London's Royal Park keepers were looking for a wildlife-friendly way of brightening up a park lakeside that would not impact on the water birds that graze, rest and nest beside the water. Her Majesty’s birthday celebrations made it all the more important that the park was as colourful as possible this summer.
As always in this day and age, the cost of installation and maintenance were of prime consideration. Even The Royal Parks are not immune from budget constraints.
Park Managers liked the idea of using perennial planting that needs minimal long-term maintenance. Using native plants to create habitat for a wild range of creatures was an attractive idea. As was the concept of speedy installation and establishment. A carpet of plants unrolled onto the ground is less labour intensive than hand planting individual plants and more likely to withstand the attention of curious ducks, geese and swans.
Meadowmat Wild Flower Mat was spotted at Battersea’s Landscape Show in 2015 and seemed to fit the bill perfectly – the only point of concern was whether it would be damaged by waterfowl trampling it – or over-grazing it before it became properly established.
A small trial plot was established to see how the product coped in this challenging situation. When that worked OK, a further 800 square metres of Meadowmat was installed.
The wildflowers were established and blooming beautifully in time for Her Majesty's Birthday Celebrations and provided a colourful backdrop for BBC coverage of the event.
Mike Turner, Assistant Park Manager is delighted with the results. “The public are enjoying this show of wildflowers just as much as the wildlife” he said “and the beauty of it is that using native species is helping to restore the balance of nature in the very heart of London.”
One huge advantage of using wildflowers so close to a water course is that their very nature excludes any use of artificial fertilisers. That means that there is no danger of excess nitrogen leaching into the lake and upsetting the balance of nutrients in the water.
“If the lake were to become too rich in certain nutrients we’d see an overgrowth of algae and weed which has a detrimental effect on the whole natural ecosystem, something we desperately want to avoid” added Mike.
“It’s a joy and a privilege to have been involved in this project” says Kevin Harden from Harrowden Turf. “I’m a great fan of urban green spaces and it’s great to see more wildflowers being used in towns and cities.”