Friday, 10 May 2019

In other news - Dactylorhiza fuschsii

Or Common Spotted Orchid to normal folk.

It is that time of year when we traditionally crawl around the Cottage Garden lawn on our hands and knees looking for the first signs of wild orchids popping up.  The last few years I have left the grass uncut, except for a path around the edge so I can turn the tractor around, and as a result we are rewarded with Orchids, Yellow Rattle, Self Heal, Common Yarrow and all sorts of other lovelies which I would like to make more effort to record.

Three photos from June last year:

Management is something of an orchid-hunting ninja and brilliant at finding the first tiny spotted leaves, and we have taken to marking the plant locations to avoid accidental trampling (hence all the little white sticks).  So far this season we are up to 26 plants.  Happy day!!  This is about what we would expect and hopefully there will be more if it ever warms up a bit.

I do a little "hand grazing" around each plant.  Apparently in the wild the orchids are ignored by grazing cattle who eat the adjacent competing grasses and leave the orchids untouched (although these plants must be tougher than they look if they can survive ruddy great hooves).

What we absolutely did not expect was to find orchids growing in the big lawn in the Side Garden.  As long as Daisy was with us I cut that grass hard every week to try and minimise the skin irritations she was so troubled by.  It is a testament to the power of nature that somewhere underground these little bulbs have survived and neither Mr Ninja or I could believe it when he found the first two.  At the time we were walking around picking of dandelion heads before they could go to seed.  Our immediate idea was to dig out the biggest divots we could possibly manage and move them to the Cottage Garden for safety.

That was before Mr Ninja walked around some more . . . the latest count on the big lawn is 44.  FORTY-FOUR !  Yes I am shouting!  Holy hollyhocks - who'd a thunk it?

Clearly I am not going to dig that many massive holes in this lawn so a cunning plan was hatched.  I keep saying I want to cut down on the workload at Bag End, and what better way to do that than drastically reduce the amount of lawn to be cut?  At the end of last year I got rid of two bits of grass (next to the Coppice and next to the Big Pond) which has helped a lot, but why not go further?   If we have found 44 so far, how many more might there be by the end of the month?  Starting today, I am going to mow just a metre-wide strip around the edge and leave the rest to nature - if anyone asks I shall call it a Pollinator Meadow.

(Those orchids which have settled themselves in the "mowing zone" will get moved - we've dug them up before successfully, and as long as you excavate a really big mass of soil around the bulb they seem to accept the disturbance.)

Rather excitingly, this one might not be Common Spotted Orchid.  Without pronounced spots, there is a slim chance this is Dactylorhiza purpurella, the Northern Marsh Orchid.  Until it flowers I won't know.

Maybe a new project for the summer really will be studying and documenting all the wild flowers which are growing naturally in our clover-and-moss-filled green bits?  With all the time I "save" by not cutting the grass what excuse do I have?  It is no secret that I have not been "in love" with the garden in recent weeks, perhaps this might be what I need to reconnect with it?

Orchid identification - a whole lifetime's work if you want it . . .

Natural History Museum - Identification Guide

Natural History Museum - Beginner's Guide

Wild Orchids - Britain and Ireland


  1. Dear Jayne
    Isn't nature wonderful? Beautiful plants and less mowing - win-win! Also, a lawn filled with lots of species is so much better for nature than a striped bowling green type lawn (and much prettier to look at in my opinion!) Having said that, I know there are many fans of a perfect lawn...
    Best wishes

    1. Thank you Ellie. Such a simple idea - and years ago we had long periods without cutting the grass but that was because I just didn't have time, and we did not have Daisy who had all sorts of allergies to garden mites, brushing up against buttercups and goodness knows what else.

      I have neighbours who spend half the summer poisoning their lawns - and they are the ones with big brown patches when it is very dry. At least our clover-filled "grass" stays green all the time!

  2. Orchids are one of those amazing plants, which seem to cover so many climate zones & survive under hazardous conditions, that they are definitely worth a blog post. Hope all your hard work now makes things easier in the future. I've been doing some crawling around our lawn digging out the broad leaf weeds, which is a never ending job, when you have renters next door that don't give a s.... about their yard. Have a great weekend & there is a comment on your last post too, seeing I'm on blog catchup at the moment. Huggles.

    1. Hi Susan, from one of my gardening books:
      The orchid family includes nearly 900 genera, somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 species and over 70,000 hybrids or cultivars. The Orchid Family or orchidaceae are the largest family of angiosperms, or flowering plants in the world
      I'm not going to dig out anything except the worst dandelions and thistles, everything else - broadleaf and all - can stay :-)

      huggles back at ya! xx

  3. If we had space i would love a wildflower meadow . Will you augment the flowers by adding some yourself?

    1. I've already 'augmented' in previous years by adding the Yellow Rattle. If we are serious about managing the big lawn in this way then definitely yes, because I have a much larger area to "play" with.

      I haven't had great success with chucking seed around, so if I really want to do this I am going to have to grow plug plants and put them in the grass when they are big enough to look after themselves.

  4. That name is scary!!!!!!! -gigggles- So glad it means lovely orchids!!!!

    Super idea, to cut back on lawn cutting!!!!!

    What good are lawns anyway????? Letting wild flowers grow, seems like a much better use of your land.

    Down with lawns everywhere, is my motto! ,-) Especially since seemingly everyone (not us or our son next door) has those awful chemicals sprayed on their lawns! UGH-UGH-UGH. -sigh-

    1. Hi m'dear. I do not know where the idea came from that lawns had to be a boring, non-flowering mono-culture. Maybe it was the Victorians, maybe it was something to do with the development of suburbs mid-20th century, maybe it was the chemical companies who developed a new poison and then created a "problem" for their product to solve.

      I do know we've never been into weedkillers and for years I have been considered very odd because I mow ~around~ patches of daisies!

      BTW, a short ponder around the big lawn after lunch today found us another FIVE orchids. Woo hoo!!

  5. How fortunate you are to have all those lovely orchids! A couple of my bird girl pals are also into wildflowers too and they're out in full force right now.

    1. It all links together - flowers attract little bugs and insects, birds eat the insects . . .

      Just imagine, if everyone stopped using lawn poison and grew flowers, how many thousands of acres of habitat could we create?

  6. oh what a sweet and delightful garden happening :) definitely a natural nudge to going a little wild x :)

    1. It is quite delicious Kate, and so lovely to slow down and take the time to crawl slowly over the lawn looking for more!
      Have found more since I posted this - by close of play on Saturday we were up to 76!


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