Portsmouth University SuDS Research – Researching the Benefits of Wildflowers in Water Pollution Mitigation

Sustainable Urban Drainage systems (SUDs) have really come to the fore in recent years due to the increased occurrence of significantly damaging flood events in the UK and around the world.  The need to find a better planning solution to deal with increased surface water, particularly in urban areas, that also dovetails with the all- important green infrastructure agenda, has never been greater.

New build developments and expanding transport infrastructure tend to interrupt rainfall and the natural movement of water.  With greater surface areas of non-permeable materials, a fast influx of rainfall will inevitably lead to flooding and an increased potential for erosive damage downstream and pollution by contaminated water.

Janine Robinson from Portsmouth University wanted to gain a greater understanding of how grasses and wildflowers could play a role in slowing the water flow, therefore reducing erosion and giving the vegetation and soil an opportunity to absorb and ‘lock in’ water borne pollutants.

Knapweed

Water borne pollutants tend to be grouped into either: Metals (which have been extensively studied) or PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). Janine wanted to focus on the impact and journey of man-made PAHs often created by vehicle emissions; brake dust; oil found in road run-off.

Her research encompassed trials using 5 main PAHs including the carcinogenic Benzopyrene. She wanted to look into how pollutants could either be retained or actively absorbed by plants.

The work:

At the outset of the project a model swale just under 10m in length was set up, with turf supplied by Wildflower Turf Ltd bedded in during the end of November 2015. The turf was laid on a 30cm bed of soil to allow sediment samples to be taken at depth.

Building the 10m swale

The research then focused on gaining an understanding of the hydrology of the model swale, looking at wet and dry sediment and also low and dense vegetation, with the vegetation cut down to simulate the maintenance that might occur in an urban area.

Wildflower SUDs Turf

A pollutant source heavy in PAHs was then introduced to the swale as a simulated storm event; i.e. 1,000 litres of water was introduced over a 30-minute period, with the pollutant source (500 litres) sent down the swale during the first 15 minutes of the simulated storm event.  Regular, simulated storm events were repeated, with sediment samples taken every two weeks to assess pollutant levels. Runoff out the end of the swale was also collected regularly to allow the output of water quantity to be monitored. Samples have then been taken in between the simulated rain events to assess the degradation of pollutants over time. Secondary mesocosms (more detailed experimental systems) have also been built to prove that it is the plants that are causing the reduction in pollutants, with these experiments currently in progress.

Simulated storm event

 The results thus far:

While still ongoing, certain key observations have been recorded:

  • After being subjected to intense pollution, recovery of the plants has been swift, with no visible effect to the growth of the plants
  • In the 18 months since bedding in the turf, the root system is mainly located within the top 5cm of soil. Fine roots are penetrating further, but the dense structure of the planting is limited to the upper layer
  • Subsequent to the storm events, there was a four-fold increase in the average presence of PAHs in the soil which shows successful capture of the pollutants
  • The majority of pollution has been detected in the top 5cm of soil, potentially suggesting that the root system is aiding the retention of pollutants, although this requires further investigation
  • PAH levels are significantly lower in the 5-10cm layer compared to the 0-5cm layer for the heavier PAHs. This significant decrease in certain PAHs between the layers sampled indicate that the planted layer traps and retains the particle-bound pollutants.

Healthy SUDs turf

 Research extract:

“Based on evidence so far collated it is clear that vegetated swales show significant improvement in water quality.”

Janine Robinson, University of Portsmouth

 We look forward to updating you on Janine’s findings as this research progresses, but results to date certainly indicate that wildflowers have an important role to play in terms of mitigating pollution.

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Alconbury Weald – A bespoke Wildflower Turf solution for Cambridgeshire multi-purpose site

Background:

Formally an airfield, the site of Alconbury Weald was acquired by property company Urban & Civic in 2009. Currently in development, and with a 20-year timescale, the site will boast a 3 million sq. foot Enterprise Zone, 5,000 new homes, 3 primary schools, community facilities and 700 acres of open spaces and sporting amenities when completed.

The work:

The principal Landscape Architects, Bradley Murphy Design (BMD), met with Wildflower Turf in Hampshire in the autumn of 2014, to request tailored advice as to the most appropriate products to specify as part of the initial development designs for a very discerning client, Urban & Civic.

Urban & Civic have very high standards of delivery and wanted to ensure that everyone involved in their supply chain completed as much due diligence as possible to ensure that the results on site were exactly as they envisioned. This resulted in BMD requesting a series of small pilot sites of a wide range of Wildflower Turf products (Wildflower Turf® and Wildflower Earth, both ‘off-the-shelf’ mixes and bespoke mixes) a full year in advance of installation, to assess the results before choosing the final specification and products to be installed as part of the development.

