For couples celebrating their wedding at Escot in normal times, Spring at Escot Park provides a fantastic backdrop for photography, in particular the wonderful swathes of yellow buttercups in front of the house.
But encouraging wild flowers is an art in itself. Here’s why.
Escot Park has been permanent pasture for many years and is not artificially fertilized or sprayed. The older varieties of grasses support large numbers of insects, and below ground worms (and moles!) thrive, which in turn improves the soil structure. Within this mix, wild flowers – often seen by farmers as weeds, have over many decades covered the fields.
During April and May the park turns yellow with buttercups and dandelions, then white with floating seeds before eventually returning to a variety of flowering grasses with a beauty all of their own. The grass is mown just once a year, usually for hay.
This is in sharp contrast to commercial grass fields sown with a quick growing single variety of seed, top dressed with nitrogen and phosphates, which results in a monoculture, producing three cuts a year. These ‘deserts’ are devoid of biodiversity and dangerous for ground nesting birds. Nests are often mown over and chicks if they do hatch often starve due to lack of insects.
Planting field margins with wild flowers is time consuming and expensive. New seed cannot compete with established grass and will not survive if the soil is too ‘rich’.
At Escot we have selected a few areas of unfertile ground where we have removed grass using a digger and are attempting to establish a variety of wild flowers without compromising the integrity of the historic landscape. In doing so we hope to support and boost butterfly and pollinator numbers.
Please remember that grass is a crop, whether grazed or cut.