Sea of flax first flush for Ham’s new wildlife meadow
Fields of flax flowers are a welcome countryside sight in early summer, but you don’t have to leave London this season to discover one of nature’s hidden gems.
In the secluded 17th century walled garden at Ham House, on the banks of the Thames in Richmond, thousands of the saucer shaped flowers are blooming on elegant stems.
The flax, also known as linseed (Linum usitatissimum), is a welcome sign that vast new wildflower meadow spaces are taking shape. They were prepared last autumn to create a new home for nature in an area that was previously formal lawn.
‘Butterflies, bees, ladybirds, dragonflies and slow worms can all make a home in even a small patch of meadow,’ explains Head Gardener Rosie Fyles. ‘By leaving four large areas unmown in Ham’s formal garden we’re encouraging the wildflowers already in the turf to grow. We’ve also added seeds to create a wider range of plants and inhibit the turf. It’s great to see them flourish and feel that same sense of awe which visitors in the 17th century would have had here.’
" Butterflies, bees, ladybirds, dragonflies and slow worms can all make a home in even a small patch of meadow."
How many species can you spot?
The eagle-eyed visitor will soon spot even more wildflowers poking through, including oxeye daisy, wild carrot and yellow rattle. Next to the meadows, four large areas which were alive with bulbs during spring will now be mown to offer a place to picnic and take in the view.
Ham House has had a focus on natural gardening in this historic setting for over a decade and Rosie’s team also manages nearby Petersham and Ham House Meadows, home to countless species.
Try it at home, your mower will thank you...
If what you see at Ham inspires you to start your own wildflower meadow at home, don’t worry, you won’t need lots of space or special equipment.
Says Rosie: ‘One of the easiest ways to let wildflowers thrive is to simply give your mower a rest. By letting parts of your lawn grow longer you can create a place for insects and small creatures, plus birds can find food. All you need to do then is cut the area at the end of the summer, it's simple to do and really exciting to spot the new flowers coming through.’
Ham House and Garden is open 7 days a week, with the garden open from 10am-5pm. Adult entry for the house and garden is £12.50 (National Trust Members go free). Free thirty minute Garden History tours are also available on weekdays and weekends. (Booking not necessary, admission applies).