Yellow Meadow Vetchling
For the past few years, I’ve been talking with my Mum about wildflowers, self seeders and ‘pollinator’ planting. More so, following some work on a public art project last Autumn 2012 for Somerset Wildlife Trust and Plantlife – ‘Save Our Magnificent Meadows’ – taking a market stall around Somerset Town Markets to talk with people about wildflower meadows and biodiversity.
My Mum, Gill Palmer, has been a Churchwarden at Edington, Somerset for many years now. I think the idea, (hopefully assisted by my enthusiasm), had been quietly building in her mind, to turn this acre of God’s ground, normally and regularly mown and strimmed to keep it ‘tidy’, into a wildflower habitat. A couple of local volunteer specialists came to talk with her about it, and they made a plan: “see what’s there already”.
This year, only paths were cut, looping around the churchyard. And gradually over the spring and summer an extraordinary diversity has emerged. What is most surprising perhaps, is just how many plants have grown. Seeds and corms must have lain dormant for so long, existing just beneath the edge of the cutting blade, in the soil through the heat and frost, waiting for the opportunity granted to allow them their flourish.
I like going there to see what’s coming up when I go to visit.
Smooth Cat’s–Ear Hawkbit
And something else: it’s bewildering how we could have forgotten (for too long it seems?) that this, this all ‘happens’.
‘Aquinas said that “the Divine Omnipotence must not be taken as the power to effect any imaginable thing, but only the power to effect what is within the nature of things.”’
Annie Dillard, ‘For The Time Being’ (1999)
This energetic, continual emergence of colour and shape, this growing, flowering seeding array. In the gardens surrounding the ‘Acre’, most of this would be categorised as weed. Hoary Plantain actually allowed to flower?
This all ‘happens’ without our fussing hands and weed picking fingers. There is human assistance of course, certainly a context of control and some cutting at the right time of year, but generally, it’s all about what comes up. When was it, when did it occur, that we thought cut bald grass so much better than this? For we choose how things ‘look’, there are cultural aesthetic choices in all the acres.
Rose Bay Willow Herb
I am so glad my Mum has undertaken this project – it is truly inspiring. Some of the other churchgoers and villagers like looking, especially at the diversity of pollinating bees and butterflies about. Some have brought in their own shears to ‘tidy up’ around a memorial stone or two. I hope I’m the most enthusiastic.
I grew up on a farm in Witham Friary in the 1960s, owned by a London business man, Mr Smallpiece. I remember him visiting once in a suit to our farmyard. He gave me and my brother a banana each. My Dad was the Manager of three large farms there. We were food producing farmers, and part of a strong rural culture and tradition of seeing ourselves as protectors of land, while using pesticides in the rapid post war intensification of farming, which contributed to a terrifying and rapid decline in biodiversity.
Bluebell (White as well)
My research for the ‘Meadows’ project for SWT was interesting in reflecting on my own implication, even if I was only 8.
So the fact that my Mum is now encouraging the self seeding and spontaneous profusion of wildflowers, and all the associated species that accompany and relate to them, is a salve, a ‘selfheal’, both to past and present.
What’s more, my Dad is buried in this acre. We all turn under in the end.
Allium Crow Garlic
Ivy Leafed Toadflax
Wild Flowers listed are ones recorded in Edington Churchyard up to July 21st 2013: “see what’s there already”.
‘Repeatedly and reassuringly, God tells Joel Goldsmith, “I am on the field”.’
Annie Dillard, ‘For The Time Being’.