Nature sets the bar pretty high, even in comparison with the show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. Our little flower meadow that is still in its infancy is much like the fallow fields up and down the county. It is strewn with an unremarkable selection of wild flowers, none of them remotely rare or noteworthy, but en masse they make a spectacular collage. The drifts of yellow and white have the sort of natural rhythm that garden designers at best imitate. And even the rabbit runs that dissect the meadow provide a perfectly designed mosaic of pathways.
The flower meadow is in its infancy as nothing has been done to it yet. It was generously doused with nitrogen rich fertilizer for many years until about a year ago, which is when the conversion began. Since then the hay was cut in July, sheep grazed it through the winter and now it is being left alone until the grass is cut again at the end of the summer. At some stage we may be more ambitious and try to actively manage the wild flowers, but for now we are taking the easy option and simply observing what there is.
Part of the reason for wanting to return the field to a wild flower meadow is to provide a healthy variety of nectar rich flowers for our new colony of bees. Cultivated flowers provide important forage too, but it seems like common sense that a wide variety of native species should form the bedrock to their diet. The honey bee population is now beset with so many diseases that even if the precise causes of the diseases are poorly understood, a ‘back to nature’ approach has to be good thing. It should also make the flavour of the honey more balanced and local.
That being said, the honey bees seem to pay scant attention to most of the wild flowers. There are thousands of dandelions, which are meant to score highly in the nectar stakes, but I haven’t seen a single honey bee showing the slightest bit of interest. Maybe the lure of the oil seed rape is just too strong. Or maybe they are waiting for the weather to improve. No doubt the garden designers at Chelsea are doing the same. As are we with our hammocks at the ready!