Living Field Garden

The Living Field garden was created in 2004 from a corner of farmland near the Tay estuary. It is a community garden open to the public at all times. It is used for the study and enjoyment of plants and animals of the croplands.  

Latest update: 8 November 2013 .... heading towards the short days of winter.

 

Webland 

Most of the plants have stopped their growth. Leaves are dropping, the meadow turning brown, the herbs withering. From now until spring, the architecture of the garden is set by the branches of trees and shrubs and the skeletons of the tougher annuals and biennials. On a clear wet morning in late September, webs were everywhere, tightroping between dead flowers, shrouding the great thistle-heads. Fine drops of water, less then a millimeter in diameter, formed on the waxy hips and berries.

 

Images from the garden, end september 2013 (Living Field collection)

 

Images (above) taken late september in the garden (Living Field collection) - the rowan Sorbus aucuparia (top) with most of its berries gone to the birds, the remaining leaves coloured from bright red to pale green and yellow; be-webbed heads of cotton thistle Onopordum acanthium (mid-left) and wild carrot Daucus carota; hips of a rose and a bunch of elder berries Sambucus nigra, both in the hedge. The elder berries are softening, about to be be taken.

 

Bee food

The plants of the garden have been a source of pollen and nectar for the bees since May. And not just the bees. Many other insects get food and shelter from the diversity of botanical reproduction here. By August, there's hardly a bloom that shows no wear, no sign of being grazed, punctured, trampled or bitten. The bumble bees in the garden are mostly the common ones, such as the buff-tailed Bombus terrestris and the red-tailed Bombus lapidarius, but there are several other species and also the honey bee Apis mellifera.

 

 

The tufted vetch Vicia cracca (above, Living Field collection) photographed in the third week of August is, like the field scabious below, one of the few plants in flower for several months each year. It's another legume favoured by the bees, complementing sainfoin, white melilot, white clover and lucerne. The plant is one of many that arrived in the garden through their own devices and now grows where it can find a patch of land undisturbed for a couple of years. It will still be flowering well into September. By mid-August, the tube of each open flower had been punctured, visible in the image mid-left above. It's not clear whether bees or other insects make the hole, but bees take a short cut through the puncture to the base of the flower.

 

 

While many of the plants are well past their peak, a few will sustain the bee populations to the autumn equinox. The field scabious Knautia arvensis (above, Living Field collection) was one of the first to flower in the meadow and will be the last, stopped only by the frost.The field scabious has been in the garden since its beginning nine years ago. It prefers uncultivated land, mainly in the meadow where it coexists with grass and ladies bedstraw, and in parts of the west garden, but tends not to spread around the garden by seed.  

 

Early August

New plants come into flower in late July and early August. The common valerian Valeriana officinalis (below) is usually one of the latest, opening from early August through into September, its many small flowers together forming a stable landing platform.

 

 

Its specific name officinalis indicates the valerian's use to the apothecary. It was introduced to the garden 7 or 8 years ago and is now established in a few places, most recently in and around the ditch. It is not tended in any way - just left alone to go through its cycle each year. 

Flowering in the white melilot Melilotus albus (below) peaked in late July early August but will continue along the indeterminate branches for a few more weeks.

 

 

The white melilot is among the collection of legumes, nitrogen fixing plants, in the west garden. It is introduced to Britain, and may have been tried in Scotland as a forage and soil enricher in the 1800s. In some countries, it's invasive. Our specimens were planted from seed two springs ago, grew and flowered a bit last year, then grew to about 1.5 metres and flowered in mass this summer. The plants have been full of small bees these last few weeks. They complement the sainfoin nicely, which stopped flowering just as this began, and itself hosted the small bees through late June and early July.

By late May, early June sainfoin Onobrychis sativa was in flower, offering an alternative to the even earlier viper's bugloss (see below). Sainfoin is one of the  legumes (nitrogen fixing plants) in the west garden collection. It was grown as a forage in the croplands in the 1700s, probably earlier, but as with most of its kind, lost favour when mineral nitrogen fertiliser became widely available as the 1900s progressed.

[Images of sainfoin to be uploaded]

 

Mid-late July 2013

By the third week of July, the heat and the sun had brought many plants into flower, and some, such as the giant angelica, to the end of their life cycle. Several of this year's additions looked parched, but most will survive.

