Tag Archives: July

Meadow Makers

Plants of the month – July

July is the traditional time to enjoy wild flower meadows, so I’m sneaking two plants in that combine to create a meadow feel, whatever the space available in your garden. I’m imagining them above longer grass at lawn edges, under and through hedges, or tickling around in borders to soften more formal planting schemes.

Wildflowers in a meadow with Buckland Monachorum church in the background

Ox-eye Daisy

The first is an ox-eye daisy, or Leucanthemum vulgare to give it the horticultural name. I just counted twenty seven synonyms for this daisy, which shows me it’s been in cottage gardens and wild flower meadows for centuries. My favourite alternate name is ‘moon daisy’ as the white petals really do show up in moonlight.

It’s a perennial that’s easy to grow in any average soil. It loves full sunshine, but will be happy if it gets a few hours a day. Cut the stems back after flowering (or seeding) to keep it tidy. It’s very tolerant and you don’t have to fuss with it. Just avoid planting it where it will sit in wet over winter. To propogate let it seed about the place. It’s not invasive so pull up seedlings you don’t want.

Red Campion

The ox-eye daisy pairs beautifully with another common meadow and verge flower, the Silene dioica; best known as Red Campion.

I think the campion is under-rated as we get used to seeing it without looking at it. It’s easy to grow in any decent garden soil, forming low clumps that are easily divided in the autumn. It flowers between May and September,and gets up towards thigh high, so it’s great for wafting through. The small, open flowers are an intense pink on narrow stems; they mingle well with grasses. I enjoy them in our cottage garden and meadow as the summer sun sets behind them and makes them glow.

Both these plants will bring a touch of the wild to any garden. I love the link they make between formal gardens and the natural landscape of Dartmoor just over the wall.

See you soon in the garden


Nick Haworth, Head Gardener

How to create a wild flower meadow

National Meadows Day – Advice from the Head Gardener

As July 2 is National Meadows Day, this month’s advice is to help you make a meadow. Whether you have a few feet or a few acres, the principle is the same and wildlife will benefit. The pleasure of seeing the right plants in a natural environment, providing colour and movement from spring until late summer can be achieved just by fiddling about with the right patch of scruffy lawn.

If you have been to see the garden lately you will know the meadow is full of orchids and butterflies. In spite of the cold start and the damp June, the weather has been really good for wild flowers.

Wild flowers in the meadow at The Garden House, under the silver birch trees

Soil conditions and aspect

You’ll need poor soil and lots of light; an open position is ideal, for sun all day and plenty of weather.  Buy seed, not plants.  But no grass seed; grass will find your meadow anyhow and it bullies wild flowers, so if you’re seeding a grassed area, include Yellow Rattle. It’s a pretty little parasitic plant that reduces the vigour of grass. Avoid annuals, (cornflowers, poppies etc.) because they need regularly disturbed soil. Depending on the size of your meadow, you might need a few packets or to buy seed mix by weight.

Prepare the ground by removing everything, or cutting grass as low as you can and raking great ugly patches into it. Seed wants to touch soil. Sow the seed as per instructions.  It’s a good idea to add sand to the seed mix so you’ll see where you throw it and be able to spread it more evenly.

Maintenance for your meadow

Mow (or scythe or strim) just once in late summer and leave the hay in heaps to drop seed before clearing it. Don’t feed or fertilise, but keep the soil poor and the grass miserable. Meadows aren’t high maintenance; they just need the right maintenance. In future years you can augment your meadow with plug plants and bulbs. Plants will naturalise if happy. Our meadow now has too many orchids to count, they’ve been hybridising at a rate of knots. Visit soon before they go over and get down low to appreciate them close-up. It’s glorious.

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener

PS. To find out more about National Meadows Day, read here at the Magnificent Meadows website.

National Meadows Day Walk

Learn about our wonderful wild flower meadow

Take part in a guided walk this Saturday July 2nd, with Donna Cox, of the Moor Meadows community initiative. It’s a local group that is working hard to increase and celebrate the meadow lands of Dartmoor, so we’re very happy to have Donna on site to help visitors understand the workings of ours. The weather is forecast to be better in the afternoon than the morning, so you should be enjoying a walk through the meadow in the sunshine.

The Garden House meadow is one of many throughout the country that will be featured in this national event. We encourage you to come along and take the opportunity to learn about planting, ecosystems and maintenance from an expert.

This year the Dactylorhiza, or marsh orchids are looking better than ever. We have an innumerable  mix of pure and hybrid species, so if you an orchid enthusiast this walk will give you the opportunity to see what we’ve got…

Purple orchid close up showing spotted leaves

An orchid in the wild flower meadow

The guided walk is free for all garden visitors, usual gate fees apply, Friends of The Garden House free admission. There is no need to book but please be prompt as it will start at 2.30pm.