Wednesday 1 January 2020

My throw and grow colour kaleidoscope - Year Two

The problems of continuity 

An early splurge of orange - other colours followed
Last year I posted about my new hardy annual feature and if you missed it, it is best to read it now.  (You will be able to click back)

It was naughty of me to call it a meadow.  It is really just  a hardy annual  border but one managed on naturalistic lines. I did mix in a little fescue grass but it was completely overgrown.

There are several things I want to pick up on, not least how local authorities might differ from the home gardener in their management  bearing in mind we gardeners are there everyday to pounce on a stray weed whereas municipal gardeners are never there. After all it is supposed to be low maintenance. Dream on.

Many recent and very popular municipal roadside displays of direct sown annuals really are magnificent and in the first year are no bother at all. I wonder how they manage continuity from one year to another.
Do they need to resow? How do they tackle the inevitable perennial weed that will establish? Do they dare use glyphosate between seasons on what are (wrongly) perceived as natural features? How do they tackle the prolific annual weeds such as fat hen, sow thistle and shepherds purse that grow and self sow so freely amongst the colourful flowers - potentially becoming worse every year. Perennials such as nettles readily self sow too if allowed to do so.

This fat hen must not be allowed to self seed!
On my own patch I will describe how this year it was almost completely self sown - I did not sow fresh seed other than a few whimsical extras. How long can I continue before some subjects are lost and the more vigorous becomes dominant?
On a different note I observe Peter William’s perennial wild flower meadow each year changes its character.

I was lucky that in April and early May the soil surface was constantly wet and the seed got a superb start. Nature sows more densely than I would ever do. A very good thing and if the odd seedling got trampled if I pulled out a weed or aimed a delicate spray no matter.

A touch of colour in Lyndi's field
In contrast I scattered some seed in Lyndi’s field in early May when unfortunately the soil was starting to dry and germination was poor. On a small patch at home gardeners might choose to water if the weather turns dry. There might be ample water in the ground to sustain growth but insufficient surface wetness to get the seed started.


A few large weeds have been hand weeded away
In this my third season there were more weeds from seed than before.
In my half-hearted first season in what had previously been my vegetable garden managed with my ‘no dig; and ‘no weed seeding’ methods I had an extremely clean start in terms of absence of weed seed. The annuals were broadcast as is my normal practice - unlike traditional methods where in conventional hardy annual borders the clumps are usually sown in seed drills to facilitate hoeing.
It was easy that year to hand pull the odd weed!

I do feel that the ‘throw and grow’ seed mixture was not immune from weed contamination and in the next year I did find certain new weeds resident in my garden. I must have missed them in the first season and they took to their new home.
When you have solid masses of flowers it is much more difficult to stop weeds seeding. I try my best but even I miss some and I anticipate possible problems in future years.

I find that seeded nettles thrive in my ‘throw and grow’ regime. This year and last I have spot-treated small clumps of nettles with carefully directed glyphosate. Quite easy as you get into Summer and some of your flowers start to ‘go over’ and the odd trampled annual grows on anyway! (Indeed I twinkle through the display to pull a few carrots on the far side)

When I pull out my weeds I just throw them down to desiccate and die. Although my annuals are on very fertile ground and in theory might be better on soil of less fertility I am unable to break a habit of a lifetime of enriching the soil by casting down weeds! Where a large weed has slipped through and is already prolifically seeding it is best to remove it!
At the end of the season and before new self sown seed starts to germinate from March next year one has a completely free run for easy weed control! Do not neglect this opportunity to tackle all weeds.

The flowers

As previously mentioned they are (mainly) hardy annuals and not native wild flowers. They very well might be if I had originally chosen such a mixture. Peter Williams observed today that some of the annuals might very well be another country’s wild flowers harvested from meadows.

Not in the original seed mixture these short lived perennial violas sow themselves
Actually I found my mixture was not wholly hardy annuals. I have spotted a few biennials and a lovely orange wallflower two years ago held on to flower in the next April among the new seedlings.
Today in October I spotted a few cosmos which in my book are half hardy annuals.

Bold commelina flowers up to each lunchtime
My own variations have also intruded and have self seeded in amongst the melange. Lovely short lived perennial commelina adds splashes of gentian blue. A few dahlias wandered in last year and proved to be hardy. I will this time deliberately scatter some more. 

Self sown dahlia in its second year
That lovely annual grass that Brenda constantly harps on about when it self sows in other parts of the garden is in there too.
Anyone know what this invasive foxy grass is called?
Last season from May was hot and dry. Many of the flowers had after three months completed their life cycle. Ever tidy Isobel whilst admiring the flowers, delicately inquired what I do with the strawy dead yellow or brown stems. It would be easy to pull a few handfuls out - and indeed some found their way to Lyndi’s field and Cathi’s verge as seed sources. 

Late germinated alyssum pervaded the whole plot with a scent of honey
Late Summer rains brought new germination. A refreshed white carpet of honey scented alyssum was an Autumn joy and dwarf nasturtiums came into their own.

Nasturtiums and second flowering of Salvia horminum
Calendula also comes into its own in late Summer

Winter management
In Autumn of the previous year year I had mused how I would clear up the debris at the turn of the year and how hard it would be. I should not have worried, the strawy remains frittered down to almost nothing. It was work of just a few minutes to rake off shrivelled vegetation and leave any promising seedlings and still green plants.  I had a clear run to spray off any weeds and up to March this opportunity continued.
I wonder what local authorities do at this juncture? A York roundabout which had had a very successful season looked rather scruffy in December but not untoward. I expect that in April they will remake a seedbed and resow.

Myself I shall yet again do zero seedbed preparation and just wait for my annuals to emerge. There will be copious seedlings but will they maintain a suitable balance? Perhaps I will top up with a few favourites? 
And when should I sow them? New self sown seedlings start popping through in March

Originally from the farm field corn marigolds will be back

My original post when I stopped growing most of my vegetables and scattered a few annuals


  1. We have a 'meadow' area on the allotment site. I hope it looks as good as any of your photos during this year! Happy New Year!

    1. I must check it out on your blog.I am sure it will be there

  2. Quite a show and I am sure the bees enjoyed it. Happy New Year to you.

    1. Have a good year yourself Stash I look forward to your interesting comments

  3. Have you ever thought of trying the self-sowing annual Partridge Pea? It can settle in very successfully in sunny areas with a moderate amount of moisure.

    1. had to look it up, Chamaecrista,Sensitve plant and native with you....
      is it a no no here - its on Amazon and E bay but none of my own regular seedsman stock it
      Sounds my kind of plant!.

  4. I sowed annual seeds in September which usually produce an early display. That won’t happen this year thanks to the slugs and the very wet conditions which brought them out in force. Yorkshire Wildlife Park make good use of annual, meadow style planting too.

    1. A lot of my own gardening plans are in disarray at the moment Sue with all the flooding!


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