Trial Bed Preparation

Trial Beds Growing

Landscape contractors Whiting Landscape Ltd completed a very thorough job in setting up, installing and pictorially tracking the multiple pilot sites over time.  The planting trials commenced in May 2015 and concluded the following winter 2015/16, with the first permanent installations starting on site in the spring of 2016.

As part of their commitment to ensuring that the wildflowers were installed correctly, Whiting Landscape Ltd attended training at Wildflower Turf Ltd and have since become an Accredited Partner.

One of the top performers in the trials was a bespoke Woodland Edge Mix, designed specifically by BMD to blend beautifully with the existing woodland area and provide a seamless transition from the woodland into open public green space.

Trial beds in flower

Since 2016, approximately 2,500m² of Wildflower Turf and approximately 5,000m² of Wildflower Earth has been shipped to site, with more shipments planned for the future.

 The results:

Working closely with the contractors, and with the ability to develop unique and individual blends based on specific requirements, Wildflower Turf have delivered product solutions to ensure that the landscape of Alconbury Weald is, and remains, impactful and sustainable, just as the client planned.

Turf on site

Testimonial:

“Working closely with Wildflower Turf Ltd in the development of an approach for Alconbury Weald was fundamental to the success of wildflowers implemented throughout the scheme.

Utilising the range of products available and bespoke mixes, we’ve been able to ensure a balance between instant impact in targeted areas and cost effective delivery, with some great responses from the client, local residents and visitors to the site.”

Harry Powell, Bradley Murphy Design Ltd

 

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Wildflower Turf Demand in Europe.

In the spring of 2012 we were approached by a Belgian Landscape Architect, Frank Adriaenssens, who was interested in introducing an increased wildlife and biodiverse landscape into his landscaping projects in Belgium. Frank has a client list that takes him all over the world designing and project managing some impressive garden and landscaping projects. In recent years he developed an interest in wildflowers and he started to introduce them into his projects to soften some of the edges of some of the more formal designs found in the gardens of Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.

However, in order to do this, he knew he lacked a reliable method of delivering the wildflower areas. In the spring of 2012 he used his own garden as a guinea pig and installed 200m² of our WFT34 Landscape Turf to test the product.

Wildflower Turf being installed in Frank’s garden, 2015

Frank was delighted with the results:

Frank joined our Accredited Partner program in 2014. At the same time we agreed that he would become our sole distributor for Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg (BENELUX) and he has been using our products on various projects since then.

Last month, my wife Claire and I visited Belgium to see Frank and catch up with the projects he has worked on this year. There have been some excellent installations and despite the early season drought, you can see some of the results below.

Wildflower Turf flowering in Frank’s garden in June 2013 after installation in spring 2012. To give extra colour the area was under planted with Camassia bulbs.

 

Rose, Frank’s Weimaraner, inspects the meadow.

This roundabout was installed using Landscape WFT34 in the spring of 2015 in Knokke,  north of Bruges.

Knokke, West Flanders, north of Bruges

In October 2014 over 1000m² of Wildflower Turf was installed at De Efteling Theme Park, this is the number one theme park in the Netherlands.

Wildflower Turf ready for installation at De Efteling Theme Park in the Netherlands.

Instant cover gave a well-established meadow for the opening of this section of the park.

The Symbolica Palace in the background

In April 2016 Frank used Wildflower Earth for the first time on a landscape design just outside Antwerp. 1400m² of Landscape WFE34 was used and following help and advice from us the installation was quick and easy.

14.4.16 Franks intricate yet practical design allowed for an immersive experience for the clients and quick and reliable results for Frank. Despite some weed pressure from surrounding fields, the preparation and installation gave excellent results.

18.5.16 Quick establishment is the key to a successful wildflower meadow.

17.6.16 The emerging meadow takes shape two months after installation.

11.9.17 Our autumnal visit this year showed the amazing development of the meadow in its second year of establishment. Frank had held off cutting this back to show us and the species diversity was superb. The fertile soil has resulted in a lot of growth but with a regime of cutting and removing, this fertility will reduce over the next year or two. Next year Frank will instigate a two cut approach for certain areas of the meadow to help later flowering species show their true colours and encourage some later flowering species.

Frank’s most recent project was to surround the new food hall at Ghent University. The 750m² of Landscape WFT34 turf was laid around the building in April 2017 and although it suffered in the spring and early summer through drought stress, it has thrived with the rain over the summer.

