Why do we struggle to grow wild flower meadows?
Our walk in the National Parc de la Vanoise started in the bottom of a gully with steep craggy mountains on our left and a gradual sloping bank on our right. We were about 3,000m high so already you have climate difference in the growing conditions compared to our lowland English countryside.
We were soon reaching for the water bottle as the sun had a fierce heat to it; another sharp contrast to home. One of the first things you notice is the constant movement around you of butterflies and other insects, the whole area is a hive of activity. Nature has to work fast up here - with snow still hugging the mountain tops in August - the growing season is short.
The land under foot is a mixture of shale and rock (very little soil) and quite steep in places. The grass grows only up to your mid calf and is thin and wiry, creating less competition for the wild flowers. Finally you have summer storms, one of which we experienced the following day; 12 steps to the car and we were drenched!
So all in all it is not difficult to see why we struggle to grow wild flowers in parts of this country as our conditions are so different. When executing a planting plan one of the first things I was taught, was to put the right plant in the right place according to where that plant originated from and grows in the wild.
Our soil at home is rich in comparison; the sun rarely reaches the heat we experienced, and if it does, it bakes the land hard and dry. Our meadows can be rich in nitrogen so grassland, thistles and docks soon swamp any struggling wildflowers. So the lesson learnt is, if we want a wildflower garden we need to mimic their natural habitat!
By the way, for those ornithologists reading this, I hope you spotted the Griffin Vulture!