The small plot of cornfield annuals in the west garden had not been disturbed since spring 2012, so the annuals such as poppy and cornflower so visible last year, gave way this year to biennials and perennials. The biennial viper's bugloss (see lower down the page) was the first to flower after sweet vernal grass, but by late July the most prominent plants in the stand were wild carrot Daucus carota (whitish domes in the photograph below), patches of seeding sweet vernal Anthoxanthum odoratum (straw colour) occasional spear thistle Cirsium vulgare (big purple flowers) and groups of the blue-flowered legume tufted vetch Vicia cracca

 

 

The heat has concentrated flowering in many of the specimen plants. Below are (top left, clockwise) kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, a nitrogen fixing legume and wound-herb, betony Stachys officinalis, a labiate in the medinal and herbs section, knapweed Centaurea nigra sheltering below wild carrot in the small meadow plot, and chichory Cichorium intybus in the medicinals.

 

 

The section on medicinal and culinery herbs in the east garden is starting to take shape after two or three years. Below can be seen wild carrot Daucus carota (lower left), feverfew Tanacetum parthenium (white haze lower right), mugwort Artemisia vulgaris (left),  tansy Tanacetum vulgare and evening primrose, species of Oenothera (middle), sneezewort Achillea ptarmica (lower, middle left), and at the rear chicory Cichorium intybus (blue flowers), cotton thistle Onopordum acanthium (tall, light stem and foliage) and common mullein Verbascum thapsus (spike).  

 

 

Late June 2013

The garden caught up with the year, almost, in the last week in June. The field scabious and bird's foot trefoil in the meadow, the early unbellifers now heavily seeding, the luxuriant legume beds in the east garden, the ancient and modern cereals - all with their attendant insects and spiders of one form or another, a delight to see and hear.

 

 

Taken late June 2013, the photographs are: top row left, part of fruiting umbel of Angelica archangelica in the herbs and medicinals bed; right, field scabious Knautia arvensis flowering in the meadow and alive with many larger and some smaller bees; middle left, field bean Vicia faba flowering in the arable-field habitat; middle, seeding umbel of the early-flowering sweet cicely Myrrhis odorata, aniseed flavoured and a one-time sweetener; right, bladder campion Silene vulgaris; lower left, elder Sambucus nigra in the hedge; and sainfoin Onobrychis viciifolia in the raised legume beds in the west garden and food for three or four of the smaller bee species.

 

Middle June 2013

The high sun and moderate temperature, in the middle teens Celsius, during much of June accelerated the development of many of our plants. A week before the summer solstice, the cotton thistle were starting to extend upwards, exposing their big flower 'buds' protected by spines and downy foliage (images below, Living Field).

 

 

Seed of the viper's bugloss Echium vulgare has moved around the garden by natural dispersal and finds a place to emerge where it can germinate one year then flower the next, after which it usually dies. This year they are flowering mainly in the old cornfield patch in the west garden, where the ground was not cultivated last autumn or this spring, allowing plants germinating in the autumn to overwinter. Their blue flowers are stunning up close. It is seen in the panel below with red clover, which is growing in the permanent legume collection, also in the west garden (Living Field collection).

 

 

An lastly for mid June, an image from underneath looking through a flowering umbel of Angelica archangelica growing in the medicinals bed in the east garden, and now about seven feet tall. There are three of them, and all will most likely die after seeding later in the year. 

 

 

 

Late May 2013

The woad Isatis tinctoria in the dye plants bed is flowering well at present, forming a diffuse mass of yellow that moves in the wind. Most of them were planted last year and overwintered as leaf rosettes. Some even survived from the previous year. The blue dye comes from the leaves.  Woad is related to the cabbages.

 

 

 

Early May 2013

The clear skies and warmer air of a few days at the beginning of May brought out those few plants that leaf and flower early in the year before much else gets going - a few wild garlic Allium ursinum planted last year under the trees and by the ditch, some cowslip Primula veris that were relocated here a couple of years ago and the marsh marigold Caltha palustris which has been a recurring presence near the pond.

 

 

Photographs above taken 12 May 2013 (Living Field collection) - top cowslip flowers; second row, left, opening flowers of wild garlic, right, marsh marigold; third row, left, cowslip again, right, protective covering of the emerging flower head of angelica; and bottom, wild garlic flower head starting to emerge from its translucent sheath.

 

Tracey Dixon's photographs taken in the garden have moved to a new page Tracey Dixon's Images

 

Plants, habitats and events in the garden

We are developing this section of the web site to show the community garden, the activities, the exhibits, the habitats, the biodiversity created in this small corner of Tayside.

  • Seasons - photographs and notes on the changing year in the garden
  • Habitats - layout and information on the garden's long term meadow, wet areas, hedges, etc.
  • Study Base - description of the cabins and facilities around the garden
  • Web cams - offline at present

 

 

 All photographs - Living Field collection unless otherwise stated.

Contacts:

Geoff Squire for enquiries on this page

Gladys Wright for further information on the garden 

 

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