The Resto at Ghent University

The design remit was to integrate the building into the campus environment. Frank used the levels to form a bank of soil that rose to window level along the long panoramic view from inside the hall. The effect was to immerse the diner into the depths of the wildflower meadow whilst they sit looking out of the window. It feels like they are sharing their meal with the bees and the butterflies – although a pane of glass separates the two!

The panoramic view overlooking the wildflower meadow and the wider campus beyond.

We were really struck by the design of the building and the way the surrounding landscaped meadow complemented it so well. The fact that the diners could integrate with nature over lunch added an unusual and captivating experience to the University meal time.

The immersive outlook allows a close study of nature while the students eat their lunch!

On discussion with Frank, we decided that there was now an opportunity to promote the habitat, biodiversity and wildlife by including small interpretation notices on the window sills to explain the value of the species rich habitat and list the flowers and wildlife on view.

The building’s contemporary design is complemented by the wild look of the meadow.

We were delighted to see all the impressive installations Frank has been involved with and how well he has taken on our practical advice for the installation and maintenance of the products. Many thanks to Frank for taking the time to show us round.  It was also very interesting to get an understanding of the promising demand for this biodiverse environment in this area of Europe.

Frank Adriaenssens is our sole distributor of Wildflower Turf in the Benelux region. His website is www.bt-bloementapijten.com and his contact details can be found there.

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Wildflower Turf Expansion

Wildflower Turf Ltd expands with a new production site in Yorkshire.

In 2015 Wildflower Turf Ltd were finalists for the annual Farmers Weekly magazine awards. This national competition looks at all things farming and we entered the farm diversification category. The magazine has the biggest circulation of all the farming press and the resulting publicity from being shortlisted was widespread.

This generated interest from a number of farmers who asked about growing Wildflower Turf. One of those was a family farming business in Yorkshire, Tom and Joss Spilman, who farm in partnership with their parents near Helperby. Theirs is an already well diversified farming business that includes growing asparagus and strawberries amongst other things. With two sons in the business they were keen to look for ways of expanding further and we are now very pleased to say that this interest has become reality. The first Wildflower Turf was lifted by Joss at Lodge Farm, Helperby in July, having started setting up the production system at the start of this year.

In January Mike, our Farm Manager, went up to Yorkshire to set up the irrigation system on a block of free draining land that was otherwise set to grow carrots.

Installing irrigation lines January 2017

In April Trevor, our Turf Manager, travelled up and trained Joss and a new member of staff on how to grow the turf and the first production beds were underway.

First bed of Wildflower Turf laid 4th April 2017

Since then the site has been filled with the target production figure of 60,000m² made up of three types of Wildflower Turf.

Established Wildflower Turf late May 2017

We were all extremely pleased and proud when in July the first mature turf was lifted and supplied to a customer based in Yorkshire. It has been a huge effort on everyone at part Wildflower Turf Ltd.’s as well as hard graft and quick learning from the Spilman’s and their team.

First turf getting lifted!

In addition to the production site, we have run our first Accreditation Day in Helperby to cater for interest and training in understanding wildflowers and their maintenance. We held a second training day on the 1st September and plan more in the New Year. These days have been very well attended with an interesting and packed day developed and run by Toby and Helen who travelled up from Hampshire to host.

Trial site for Accredited Partners training day

This additional production site will allow us to continue to meet the increasing demand for our biodiverse products. The general awareness and acceptance of wildflower spaces around the UK continues apace and to have a site in the north of England adds to the overall growth of our company.

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Wildflower Earth™ and expert installation by Greener Places Ltd saves the day for Herringthorpe Junior School

We recently had some very interesting feedback from a landscape contractor who used our Wildflower Earth™ for the first time this year.

Jim Staveley MD of Greener Places Ltd based near Worksop in Nottinghamshire ordered 300m² of our Border mix Wildflower Earth for Herringthorpe Junior School, near Rotherham. This was installed on the 16th March 2017 and this project provides an interesting and informative case study.

Jim told us that in the autumn prior to installation, he did a comprehensive job of clearing the site of weeds using Glyphosate. The area, on a 45 degree bank, had been sown in 2014 with a colourful mix of native and non-native flowers but due to the weed seed burden in the soil, the bank soon developed a profusion of thistles and docks which the head teacher was very unhappy about.

Jim was asked to resolve the situation and looked at Wildflower Turf™ and Wildflower Earth as a solution. He chose Wildflower Earth as a way of lowering the cost, ensuring a good chance of success and to reduce his risk of the weeds taking over the area again.

