About three years ago, I sowed a perennial meadow flower mix in the furthest end of our garden, where we have four small apple trees.
We have lots of oxeye daisies, stitchwort, corncockles, and, most importantly, yellow rattle.
Yellow rattle is important in a perennial meadow because it weakens the grass, and prevents grass from dominating.
I sowed yellow rattle seed separately, in the autumn, because it needs a period of cold over the winter in order to germinate. To sow the seed, I dug up patches of grass and roughed up the soil a little bit. In the first year, I don’t remember seeing any yellow rattle, and I thought my experiment had failed. But the second year, there were a handful of plants. Now I have a really healthy colony, which seems to be spreading.
The yellow rattle is below the oxeye daisy in the picture below. A colloquial name for yellow rattle is ‘yellow bollocks’, because of the shape of the seed pods. These will form from green parts below the flower. They will dry out and rattle, hence the name ‘yellow rattle’.
We are taking an even easier approach with the rest of the garden. Sowing perennial meadow flower seed is labour-intensive and expensive. The easier and cheaper option is simply to allow your lawn to grow out.
Like a lockdown haircut, it has gradually got shaggier, looser, freer. It started to move more, and look relaxed. It sways in the breeze. It attracts all sorts of wildlife: bugs, beetles and butterflies, and with such a rich food source, birds, small mammals, frogs, lizards and sloworms.
We already have patches of comfrey and borage which must have been lying in wait in the soil. I have grown these plants before, and they must have set seed. The bees love them.
Stevie has mown paths through the lawn, and this creates some really interesting shapes in the garden. The patches of long grass are like exciting islands, or hillsides.
We are so enjoying the different vistas. Our garden feels more exciting and alive. The dogs definitely agree, peering around corners and listening to the new noises. Sometimes Ziggy bounds and leaps over the grass. We love that. We might join him.
With this new approach, I am being more casual about weeds, and that feels quite liberating.
We have allowed self seeders, like aubretia and forget-me-nots, to colonise our gravel, for a dry, Mediterranean kind of look:
Rewilding is important for the diversity of plant and animal species. These little ecosystems provide a wildlife haven, but are also mini carbon sinks to protect the planet from further warming.
Every little helps. We started off with a tiny patch, less than five percent of our garden. Now the wild bits probably take up more than fifty percent of the space. There are fruit trees in and amongst the long grass. We still have organised flowerbeds, vegetable patches, a fruit cage and herb patch. It feels like we get the best of both worlds.
If you are looking to ‘up’ the delight in your outdoor space, I would highly recommend rewilding.
Do you feel ready to let loose the reins?
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