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Great Haseley and District Horticultural Society - July 2016

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Last night my other half and I set off in pouring rain to visit Greenfield Farm at Christmas Common where Andrew Ingram was opening his extensive wild flower meadows to the public which he does once a year.

  I had visited before with our society one wet evening several years ago and so simply checked the date and time on the NGS website.  I failed to click the button marked ‘more’ which would have told me that it was a guided tour starting at 6pm so we were late and only joined the group at about 6.30pm.  There were only five visitors including us which I imagine was a result of the weather, but in fact we did not get wet at all!

From my last visit I remember there are about 100 acres of meadow altogether and the project started in 1996 when 10 acres were prepared by removing top soil completely to reduce fertility and by controlling perennial weeds. A custom mix prepared for the chalky area was sown and the result now after 20 years is nothing short of spectacular with a complete carpet of around 100 different species of wild flowers; there is only a very little grass nearly all of which is quaking grass (Briza media).  I was amused to discover that the major Christmas tree part of the farm enables Andrew to fund his wild flower habit!  It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and my other half had the rare opportunity to drive off-road which made him very happy!  I will be there again next year without doubt; the very sight of the first 10 acres is most definitely food for the soul.  Thank you very much, Andrew, for sharing your enthusiasm and passion with us.

I now, of course, have meadow envy!  Our meadow (previously written about in this column) which we have worked so hard at for so many years is a very poor copy indeed.  We have had a number of obstacles the most significant being the very fertile soil some of which is very deep alluvial loam and really not suited to growing wild flowers; this area also floods in winter.  Crucially, we did not strip off the top soil before we started which would have greatly reduced the fertility thus weakening the grasses and allowing the flowers to proliferate; achieving this seemed insurmountable to a pair of amateurs.  Initially the ground was about 50% covered in thistles and nettles which we have almost eradicated using some glyphosate, mowing and simply pulling out the thistles just prior to flowering (plenty of nettles remain around the edges for butterflies).  During the winter the meadow is grazed by alpacas keeping the grass down, firming the flower seed into the ground and allowing us to identify patches of nettles, docks and thistles for removal after their departure (alpacas are also very appealing animals!).  Sadly, the grass remains very strong and the recent very heavy rain has knocked a lot of it flat so it looks rather scruffier than usual.  Even a meadow on Andrew’s farm which has had no preparation and has simply been left uncut is many times more floriferous than our meadow, this being a reflection of the underlying soil; however, ours is a labour of love and each year we are seeing improvement.  Parasitic yellow rattle has got a grip now (it should have done with the quantity we have sown) and is weakening the very strong course grass so the flower count increases.  We now have around 30 different varieties of flower although mostly in only small colonies, but many of these we have not sown so either the seed was already in the soil or it has blown in.  Every year we are hopeful that we will see orchids, but they have not arrived yet, but, we learned last night, they should do eventually and this cannot be hurried. We also learned that mowing the stronger patches of grass in the spring will help to give the flowers a head start.  In the meantime, we will continue to work at it and enjoy it immensely.

Liz Moyses Membership secretary This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
01844 279875

Please contact me for further details of membership which costs only £5 per family per year.

Thank you to those members who have already paid their subscription for 2016 and may I tactfully remind those few who have yet to pay that, although they will be sent a copy of the show schedule, they will be unable to enter any classes unless they are in good standing with the society.