All this summer visitors to Hollingbury library have been welcomed by the sight of our beautiful new mini wildflower meadow. The project began several months ago when we decided that the old prickly shrubs at the front had to go, they were ugly, attracted litter and did nothing to entice wildlife into the local area. I contacted the local council’s parks department to see what they had used along the Lewes Road and went for the same perennial seed mix bulked out with some extra annuals to compensate for the fact that we were sowing slightly under the required amount for the space we had.
The initial clear out work was done by some youth offenders doing voluntary work. They did a great job in hacking down and pulling out the vicious thick prickly shrubs. The next stage was to prepare a seed bed, which myself and a member of the local community worked on together. We started by removing the perennial weeds, luckily there were few, although they did unfortunately include bindweed. I waited for a dry day and used a glyphosate herbicide, and then 2 weeks later, hoping the threatened rain would stay away, I sprayed again. Ideally this would have been done in autumn of the previous year or earlier in spring to allow more time for existing weeds to emerge and for dormant seeds disturbed by our digging to start growing so we could treat them too. Two weeks later in the sweltering heat we suddenly had in late May we started pulling out dying weeds, old rubbish and rubble. We were under a tight deadline- the seeds had to go in by the end of May at the latest. I barrowed over several wheelbarrow loads of compost from the community compost bins we have round the back of the library. We had a large binful of rich compost to add to the soil, complete with plenty of small red compost worms. Then I used a rake to produce a fine tilth and divided the area into 4 quadrants, marking them out with string. I carefully divided the 20 g perennial mix and 6g of annual seeds into 4 equal amounts , bulking each portion out with sand in order to spread them more easilyand with that I just got the seeds in on time !
The seedlings quickly started emerging and grew rapidly. Once they got to a certain height it all moved forward very fast and in July the bed started changing from its soft green carpet of foliage into the flowering meadow we can see today. Every day I arrived at work there were more flowers to look at which made the approach down the hill quite exciting. The meadow changes constantly as different flowers emerge and others turn to seed. Earlier in the season it was predominantly pinks and mauves and blues, then more white flowers appeared and now it’s the turn of the orange and yellows to take over. If you look closely at the flowers they are literally teaming with insects, one big surprise has been the variety of different bees I’ve seen. The numerous lovely comments from our customers have made it even more worthwhile and it has been really well appreciated. One local customer commented last week “It’s wonderful. You know everyone is talking about it”.
I have been told that the balance of flowers will change over the years as some become more dominant than others. I am looking forward to seeing how different it looks next year but do hope that at least some of the annuals self seed successfully. The annuals include Shirley Poppy, Californian poppy, Cornflower and Fairy Toadflax. The perennials include Garden Yarrow, Perennial Black-eyed Susan, Lance-leaf Coreopsis, Lady’s Bedstraw, Yellow Oxe-eye, St John’s Wort, Greater Knapweed and Meadow Clary.