• Sofias Country Gardens

Sedum and a wild lawn



One of the great joys in my life is being close to nature and wildlife in the countryside, and I think that my favourite kind of wildlife is the insects. I find bees and butterflies fascinating in their diversity, but I also appreciate the other little creepy crawlies that keep my garden healthy. With this in mind, it was clear to me that my garden at Humlegård should be focused on wildlife and more specifically on feeding the insects. For this purpose, a wild and unkept lawn and large areas of sedum carpets were a must.

There was no garden at Humlegård to start with as we built the house only a few years ago, and this gave me the opportunity to plan it from scratch.

It all started when I found an old stone base reclaimed from the music house in Hangö, and bought it on the spot. This was long before I even had a house to build, and so it might be one of those things that make others view me as slightly eccentric, but to my mind it was completely logical to need 110 meters of reclaimed stone walling!

Later on when the house was built, I had the terrace designed as a half circle to accommodate the stone terracing in the slope. The area beneath housed a lot of rubble (mostly stone and earth from excavating the cellar) from the building site, so on top of it a thick layer of garden soil was added. The terraces had less fertile soil added, as Sedum require few nutrients. Then the area was all raked and flattened with a roller.

I bought the Sedum carpet as ready made from a Finnish company that specialises in supplying greenery and structural materials for landscaping. You can find their web page here: http://www.eg-trading.fi but of course it is all in Finnish. It was late May when the carpet delivered in 1 square meter parts to be laid out as needed, and the first year the seams between the pieces were quite visible. It was hard work to lay it all in place, and without the help of many extra hands I doubt we would have managed! With the carpet came bags of soil specially made for the succulents, and on top of that a bag of nutrients to help them get a good start. I almost never use any chemicals or fertilisers in my gardens, but this was an exception to the rule. A year late, the seams between the pieces were hardly visible at all.

Sedum are leaf succulents found primarily in the Northern hemisphere; the flower has five petals and the leaves are water storing which make them ideal for the ecological non-watering garden. In the wild Sedum often grows in rock crevices and other places with few nutrients and generally poor soil. They are great nectar plants for insects and as there are many different kinds of Sedum, the carpet tends to flower from spring to late autumn. The area beneath the terracing was planted with a mixture of annuals and wild flowers, and that first summer it was a most beautiful sea of flowers that changed as the summer went by.

In the beginning blue tansy (Phacelia tanacetifolia) dominated the scene, and I enjoyed it especially in the evening light when the sun set and the blue hues really stood out amongst the greenery.

Blue tansy (Phacelia tanacetifolia) is also called Lacy phacelia and although it originated in Southwestern USA and Mexico, it is quite commonly used in agriculture as cover crop, green manure or bee plant. The flowers are nectar rich and as they open in sequence the flowering period becomes longer than it otherwise would. I found that it was not only the bees and butterflies that loved it, but also hoverflies and evening moths.

In July poppies and cornflowers joined the scene, much to my delight. However, all of these flowers are annuals and because of the cold climate poppies will not germinate and come back the next year, and so I planted white clover to fill the gaps for the next summer.

White clover (Trifolium repens) is one of Scandinavia's most common plants in grassland of all kinds, and grows freely in meadows, on roadsides and embankments. In the evening it has a greyish hew from a distance, as it exhibits the periodic movement that we call "plants' sleep" or blades night stand, whereby each leaf puts the small side leafs against each other and covered them with the middle in order to be protected from the nightly heat radiation, thereby turning its greyish side up. It is quite invasive, so best planted in meadows where it can spread freely, but where there is room it is a great nectar and insect plant. One of the positive aspects of it in a wild lawn is that it doesn't mind being mowed, and so I let it grow all over my lawns and keep the larger parts tall and wild while making small paths between the areas.

Here is the end result in late May, after three seasons of meadow management and leaving the Sedum carpet to grow as it wants to. It really is the lazy gardeners paradise, as all I need to do is sporadically weed the Sedum carpets for stinging nettles and invasive grasses. (Boomer my dog photobombs the picture as usual...)