Jim was very pleasantly surprised with the ease of installation. He set aside two people for two days to spread the 300m² of Wildflower Earth. It was all done by the end of the first day. They were thorough over checking the depth of spread but it was the subsequent watering that he gave the area that was the key to his success. Since the installation date, we have had some extended dry spells and making allowances for this is where Jim’s experience and diligence paid dividends.

He watered the area on a reasonably regular basis but as an experienced landscaper, he was methodical with this and took his time. To the inexperienced installer watering Wildflower Earth can deceive. It is important to repeatedly check that the water applied is soaking through the Wildflower Earth to the soil below. Soaking the full layer of growing medium is vital and ensures thorough and speedy germination. Getting the flowers established quickly is an essential part of any wildflower installation and this combined with the suppressive characteristics of Wildflower Turf or Earth is the best defense against weed ingress.

The school is now very proud of the wildlife haven they have created and use it as a learning resource in their outdoor education classes. Jim has been asked back to look at other areas on site and for more information on wildflower spaces by the neighboring secondary school.

Jim’s comment to our MD James said it all, “I knew this was a difficult site with a very bad existing ‘weed bank’ hiding in the heavy soil. Previous rotovating and traditional wildflower sowing (by another contractor) had just yielded a bumper crop of thistles and docks! I had great help from your office with product information and the logistics for the project. I put some effort into the installation and aftercare and I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. The school is delighted with the results and other local schools are now getting inspired and have asked me to advise”.

We are pleased to hear that Jim has signed up to our Yorkshire Accreditation Scheme this autumn and we look forward to hearing more about the project then.

It has been great to have been involved with such a successful project and I would like to thank Jim for all his feedback and the hard work he put into to get such a positive result.

 

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Using seed to enhance your meadow

June is a great time to spot and identify wildflowers, note where they are and consider collecting their seed at a later date when the plant matures and has developed viable seed.

Sowing the seed you have collected is a great technique to add species and increase diversity, but also as a remedial action to maintain and improve a wildflower space or meadow. Areas of bare ground provide an opportunity to introduce the same, or new species of wild flowers. You can use these techniques to enhance the species diversity you find in your meadow.

From June (early varieties) to September (late varieties), wild flowers will set seed and be ready to harvest

If you don’t, nature will fill any spaces with plants. Hopefully she adds what you would like from the seed of nearby flowers, but there may well be undesirables that are blown in from a neighbouring weed patch. So view any bare ground as an opportunity to enhance the species diversity, or alternatively deliberately create some bare ground to achieve the same.

Gently take the seed head off the stem by hand.

Late May, June and Early July is a good time to plan. Adding species can be relatively easy using seed, especially if you are choosing the additional species based on wild flowers you are seeing in the locality of your meadow. If you see a flower that you would like to include in your meadow, make a note of where you see it, keep an eye on it as it flowers and then starts to produce a seed head. Before the seed head sheds naturally, collect the seed. You will never get it all and you must be patient to ensure that the seed will be viable. Too soon and the seed won’t germinate; too late and it will have been dispersed by the plant already and there will be nothing to collect.

Different flowers will have different shapes and sizes of seed. Rub out the seed head and collect. It can be hard to recognise the seed from the chaff, but providing you haven’t left it too late, there should be seed there somewhere and if in doubt use it all.

If contained within an indehiscent capsule (a pod), you will need to break this open.

It might be hard to find the seed heads when they are ready to collect. The flowers are easy to spot but by the time they are ready to shed seed the plant has senesced and other things may be dominant and camouflage the plant you want. So reasonably accurate recording of where the plants are will make collection much easier.

Find a bare patch or clear an area of any green material. A size of about 30cm x 30cm works well in order to give the seeds a chance to establish without too much competition. You could also use glyphosate or cut an area out if you were trying to get rid of a weedy patch.

Choose your species, you will only need a few seeds per patch to provide them with the best chance of establishing. 30 x 30 cm (a foot square) would need around 10 seeds.

Press the seed into the soil, it is important to have good soil to seed contact. Don’t just scatter it from above.

Or use a pre-seeded growing medium to ensure better chances of germination.

