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GARDENING: Learning all there is to know about wild flower meadows

September 18, 2021


If you have ever wondered what a forest garden is or dreamed of a wild flower meadow then do go along to Dolydd Gobaith on Saturday where you will find Will and Bridget Denne whose cottage sits opposite the community farm and nature reserve that is Bridget’s brainchild and is far reaching in its ambition.

I went along earlier to be taken on the first of two walks that Will has organised for the open day. With their black cocker spaniel racing ahead we climbed up through a thin strip of woodland that circles a wildflower meadow that crowns the hill. This is ancient, unimproved meadow that was cut by hand over the centuries. It’s a window into the past hazed over with blue field scabious, dotted with the green seed-pods of some 710 butterfly orchids and yes, Will did count them all. Young oak trees mingle with birch and rowan to surround the meadow and Will couldn’t resist reaching up to a cluster of red rowan berries which are destined to become rowan berry gin.

I wanted to see the couples vegetable garden pictured for, like everything else here, there are lessons to be learnt and a great deal to envy. A series of raised beds march down the garden to two greenhouses. The 10’ x 22’ cold greenhouse is presided over by a nectarine and is filled with tomato plants, carrots in deep tubs, yin yang beans to be dried and stored for winter and a shelf filled with garlic and shallots similarly being dried for winter use. The 8’ x 20’ heated greenhouse is filled with chilli peppers of various heats, aubergines, basil, cucumbers and Malaba spinach. Cadi, the cocker spaniel was rooting around amongst a pile of grey insulation pipes which seemed like an odd addition until Will pointed out that they were usually to be found around leeks to blanch the stems for competition. He is a dedicated competitor but then Will was an RHS judge at RHS Chelsea for six years before he hopped over to the other side of the show bench.

Beyond the greenhouses more raised beds were home to perennial vegetables and soft fruits. A raised bed of blueberries had been mulched with fleece and I was to see more fleece mulch across the lane in the forest garden which is in its infancy. There are walnut trees here and sweet chestnuts, apple and pear trees on M25 root-stock to enable them to grow 18’ or more. Beneath the trees there are blueberries and gooseberries, blackcurrants, chokeberries and aronia. It is a lesson in economic use of space and sustainability which shouldn’t come as a surprise as Will was the Principal Horticultural Advisor to the RHS at Wisley.

Incidentally, there are real lessons on how to wield a scythe and on recognising fungi this autumn but for now you can go along to the open day this Saturday 18th September between 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. There will be much more to see including willow weaving and a working horse demonstration. Follow GPS to Dolydd Gobaith, Pen-y-Garnedd, near Llanfyllin whose postal code is SY10 0AW.

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