Rare Find in The Rose Meadow

We’ve finally struck gold.. or maybe purple!

No species has come to represent the destruction of the UK’s native meadows more than the orchid. Since the second world war, when permanent pasture was dug up for crops and then sprayed into sterility with herbicides, this beautiful plant has vanished from great swathes of our countryside.

So, when we started our meadows from scratch over 10 years ago, native orchids became key target plants. They were unlikely to occur until we had all the ingredients of a flourishing meadow in place. If we could introduce orchids we would know that we had increased plant biodiversity significantly.

EWG 28.5.15.-23 Meadow

Orchids can’t be persuaded to grow where it doesn’t suit them naturally. You can’t raise them from seed in John Innes compost. They need the right soil and the right fungi to be present to germinate.

For the last 10 years we have been begging seed from wildlife sites. We have been given masses of advice and generous amounts of hay from old meadows. The seed has fallen from the hay, been blown from our hands or pressed into the soil. But it is still a guessing game – the orchids will decide for themselves whether or not they deign to make a meadow their home.

Rare Orchid Blog Triptic Easton Walled Gardens

So you can imagine the thrill of seeing not just one rosette of possible orchid leaves appear but seven beautiful, deep purple/pink flowering spikes appear in the Rose Meadow about a fortnight ago.

And, astonishingly, it’s not just orchids that are appearing in the developing meadows. Rare sulphur clover has been found on the terraces, the most northerly known location of this species. Vetches are straggling through establishing crops of yellow rattle and the blue butterflies are growing in number.

Easton Walled Gardens Meadow

Over the next few months our terrace meadows are growing, flowering and providing homes and nectar for a great diversity of insects. The swallows and other insect feeding birds swoop down on this abundance.

We mow paths through the long flowering grasses, knapweed and blue scabious so that you can see the miniature details of life that make an English meadow so precious.

To learn more about meadows and wild flowers, see our guide: Top Five Wild Garden Heroes

Spring at Easton

March, April and May. The days just get better. The gardens are full of Spring flowers AND there is still the feeling of anticipation for the warmth and big flowers of summer. Our meadows are filling with a succession of daffodils, from our native varieties right through to the pheasants eye narcissus at the end of the season. Around the fringes are wild flowers providing early nectar for queen bumblebees and a food source for larvae.

This year is a good violet year. Dark purple, lilac and white wild violets edge the woodland walk and clumps of violet draw your eye on the snowdrop bank.

 

The marsh marigold. Introduced by us from a wild form further up in the gardens, it is flourishing in the ditch on the snowdrop bank.

 

Native ladybirds. When the big brute of an american ladybird arrived here we thought it was curtains for these little fellows but they seem much better adapted to our climate than their cousins and continue to flourish.Now they are coming out of hibernation.

At this time of year even a glimmer of sunshine is enough to take me outside to weed, if its too cold to work for long there is always pricking out in the greenhouse.

So Alan doesn’t like twitter?

So, Alan Titchmarsh doesn’t like twitter? Then he is missing out on the friendliest gardening communication channel there is and he is missing out on one of the best ways to share the successes and failures of gardening.

A little gardening knowledge can be very hard won and 140 characters is often all it takes to spread nuggets of advice to other gardeners. A lot of time is saved by asking the fantastic gardening community on twitter to help with horticultural problems.

Fascinating images posted by world class photographers, entomologists, botanic gardens and wildlife enthusiasts means every day is richer. We retweet these often because we just can’t resist such beauty and want to share our own love of the natural world.

Naturally this means we are very keen tweeters and are grateful to everyone who shares their pictures, answers queries or is just up for a chat about our favourite subject. You can follow us on @ewgardens for Ursula’s thoughts or the gardening team on @ewgardeners

In the spirit of our twitter world and for our twitter and Facebook followers who do like to use social media or if you are just wandering around our website and stumbled across the blog, here are some of our late summer images and thoughts from the gardens which we hope you enjoy……

ripening pears

Beauty in the late summer garden has to be sought out. For sure, the rudbeckias, dahlias and gladiolus still look fresh in the Pickery, Our 80m long borders are designed to peak now with white phlox and asters (particularly this year when everything is so early) and the greenhouse is full of tomatoes and cucumbers but in the wider garden you might need to look a bit closer.

The Pickery

Take the two images below. The top one shows how flat the light has become and the grasses have taken on their familiar baked appearance. Gardening on limestone, this is an occupational hazard. As soon as the rain stops the colour drains from the grasses.The immediate impression is of a finished season but careful inspection reveals some surprising beauties. The violet colour of this late scabious is set off by the bleached grass behind. At any time of year, meadows benefit from this kind of close attention. Once the majority of the flowers have set seed all of this will be cut and harvested for hay.

meadows and verbascum
 meadow scabious summer terracesIn the Pickery, the sublety of the colours in this annual grass, Hordeum jubatum, reflects the changing season
hordeum jubatumAnd when the sun comes out, anything in the brown or beige spectrum, plants or not, look gorgeous backed by a deep blue sky. Here our sweet pea seed is drying in the greenhouse.
South Kesteven sweet pea harvest

Meanwhile, in the greenhouse next door, tender fruiting plants remind us that there is still plenty to look forward to in late August. We have been picking F1 cucumbers for the tearoom and the first of the tomatoes are now ripe. Our favourite is Tomato ‘Cuor di Bue’ or the Bull’s Heart Tomato. Big, heart-shaped and succulent, this is the ultimate tomato for  tomato and mozzarella salads marinated in oil infused with the basil grown here too.

EWG 12.8.12 (79) greenhouse low res