To enhance a meadow with seed, you don’t need to add a great deal of it. Because you don’t need much it will not cost too much (if you buy the seed) or be too hard work to collect. Harvesting seed from plants that are already established, either nearby or on site won’t guarantee success but if you find a species that does well on your site or in your locality, then it is more likely it will work. By only collecting small amounts, you can experiment without expending a lot of energy or money and you can test the water. If it works do more next year and if it doesn’t look for other species. Having said that, just because it doesn’t work one year don’t give up with that species. Sometimes germination can vary and some of the species may take more than one year to establish. If you have been trying unsuccessfully for a few years that is likely to be nature’s way of saying try something different!

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A University success story – Aberystwyth University

Wildflower Turf has been receiving a great deal of interest from Universities in recent months.  In May our MD James Hewetson-Brown was a key note speaker at the University Horticultural Officers Conference at Heriot Watt University http://bit.ly/2rlGmEd. However prior to this we have this great example…

In December 2015, Paul Evans, Head Gardener at Aberystwyth University placed an order for 476m² of Wildflower Border Non Native Turf http://bit.ly/2pTM0K6 which was delivered and installed in November 2016.

Paul has kindly shared with us images which show the story of his team completing the ground preparation i.e. ground clearance and then installation of bulbs from our bulb supplier, Jub Holland Bulbs http://bit.ly/2rhV3Zj before laying our Wildflower Border Non Native turf on top and giving it a good water in.  Underplanting Wildflower Turf with bulbs can extend the flowering season, creating more colour and interest when the turf is fairly dormant and encouraging with public engagement over the year http://bit.ly/2pU2m5j. The turf typically takes over from the bulbs when it flowers from May to September.

Site Clearance

October 2016 – Shrubs encroaching on path making pathway narrow and preventing light from the building above from shining onto the path below.

Staff clearing shrubs approx. 3 metres up the bank, mini digger taking shrub roots out and new LED lamp posts have been installed.

Bulb Installation

Crates of spring display bulbs from Jub Holland spread along bank.

Bulbs scattered onto the bank

Wildflower Turf Installation

November 2016 – Laying the Wildflower Turf and an irregular strip of ordinary turf along the bottom that would provide a strip of lower grass next to the path to avoid any damage to the Wildflower Turf from anyone that strayed from the path and gave a good delineation to the Wildflower Turf for design purposes

Flowering display

February 2017 – Some flowers have been flowering in the winter, daisies and crocus are starting to appear.

Early March 2017 – Bulbs are really starting to emerge.

Mid March 2017 – Lovely coverage of flowers.

End of March 2017 – Lots of variety and colour

End of March 2017 – Great display from the bulbs

Early April 2017 – A much lighter and brighter view down the road from what was there before.

Mid April 2017 – The bulbs and the wildflowers blend perfectly to give a colourful display.

End of April 2017 – The wildflowers start to emerge.

Early May 2017 – Great display of biodiversity and colour

Early May 2017 – We look forward to seeing this site develop over the coming season.

Results to date

The turf was laid in a prominent situation on the main drive to the main campus at Aberystwyth University and it has proven to be a huge hit with the public and students entering and exiting the campus.

I don’t think a day has gone by without someone remarking how good it is looking, it has surpassed what we thought it would look like!”  Paul Evans, Head Gardener

 

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Does Glyphosate destroy or enhance the natural environment

THE RECENT PUBLICITY AROUND THE USE OF GLYPHOSATE HAS LED TO CONSIDERABLE PRESS COVERAGE AND DEBATE OVER THE USE OF CHEMICALS AND THEIR PLACE IN OUR TOWNS AND COUNTRYSIDE. OUR MD JAMES HEWETSON-BROWN LOOKS AT GLYPHOSATE WITH WILDFLOWERS, BIODIVERSITY AND WILDLIFE IN MIND.

The Glyphosate question

Glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup (the most common of many brand/trade names) has been in the spotlight for the last few years and is due for ‘reauthorisation’. The reauthorisation process involves reassessment of the safety issues surrounding the use of the chemical by the European Chemicals Agency and their recommendation is taken into account by the European Commission.

In advance of the vote, one recent study by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that Glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans” and this alarming report has led to a great deal of press coverage about the pros and cons of glyphosate together with the wider use of chemicals in the UK.

Other reports such as those from the World Health Organisation and the European Food Safety Authority say that Glyphosate is safe to use.

Glyphosate – getting the balance right for nature

With a background in farming as well as a profound love for wildflower environments, I do see the benefits of Glyphosate use and yet can understand the concerns of those who worry about the potential long term harmful effects Glyphosate may bring. At Wildflower Turf Ltd we advocate the use of Glyphosate (applied strictly to manufacturer’s recommendations) for the preparation of areas using our Wildflower Earth product.

