Magnificent flower meadows do not grow overnight

Tiiu Siim, Energy Farm

The owners of the awarded Energy Farm have established on their land wild and semi-wild flower-filled meadows that offer spectacular scenery from May to late autumn. 

Blooming all year round, the wildflower meadows offer fascinating views to farm visitors, serve as a butterfly and insect sanctuary and make a perfect harvest area for bees.

To mow, or not to mow?

The farm was awarded the recognition of Beautiful Home by the Estonian President in 2018. The jury found it charming that the farm had tried to preserve the surrounding wild area and display it in an aesthetic way. 

As the farm is located on a large territory, mowing of walkways and herbal study paths alone is very time consuming. First, as the woman of the house, I found that mowed lawn looked more beautiful, although my husband did not think that constant mowing would add any value to the farm’s look. In those days, we did not hear much about biodiversity or the need to provide pollinators with food, however, over time, I began to realize that wild plant communities have their own charms. Once we noticed that less butterflies and bees visited our properly mowed garden, we had to find new solutions to shape the look of our farm as we liked it.

Plants grow where they want to grow

Getting the result we wanted wasn’t that easy. We started out with a small area in a corner of our garden. We brought wild plants from neighbouring fields and fallows: peach-leaved bellflowers (Campanula persicifolia L), Carpathian harebells (Campanula carpatica), daisies (Anthemis arvensi), sticky catchflies (Lychnis viscaria L.), common soapworts (Saponaria officinalis), cowslips (Primula veris). We fitted them into the lawn, by digging larger and wider planting areas, and hoped for a great blooming result in the coming years. We also sowed some flavouring and medical herbs, such as oregano (Origanum vulgare), St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) and wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum).

We waited and waited… but nothing. The grasses inside the lawn simply “ate” the plants we had planted there. While in the first and second year, there were some flowers, then by the third year the place looked rather sad. Only the more durable plants survived: oregano, St. John’s wort and some daisies.

Nature has its own laws. Plants themselves find the place they want to grow.

The first surprise came from the former oregano (Origanum vulgare) field, which had overgrown over the years and we were no longer harvesting it.

We just left it there to please an eye. Many plants like St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), daisies (Anthemis arvensi), Carpathian harebells (Campanula carpatica), white bedstraw (Galium album), bird vetch (Vicia cracca), common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and red clover (Trifolium pratense), chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and numerous different grasses had left their seeds there. The seeds spread by the wind, the fields of medicinal plants were nearby. Over the years, new plant communities emerged, and we did not mow them until autumn. This is how colourful flower meadows established themselves on our farm’s land.

Cowslips, poppies and coneflowers all bloom in their own time

The cowslips (Primula veris) field is the first one to bloom in springtime. We have established this about 200 square meter field mainly by planting. Every year we bring new plants and plant them wherever there is still some space available. The flowers of cowslips have healing properties and suit for medicinal teas, but in recent years we have left some flowers unpicked to allow the seeds to spread naturally. After cowslips, it’s time for white and red clover, bird vetch and grasses to bloom and they all together give the field a beautiful delicate tone.

Between the chamomile plants, we have created a poppy field (Papaver) that took us years of work. First, we brought some plants from outside of Vändra, just off the road. We planted them at the edge of our field, and from the seeds we got in autumn we already made new wider sowings. Now we don’t have to make sowings anymore, the wind does it for us and the poppy field is really impressive. Together with chamomile, poppies create a striking and contrasting effect. Unfortunately, poppies clos their flower buds already at midday, as if saving their beauty. A poppy flower blooms only one or two days.

The meadow with coneflowers (Rudbeckia) and white and red oregano flowers is particularly charming. About 10-11 years ago, there were flower beds on this plot and next to it we grew oregano. When the oregano field started to rapidly overgrow, we made new beds and let the old plants grow freely. Some time later, we noticed that there were suddenly more coneflowers that made the plot colourful and cheerful. The wind had probably carried the seeds there, and today, the once overgrown herb bed has become a mysteriously beautiful flower meadow. Now I have finally identified the varieties of coneflowers in the meadow: Big Shine, Big Smile, Little Goldstar, Star of Life Smiley, Coldsturm.

How to take care of a meadow?

How do we take care of our flower meadow?  It is very simple. We just let the plants grow and bloom long. We mow in the autumn when the plants have finished flowering and dropped their seeds in the soil. We use a maintenance mower for that job, the mower chops clippings into a mass, which makes a good fertilizer for the field. From time to time, we have cleaned the meadows from unwanted plants because willow, alder and coniferous seeds also end up in the soil. Our goal is to give the meadow a nicer and more even look. We received the greatest recognition for our flower meadows from Virve Poom, the organizer and owner of Astellaria Garden Tours: „I see that your fields are just like Oudolf’s fields. It looks like he had come here to learn from you before he came up with his idea of natural planting“. Piet Oudolf is a well-known Dutch garden designer with a keen interest in plant ecology and biodiversity.

You are welcome to visit our flowering meadows!