21 Jun 2014


 Birds foot trefoil. Lotus corniculatus.

The garden team at  Holkham are very much focused on caring for cultivated plants and while this is an essential it is useful to remember where these plants came from.  Every single plant we grow in the walled garden has some "wild" ancestry in its linage at some stage.

We grow some species plants totally unaltered from how mother nature intended, however most of the plants we grow are ones selectively bred for particular characteristics such as flower size, colour or scent. The starting point for any selective breeding programme has to be wild stock.  Often a plant's definition as a weed is purely based on which side of the wall of the garden it has rooted.

Holkham has a real abundance of ecological niches which is great for finding a range of flora and fauna. Within a stones throw of the Walled garden we have, woodland, farmland, water, meadow, parkland, hedgerow and grazed Deer park all of which offer a slightly different environment for life to exist.

Here is a small selection of the flora we have at Holkham.

Yellowrattle. Rhinanthus major
This semi parasitic plant draws nutrient from the roots of neighbouring plants and is a good way to keep grasses from taking over a meadow.  When dry the seeds "rattle" around inside the pods in the breeze, this sound is taken by some as an indicator that it is time to cut the hay.
 Knapweed.  Centaurea nigra
Very popular with a range of insects Knapweed, offers stunning flowers over a good length of the season.  Folklore has us believe that a maiden can use the flowers to discover if she is soon the meet her future husband.
Hoary Plantain. Plantago media

Unlike its cousins the scourge of lawns of borders, this Plantain is not wind pollinated and because it uses insects to act as couriers it needs a much more showy and scented flower.
Sainfoin. Onobrychis viciifolia


 A member of the pea family capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen this beautiful plant is said to improve the yield of cows milk if used as fodder.  Its name comes from the french sain "wholesome" and foin "hay".

Musk Mallow. Malva moscata
A number of medicinal benefits are attributed to this plant such as a fortifier against aches and pains, a therapy for insect stings and even a hangover cure, its aesthetic value is there for all to see.

 Field scabious. Knautiua arvensis
This stunning pin cusion type flower stands higher than its neighbours and gets its name from its use as a cure for scabies and other skin disorders, it's coming into flower right now.

Red campion. Silene dioica
This plant commonly found in hedgerow and woodland will bear flowers of male and female on separate plants and is said to offer a treatment for snakebites.  Its close relatives White, Bladder and Sea campion are also found around the parkland.
Here we have only scratched the surface in terms of the wildflower to be found around the Holkham estate not to mention the Bee Orchid detailed in the previous post.  We have a wonderful nature reserve where Marsh and Early purple Orchids are abundant.  Its very easy to see wildflower wherever you live and you will often be surprised what you can find by just looking.
Please do let us know about your wildflower experiences both at Holkham or at home in the comments section below. 

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