Great Dixter and Yellow Rattle

Last June I went over to Great Dixter to catch up with my friend Fergus.

At Great Dixter with Fergus

We have both spent many years experimenting with our wild flower meadow creations and share a passion for this type of landscape. Fergus has a great display of orchids around his gardens, these below are Common Spotted Orchids but he also has Green Winged Orchids, the seeds of which I have collected for adding to my seed mixes.

Common Spotted Orchids in his Garden

Fergus was keen to show me his bumper display of Yellow Rattle which was indeed impressive.

Fergus in his meadow at Great Dixter ablaze with Yellow Rattle

Yellow Rattle or Hay Rattle as it is also known, is a native annual wild flower with a very useful ability to suppress grass growth within a wild flower meadow. This makes it a very useful inclusion indeed!

This function is as a result of it being semi-parasitic on grasses, which means it takes nourishment from the grass by attaching to its roots hence weakening the grass growth. Yellow Rattle does also create its own nourishment from photosynthesis, so it has some independence also when grass is sparse.

I include this attractive wild flower in all of my perennial wild flower meadow seed mixtures and will also often add it to existing wild flower meadows if it is absent. Once established it can be dramatic some years when it really gets to grip with grasses providing a yellow blanket of colour during late May and June.

To introduce Yellow Rattle to a meadow first cut the grass short and remove the cuttings (or take a hay cut from the field) and then anytime between August and February scatter Yellow Rattle seeds over the surface of the ground. To see what seed rates to use in a grassland area, and for prices of my Yellow Rattle seed packs click here. Following seeding you should expect to see germinating seedlings from April, their little serrated leaves poking up through the short grass. These plants will be flowering from May to August.

The reason why this plant is so called will be evident when you walk through the meadow on a dry summer’s day and the rattling sounds of the seeds within their pods will greet your ear. As individual plants set seed at different times, the Yellow Rattle within the meadow will start dropping their seeds from June onwards, so in advance of a hay cut. When the field is cut or the sward disturbed the seeds drop out readily to provide a new population of these valuable and attractive annual plants for the following year.

What a carpet of yellow rattle