Thanks to the garden team’s hard work, I am startled to find we have made some progress in these last few weeks.The scarred stretches of ground at Olivers where trees were removed have been reseeded: the healing has begun. For years, this area has been one of tightly cropped amenity grasses, but for the first time in decades (for I know when Mary Baldwin lived here in her chic colonial style bungalow, she also favoured the wild look) the patches have been left unmown. Now it is a waving meadow of ox eye daisy, interspersed with cowslips and self heal, wild garlic and a smattering of cow parsley. In the middle of this the Judas tree has flowered prolifically, visible for the first time since thick ropes of ivy have been removed.
But now these wild flowers are almost at an end and the amenity grass will do what it always does: flop.
So it goes without saying that on the more extensive areas, we have been inspired by these wild flowers and won’t be reseeding with lawn grass. From Emorsgate Seeds we have two mixtures: one for woodland and one for clay meadow, each a mixture of native grasses (less vigorous: ones that should stand upright for longer through the summer) and wild flowers. So in the woodland we hope to have more of the beauties above, but also, to name a few more: campion, ragged robbin, foxgloves and alexander (Smyrinium olustratum, a forage- worthy plant to add to salads) to which I have added its slightly more sophisticated and lovely relative Smyrnium perfoliatum. On the deeply fissured ground of the sunny banks further down a meadow clay mix will give a similar look, grass and flowers tweaked to cope with these conditions.
Will it work? From experience the brutes will take over and although ox eye daisy is strictly in this category, we will excuse it, as it’s simple upturned flower appeals to the child in all of us. The more fragile creatures, like ragged robin, do not seed where the text books say they should, but no doubt will end up at the other end of the garden in the tropical border. The yellow rattle, which will be so important in keeping the vigour of grasses at bay (it is semi-parasitic and lives on grass roots thereby reducing vigour) definitely will not germinate and will have to be re-sown in the Autumn, with an added kilo or two sown into the existing grass in the hope it will reduce the flop here too. It likes to sit in a cold blast over the winter before it germinates. Grim prospect ahead of all of us.
Now we are waiting for warm days and evenings to give the bats their wake up call , as in summer it is a joy to watch them swoop low over the open ground here. I have been waiting with baited breath for Graham Street of the Isle of Wight Bat Hospital to come, hoping to find bat droppings in the attic. How peculiar my pass- times have become. Yet I find that despite having more slipped slates than a derelict barn, we are bat-less. Never to be defeated, thinking it only right and proper to have bats in a Castle, I considered rehoming them here. The neighbours think I’m potty, and Graham has told me in a measured voice, this cannot be done. But I might just leave some slipped slates. As my husband always says: if you build it, they will come.