meadow
My daughter Hannah and husband Ian on their wedding day in our perennial meadow

So why a Perennial Meadow?

For your average domestic garden, wildflower meadows can be tricky. They peak quickly, often looking messy after flowering. However, stylised Perennial Meadows have the look and feel of wildflowers with the advantage of a long flowering season and low maintenance. And they are a magnet for wildlife.

Just imagine the pollinators, dragonflies, moths, bats, and birds we could support if every garden in the UK had a few square metres of Perennial Meadow?

So, if you are toying with the idea of a meadow, or you just want to brighten up your borders, a Perennial Meadow, like mine, could be the answer

perennial meadow
Ellicar's perennial meadow, Purple Haze, this is the turf section, which was 'stitched' into the front of perennial planting

What is a Perennial Meadow?

It is a specially formulated mix of wild flowers and perennial species, designed to flower year after year. My meadow comes from Sheffield’s Pictorial Meadows, experts in creating high impact, low input, stylised meadows. (They are responsible for those glorious meadows around the Olympic Park in 2012 and Rotherham’s award winning 8-mile River of Flowers)

Formulated to flower from spring to the first frosts, with around 25 flower species per mix and a whopping 120 plants per m2, there are meadows for sun, shade, and different soil types.

And with a colour palette from eye-popping hot colours, jewel-like designer schemes or dreamy whites and pastels, you are sure to find a meadow mix to compliment your garden.

Seed vs Turf

Mixes are available as seed or turf. Seed is lower cost but requires some skill during establishment. Turf is quick and easy to lay, results are instant.

Blue Echium vulgare followed by salvias, in Ellicar's meadow, this section was sown from seed, photo taken in year 1, courtesy of Clare Forbes

When and How

You can lay turf or sow seed any time of year, September being the optimum month for seed sowing. Sow seed at 2g per m2. Mixing seeds with sharp sand helps, pick a calm day to sow and divide the ground into sections using canes and string.

Meadow seedlings germinating in Ellicar's seed sown meadow section, this was so exciting seeing the different species germinate one by one
One year later, Ellicar's first perennial meadow, sown from seed, photo curtesy of Clare Forbes

Maintenance

Treat your perennial meadow just like a perennial border. We gave ours the ‘Chelsea Chop’ in May, ensuring it peaked for my daughter’s wedding in summer. I will cut it back again this September. It will flush neatly, flower again, producing seed heads for the birds through winter and look magical with a dusting of frost. Dead foliage should be removed in March.

Using Jakoti shears to cut back our seed sown section of meadow in April

What equipment do you need?

I used Jakoti shears and a sickle to cut back our small meadow. Tackle larger meadows with reciprocating shears, long reach hedge cutters, or specialist tractors.

Mini Meadows

Perennial Meadows are not just for parks or country gardens.

  • Mini meadows look fabulous in domestic, urban and contemporary settings too.
  • To loosen up your borders try stitch planting meadow turf amongst the perennials.
  • Edge a path or wrap a mini- meadow around a bench
  • Encircle your lawn with a meadow or be bold and turn your entire front garden into a Perennial Meadow- the bumble bees will certainly thank you.

Would I do it again?

Definitely! I’m itching to sow another meadow.

Perennial Meadows are a joyous celebration of sheer flower power.

I would encourage anyone who wants flowers in their life to give it a go. Just a couple of square metres of meadow turf is sure to make you smile.

Perennial Meadow turf sections at Ellicar Gardens bordering a grass path
Perennial meadow Treasure Chest, bridging a water garden and existing chalk wild flower meadow, this was sown by us from seed for a client

For further information on Perennial Meadows, sowing, establishment, maintenance and different meadow mixes see www.pictorialmeadows.com