How very different from two weeks ago. Then, we were living a dream that took five years to materialise. I am talking about the sheer beauty of our meadow burgeoning with tall scarlet poppies, rich blue cornflowers and the occasional yellow, pink and white intruders. At 50m long and 35m wide it was big enough for its colours to overwhelm.
Something magical had happened. Passers-by stopped to look as they went down the lane alongside the meadow. Some took photos of the flowers themselves (thank you Marie for sending yours). Others snapped their children or partners with the flowers as background. When working in the meadow, drivers would slow down and give the thumbs-up, or roll down their window and shout “félicitation”. Some stopped to chat and ask how we had done it. One couple even invited us to take an aperitif (in fact they came to us). The village had seen nothing like it.
And just looking filled one’s pleasure centre. It was hypnotic, one just sat and stared. I hate doing nothing but for this display I was prepared to make an exception. For two weeks, whenever it was possible, tea was drunk not in our garden but on a bench shaded by a quince tree in the tiny orchard overlooking the meadow. Sitting, sipping, mesmerised, simply lifted the spirit – no space for problems there. We asked ourselves how we could capture such a sight. One house guest was moved to paint a picture, we and others took our photos, but nothing would be enough. Notwithstanding the colours there was a secondary task – how to bottle the movement and the sounds. The heads of the poppies waved, their petals fluttered, the stems swayed, the field was in continuous motion. To this add the hundreds of bees quietly going about their bees-iness. In such animated company even Monet’s Poppies come off second best.
But it was not always so. Planning started in around 2006, driven by my wife Rohan. She dreamed of having a meadow, not just for the colours but also to help the bee community which was struggling, as it was (and still is) worldwide. The advice in the gardening books we found, even one entitled Making a Meadow, gave advice that was all too complicated. Not so the advice in the Bumblebee Newsletter. It so happens that we have played with the idea of keeping bees – a few pages in a recent edition were devoted to meadows and included simple instructions on their creation.
The first instruction was scary: take off the top soil. Poppies, it seems, hate good earth. In May the digger man came and did just that, piling up the earth around the would-be meadow to make a surrounding embankment. Next Rohan broadcast the seeds from a basket, as would have our forebears. Then the wait. We told the neighbours of our plans but soon gossip had it that we were building a swimming pool or a tennis court, or possibly even a house. Even the ‘Marie’ got involved. In June nothing had sprouted. In early July, and to our delight, there was a smattering of red. Then, in mid-July, an explosion. In a week or so a blanket of colour spread from west to east to fill the space. Glory, albeit short-lived, began.
A puzzle has arisen – “how come such a rich spread requires poor soil?” It just seems wrong. And a key question remains – “will we be as lucky next year?”
We already have a stock of seeds and will repeat much of what we did this year but fear that the success so far may have been down to beginners’ luck!