The application of Glyphosate creates an initial weed-free environment where wild flowers can thrive. My experience in cultivating wild flowers has taught me that they are not easy to establish for many reasons. Some conditions will suit them and they can establish with little or no effort, but these conditions are rare! In order to maintain and improve this species rich, biodiverse habitat and the resulting benefits to wildlife, wildflowers need our help. To create long term biodiverse habitats using our popular Wildflower Earth, we recommend the application of Glyphosate prior to laying the growing medium to create the ideal conditions for growth.

Using establishment methods that are tried and tested will ensure their success. There is a great deal of interest in maintaining and developing wildflowers. The demand for wildflower seed and Wildflower Turf has never been higher but there is a risk that if results disappoint, and developing these biodiverse areas becomes difficult, this interest will wane. We have concluded that the potential negative effects of an application of Glyphosate are far outweighed by the many years of biodiversity a well-established wildflower area will produce.

As with many other sustainability issues we face, humans are confronted with identifying the correct level of ‘intervention’ in natural systems that create a long term, healthy environment which we can all enjoy.

Glyphosate efficiency

There is no doubt that if you are a green plant then Glyphosate is a very efficient killer! However carefully it is applied, if you walk on it and forget to choose your route back, you can find neat footprints of dead grass across the lawn where the residue on your feet has done its job! Similarly, spraying it on a breezy day means any spray drift that lands on green plants will lead to their swift demise.

It has been suggested that the harmful effects of Glyphosate go beyond green plants. Glyphosate has been accused of killing butterflies and bees, yet there is very little scientific evidence to support this. Glyphosate will kill the habitat that supports the butterflies and bees without doubt, and with no suitable habitat the bees and butterflies will perish. But is this an issue to do with the user’s application of the chemical, or a fundamental problem with Glyphosate itself?

Careful use of Glyphosate applied according to the manufacturer recommendation provides a means to an end for wildflower establishment

Earth Application

Take care to apply Glyphosate accurately – spot the deliberate mistake here!

Alternative Chemical Weed Control

There are a number of chemicals that will do a similar job to Glyphosate, but too many to name or list here. However, there are few that have been around for as long as glyphosate’s 42 years of use. Not many alternatives have this track record and ignoring this history shouldn’t be a hasty decision given the findings of most regulatory bodies. The diesel saga is an illustration that sometimes single issue ideals – for all the right reasons – can lead to greater problems rather than being the panacea that leads to positive change.

Alternative Non-Chemical Weed Control

With the worry that Glyphosate is unsafe, has come a number of alternative weed control methods where chemicals are not involved. These are widely promoted on line, from electric lances and steam treatments to burners and weed suppression mats.

From a wildflower establishment position, one of the best chemical free options is the use of a turf cutting machine. Existing plant material is completely removed to make way for the wildflowers. These machines can be hired and are easy to operate, especially in stone free soil and on an existing lawn or grass sward. Once the plant material is removed a more standard approach to seeding or turfing can be used. The downside is the user is left with a lot of residual turf to get rid of and this will add to the cost as well as the carbon and health impacts of fuel used to power the machine.

At Wildflower Turf we do not recommend any of these because most require repeated treatments and take a long time to either apply – electric lances and burners – or to work – weed suppression mats. In a commercial production system Glyphosate is still the most successful alternative in delivering a balance between chemical use and long term biodiversity gains.

An alternative to using Glyphosate – use an electric hand lance.

One alternative available to farmers will be the widespread return to ploughing. Large areas of ploughing is used relatively little now a days as it is time consuming and uses a great deal of diesel (and emissions). Glyphosate and the use of less power hungry machines has superseded this crop establishment technique. ‘Minimum tillage’ and ‘no till’ systems rely on Glyphosate to clear the soil of plants to give a competitive start for the new crop. These systems are less aggressive to soil and soil structure. Studies have shown there are 53% more earthworms in no plough agricultural systems. However, as a way of removing green cover, landscapers can follow the principle of ploughing using heavy cultivation tools. But it is not enough to only rotovate the surface. This will simply chop up the green cover but does not invert it. Without Glyphosate or some form of weed control these plants will need to be properly inverted in order to stop them re-growing and competing with the establishment of the desired new seed.

Removing the top layer of plant material is a chemical free way to leave a surface that is ready to establish wildflowers.

