Wildflower Meadows by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Wildflower Meadow

The Wildflower meadow

“This lucid fount, whose murmurs fill the mind

The verdant forests waving with the wind

The odours wafted from the mead, The flowers

In which the wild bee sits and sings for hours

These might the moodiest misanthrope employ

Make sound the sick, and turn distress to joy”

(Garcilaso de la Vega, 1501 – 1536)

 

For those fortunate enough to have sufficient space, be it an under used  pony paddock, hay field or even a larger sized lawn there is the opportunity of establishing a wildflower meadow.

Wild flower meadows were traditionally areas of unimproved grassland that were kept for hay making rather than being constantly grazed. In consequence these open sunny areas have played host to a broad range of grassland flora and fauna and are important feeding zones for Bees and other pollinators.

Wildflowers attract wildlife

The pressure to raise agricultural production during the 20th century led to the loss of these biologically diverse areas as grassland was improved, fertiliser added and vigorous cultivated species such as Italian Ryegrass sown.  In the past 100 years up to 97% of these traditional hay meadows may have been lost.

With a growing realisation of the value of wildflower meadows a growing number of people have become enthusiastic about re-establishing them on land that they own and in some cases there is funding available through Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme, details of which may be obtained via their local offices.

But funding is only part of the challenge of establishing a new meadow, past agricultural practices which have been successful at raising yields of grass grown may be the exact opposite of what is now required.  Bold steps may have to be taken such as destruction of the existing sward by ploughing or with herbicides, fertility reduced by removing hay or silage several times in one growing season and sowing parasitic Yellow Rattle to weaken the grass further.

Meadow Cranesbill

Meadow Cranesbill

It is only when conditions start to become unfavourable to grass growth that sowing of wildflower seeds  becomes advisable and even then do not expect instant results.

As these plants are of unimproved origin the seeds may not all germinate together and there may be some unwelcome intruders such as Ragwort, Nettles and Docks which will need attention.  Maintenance tasks will need to be attended to with a cycle of late summer hay cuts followed by light grazing of the aftermath and again as growth commences in the spring after the ground has been rolled or harrowed.

When your wildflower meadow has become established you will be able to enjoy the marvellous scents of the flowers and the sight and sound of the creatures that have come to live in the naturally bountiful grassland that you have created.

Wild Flower Meadow in May 1

Wild Flower Meadow

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

Pruning Apples and Pears by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

The Quick Guide to Winter Pruning

If in doubt…Don’t! Well, you have to agree, that was quick. But I think we can do better than that. Apples and pears will quite often fruit reasonably well if you just leave them alone but they will get to a stage where overcrowding of branches and disease will cut down the on the reason we grow them; the fruit.

Why do we prune? We need to prune to encourage fruiting ‘spurs’, clear out any dead or diseased wood and generally shape the tree to an attractive form. We’ve all seen children’s drawings of trees, generally a cup on a leg, and for ordinary bush forms, which is what we shall deal with here, that’s not far off the ideal.

Stand back and take a good look at your tree. Is it the shape you want? Does it interfere with paths, buildings etc? Don’t be afraid to tackle it, you’re the boss!

Taking out branches which cross over the middle of the cup is a good idea as it keeps the air moving through the tree when it’s in full leaf and helps to prevent fungus diseases. If your tree has several branches in this position remove only one or two each winter as a severe removal of a large mass of branches will result in the tree producing a lot of compensating growth the next year and very little fruit. The same goes for branches which need to come out to improve the shape. Remove any branches which are diseased or have died back to where you are sure the growth looks clean.

RULE 1. Stagger removal of large branches over several winters.

RULE 2. Cut cleanly, using a pruning saw or good loppers, leaving a very small ‘stub’, which should heal over by itself.

Now come in close and look at one major branch at a time to assess it’s fruiting ability. Most varieties produce fruiting spurs which are clusters of small, knobbly twigs with fat flower buds on.(Growth buds tend to be thinner and pointed) What you are aiming for is a framework of  branches with a good coverage of spurs.

Example: Apple tree pruning – avoid taking too much off!

What you may have are branches covered with lots of whippy growth about 6 to 12 inches long (showing my age there I’m afraid!), these will need to be shortened to two buds long, in other words  where two leaves were in the summer. If  it is very crowded you may need to remove some altogether, spacing them out along the branches about 5 to 6 inches apart is good. These will then start to produce flower buds over the next summer.

RULE 3. Shorten small whippy growth to encourage fruiting spurs.

This is a much simplified guide to winter pruning but it gives you the basics to tackle your fruit trees, if you decide to pursue this topic further there are many good books available or call in an expert, we’ve been keeping trees performing well for years!

Word of Caution – If someone comes to prune your fruit trees with a chainsaw, show them the gate… If that’s what they need then they’re taking off too much!

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

Improving a Garden in Winter by Award Winning Designer Tim Brayford

A snowy Garden

“O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth.”
–  John Davies, 1570-1626,  Ode to the West Wind

The garden in winter can seem to be a bit of a quiet place with not much appearing to be  going on, but with a little forethought and careful planning it can become quite busy.

Winter flowering Snowdrops

Winter flowering shrubs such as Winter Jasmine and Mahonia Japonica provide seasonal blooms, Daphne mezereum Rubrum is particularly fragrant. The evergreen leaves of Viburnum Tinus and Ilex aquifolium Golden van Tol provide some structure along with the vivid orange red berries found on Pyracantha hybrida Mohave or even the bright turquoise blue berries found on Viburnum Davidii. Colourful stems may be found on Dogwoods such as Cornus Alba Sibirica Westonbirt and Willows such as Salix Alba vitellina, both of which may be cut back to create fresh shoots in the spring.

Vivid Dogwoods

Hardy Cyclamen are early bloomers and Snowdrops will soon be making their presence known. In milder areas early Daffodils such as February Gold are harbingers of the approaching spring , whilst in the herbaceous border the Christmas Rose Helleborus Niger is an early flowerer.

A good starting point is to observe your garden on a reasonably bright winter’s day, walk around it and see if the general structure or any vistas may be improved, don’t forget to take into account what may be seen from indoors as well.

Wintery weather brings wild birds like these Pheasants into the garden

Do not be afraid to replace ailing plants or those that have become too vigorous and any that have otherwise disappointed you. Look out for carelessly discarded litter and items such as garden furniture that have decayed past the point of usefulness and now just look plain ugly. It is all too easy to overlook these sort of things and spoil the appearance of an otherwise beautiful garden.

Frosty Fern

Make an action plan for what you are seeking to achieve in your garden, it can be very useful to record you observations in a notebook for future reference, especially if you intend to spread your improvements over several seasons. When this is done you will be best placed to proceed to putting your plans into action.

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21