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Mike's Blog - Day 74

We have our flock of rare breed sheep as we use them to graze the arboretum and wildflower meadows. This is done at the end of the year and gets the grass down so the wildflowers have a better chance the following spring.

Another good way to try and hold the grass back is to grow hayrattle, Rhinanthusminor.

Here it is in close-up.

Hayrattle has a parasitic effect on the grass and where it grows, the grass is greatly reduced, giving a much more open sward where other flowers gat a chance.

Its sometimes difficult to get it to grow, and it’s just an annual so grows from last year's seeds every year.

When we first tried to grow it years ago we were told you had to do all sorts of things to get it to grow - initially cut the grass very short, scalp the grass so the seeds will be in contact with the grass roots, trample it in like cattle would. There seemed to be many suggestions, so we tried them all in different plots, carefully sowing the same number of seeds in each so we could see which would suit our soil for future sowing.

None worked, but a visitor noticed the sign we put up on the plots saying what we were doing. He promptly dropped us off a bag of freshly scythed hayrattle shoots. You could hear the seeds inside the dried up seed pods rattling as we threw them around a patch in the meadow. This is of course where the plant gets its common name, and when the hayrattle rattles, it’s time to cut your meadow and make hay for the winter.

Next spring we had a huge patch of hayrattle and we carefully gathered the fresh seeds in September and scattered them in various parts of the meadow. It seems a fussy plant and despite trying to spread it around it will only grow where it wants, but you can find some every year still.

Its latin name comes from the Greek Rhinos “nose” and anthus, “flower” due to the nose like shape of the flower. No surprise then where they got the name for a Rhinoceros.