One of the garden's most popular features is the meadow. It was sown in 2004 as a mix of mainly annuals and biennials with some grasses, but has since developed in a kind of 'succession' to a complex and diverse community of perennials, most of which were not sown. The only management is a single cut and removal of vegetation in early autumn each year.
Among the first plants to emerge in 2004 were poppy, cornflower, corn marigold, oxeye daisy and viper's bugloss. In 2010 the commonest plants were red clover and other perennial legumes such Lotus species, and also wild carrot, lady's bedstraw, mallow species, yarrow and field scabious.
As the years passed, the number of legumes in the meadow - those plants that fix atmospheric nitrogen from the air and provide this essential, major nutrient to other plants via the soil - has increased from none to around 10 species. The meadow has not received any fertiliser during this time, and it is now likely that these legumes are fixing much of the nitrogen that all the other plants use.
The photograph above shows a part of the meadow in summer 2010 where perennial legumes - notably red clover Trifolium pratense and the yellow-flowered Lotus pedunculatus - cohabit with grasses and other broadleaf plants in a rich community. How these legume species, or many of the other perennials in the meadow, came to be here is not known. Some might have been present in the soil seedbank at the beginning before the meadow was created while others might have been carried into the meadow by wild animals or as impurities in soil or seed sown in other parts of the garden.
The article on legumes in the 5000 years project lists the species now growing here. Anyone wanting to know more about the role of legumes might try the article on biological nitrogen fixation in the science section of this web site, which includes a tutorial for Advanced Higher level students.
The photograph above shows black mullein (yellow flower) and agrimony in a self sustaining perennial community just north-west of the meadow. This area is not cut and a different flora has become established.