Quote – “ONCE ESTABLISHED, NATIVE WILDFLOWERS WILL PROVIDE LONG TERM FLORA AND FAUNA WITHOUT THE NEED FOR ANY CHEMICALS”

 In Summary

Glyphosate is a means to an end. Use it correctly (according to the manufacturer’s advice, in optimum weather conditions and applied accurately to cover the WHOLE of the target area) and it will significantly help with the establishment of wildflowers. If used correctly, you should end up with a healthy and well established meadow and there will be no need to use glyphosate on the area again. We have a meadow that is now in its 14th year and we used glyphosate at the start but have not used it in this area since. The end result has been a biodiverse habitat that supports all sorts of flora and fauna.

Remember for a wildflower space to really work it has to establish well. If it doesn’t establish well, the chances are it will get taken over by weeds and grasses. Where this happens, the likelihood is that those responsible for the area will give up on it and find an alternative. This alternative will most probably be a regularly mown grass area and biodiversity and wildlife will be the worse for it.

Get wildflowers right and they offer a long term option that greatly improves biodiversity, colour, habitats for wildlife, drought tolerance, and a number of other solutions for Urban Greening and Green Infrastructure.

Get establishment right and a wildflower space is assured for many years, without the need for another chemical application.

If in the future, Glyphosate is proved to be dangerous and it is not reauthorised for use, there are alternative ways of establishing wildflowers. But for now it remains the most cost effective and efficient option and a valuable tool for landscape professionals.

For further details on creating a successful wildflower meadow and ongoing maintenance please refer to How to make a Wildflower Meadow

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Pollution Mitigation

Urban Wildflowers

Our MD James Hewetson-Brown explains the power of wildflowers when used in urban environments and their importance in green infrastructure design.

Quote – “WILDFLOWERS CAN PHYSICALLY LOCK IN HARMFUL PARTICULATES FROM EXHAUST EMISSIONS”

Wildflower meadows have continued to rise in popularity as more and more people become aware of the state of nature in the UK and the effect habitat loss is having on our wildlife.

There are few better opportunities for introducing a brand new wildflower meadow than in an urban environment.

For a wildflower space to really work it has to benefit people as well as wildlife. And any benefit must earn its keep. Providing pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies in an urban setting is highly laudable, but wildflowers offer many more opportunities than insect food alone. So in no particular order, here are some reasons for a landscape architect to include wildflowers in a design.

  1. Aberfeldy Village, East London – Levitt Bernstein Landscape Architects. Use wildflowers for SUDS as they are tolerant of pollution and keep maintenance costs down.

Pollution Mitigation

Recent work in the US and more locally at Portsmouth University, has demonstrated the benefit wildflowers can bring to limiting the effect that vehicle pollution has on people’s health. The morphology (plant structure) of a number of wildflower species has shown to physically lock up some of the really harmful PM2.5 particulates. By establishing wildflowers on the verge of a road, they forma physical barrier or net as close to the source of the pollution as is possible. This will form the first line of defence in what has become a serious health hazard.

2.Town centre garden, Shenley Road, Borehamwood – Hertsmere Borough Council.

Water Management

SUDS or Sustainable Drainage Systems is a way of managing the effects of heavy rainfall and the potential for flooding. It has become critical that plans to dissipate and filter water are built in to any new development. This water can be contaminated due to oil and chemicals lifted by heavy rainfall. Drainage ditches must be constructed of free draining material to be able to cope with heavy rainfall events. Therefore if it doesn’t rain, these ditches can become very dry. Plants that can cope with all of the above are limited, but wildflowers, once properly established, are remarkably tolerant and can deal with drought, pollution and erosion better than most. In fact they often thrive in harsh conditions.

Biodiversity

Last but by no means least, enhancing biodiversity is a requirement for most developments. Including a species rich habitat in the plans will give a boost to nature. The greater the number of plant species in a given area, the greater the opportunity for wildlife. Avoid monocultures where possible, as a variety of plants offers different food sources and leads to insect diversity. In turn this provides food for other wildlife from newts to field voles and expect to see predators from slow worms to birds of prey. Green Infrastructure can sustain food chains. Species diversity in GI will help make that chain long, varied and more resilient.

In Summary

There are potential pitfalls with wildflowers, and one of the big ones is the inclusion of too many varieties of, and too much grass. There are myths too – the need to remove soil and zero fertiliser are among these. An understanding of what is practical and what is achievable is essential. Confidence at the specification stage is as important as risk free establishment and we at Wildflower Turf Ltd do our best to help landscape professionals with these.

But get wildflowers right and they are truly a solution that keeps on giving!

 

 

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Save The Date

With Spring in the air (we can dream), February is a great time to focus on the year ahead and give your diary some love.

