I’ve become obsessed with grasses. A friend lent me a wonderful book called ‘A year in the Life of an English Meadow’ by Andy Garnett & Polly Devlin and it made me realise how fortunate we are in the West of Ireland to still have untouched ancient meadows. The author whose love of meadows was born from her childhood in Ireland, gives the startling statistic that in her area of Somerset in the 1980′s there were 700 wildflower meadows, but by 2007 there were just 20 left and that in the last 50 years across the UK, 98% of wild flower meadows have been destroyed.
When creating wild flower meadows people often advise adding yellow rattle to subdue the grasses and although it is true that the grasses can overrun the wild flowers, they have a beauty in their own right. We try to strike a balance between the two, by scarifying the meadow every few years, which weakens the grasses. My favourite are the purple grasses that grow about knee high. On mass they look like lavender. Or the tall stately stems that come from couch grass. This grass has little bulbs and is hated by all gardeners who want a beautiful lawn. We do dig this out of our lawns in the winter, but in the meadow where it is allowed, it stands tall against the fuchsia hedge. Then there are the little wispy stems of meadow grass, so delicate against the backdrop of purple clover. There is so much beauty in nature that we take for granted, but we must protect it and ensure that it is still there for future generations to enjoy. Just the other day I was tempted to pull out some sorrel that isn’t the prettiest of plants, when a little bird flew down and fed upon it returning several times. We often don’t realise the importance of plants castigated as weeds in the diet of birds and insects and our impact upon them in our haste to tidy.