We’ve put together a round-up of the RHS Shows, key Horticultural Exhibitions we will be attending if you want to come and see us, and dates for our Accreditation Training and Open Days in 2017. Take a look and save the date!

RHS Shows

RHS Flower Show Cardiff  (7th – 9th April)

The first major outdoor show of the year is Cardiff. Held in Bute Park, celebrate the best of Springtime with inspiring gardens, demonstrations and talks.

Book here: http://bit.ly/2l3c7f4

RHS Malvern Spring Festival  (11th – 14th May)

Set against the backdrop of the magnificent Malvern Hills, The Showground is the venue for this festival of Spring, with much to inspire and enthuse.

 Book here: http://bit.ly/2l38ohr

 

RHS Chelsea Flower Show  (23rd -27th May)

Experience cutting-edge design and visionary gardens at this prestigious event. Showcasing the best in garden design and innovation, this year’s show will feature nine Show Gardens, five Fresh Gardens, nine Artisan Gardens and more than 100 floral displays.

 Book here: http://bit.ly/2l3gVRJ

 

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show  (7th – 11th June)

Set in the rolling Derbyshire landscape designed by Capability Brown, this exciting new show for 2017 will pay homage to the creative genius of gardeners and garden designers from the past while also celebrating the talented ideas and conceptual thinking of today’s generation of designers.

Book here: http://bit.ly/2l31DMS

 

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show  (4th– 9th July)

The world’s biggest annual flower show, this year’s offering promises to be bigger and better, bursting with horticultural treats. Be inspired by world-class Show Gardens including Conceptual and World Gardens. New for 2017, Gardens for a Changing World will explore the need to adapt our gardens for the future.

Book here: http://bit.ly/2l3dp9G

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park  (19th – 23rd July)

Set in magnificent parklands, the North’s greatest gardening event also plays host to the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition.

Book here: http://bit.ly/2l38vd1

 

RHS Malvern Autumn Show  (23rd – 24th September)

Celebrate the best of seasonal food and gardening this Autumn, with gardening, growing and cookery advice.

Tickets yet to be released.

Horticultural Exhibitions

So many events and exhibitions, so little time! Come and say hello to the Wildflower Turf team at the following exhibitions this year.

Regen

St George’s Hall, Liverpool  (22nd – 23rd March)

The industry’s leading forum for the UK Regeneration industry, Regen 2017 will bring together policy experts, case-studies and industry leaders. Now in its 3rd year, this free-to-attend Exhibition, Conference and Networking Event addresses the latest issues in urban and rural regeneration, and policy and implementation.

Come and see us at stand A8 and take a look at our fantastic bee box showcasing our Wildflower Turf with live bumblebees!

For further information and to register, visit: http://www.regen2017.co.uk/

Futurescape

Sandown Park Racecourse, Surrey  (14th November)

The leading landscaping show in the UK, this event is a must for landscapers, designers and architects. With an exciting new seminar programme planned, visitors can expect a day filled with top business tips from key industry speakers plus lively debates with industry-leading personalities. Tickets are free of charge. For further updates, follow @FutureScapeUK or visit http://futurescapeevent.com/

 

 Wildflower Turf – Accreditation Days & Open Days

With our training days taking place in both our Hampshire HQ and our brand-new Yorkshire site this year, there’s never been a better time to enhance your wildflower know-how and benefit from discounted trade prices too!

 Training Days

As pioneers of Wildflower Turf and being the leading supplier of wildflower products in the market, we’ve packaged up our many years of expertise into an engaging, practical training programme. Covering all the core aspects of wildflower installation and maintenance techniques, we will add insight into choosing wildflowers for a particular site or design, assessment of site conditions, layout, supply, logistics and post installation troubleshooting.

Hampshire Training Dates

Accreditation Training – Friday, 19th May

Accreditation Training – Friday, 26th May

Accreditation Plus Day – Thursday, 13th July

Council Training Day – Friday, 15th September

Yorkshire Training Dates

Accreditation Training – Friday, 12th May

Accreditation Training – Friday, 1st September

  

 Open Days

This year we’re running two half day Open Days at our farm near Basingstoke, Hampshire. Past attendees have found our wildflower workshops incredibly useful, and this is a great opportunity to visit us and have your questions answered by our team of wildflower experts.

Open Day for Council + Landscape Architects > Friday, 7th July

Open Day for Garden Designers + General Public > Thursday, 20th July

 For further information on either our Accredited Training or our Open Days, or to book onto your preferred date, please contact us on 01256 771 222 or email wildflower@wildflowerturf.co.uk.

 

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