Over the last ten years, Aberglasney has been working on an exciting rewilding project that has seen the Gardens move away from conventional amenity lawns in favour of sustainable grasslands and wild meadows.

Since turf grass is known to have little environmental and ecological impact, the creation of meadowlands is essential in supporting and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

The project has led to the development of wildflower meadows, spring bulb meadows, and evolution meadows in parts of the gardens where manicured lawns existed before, and has significantly reduced the amount of traditional mowing and strimming needed across the site.

The work has already begun wielding remarkable results across the Gardens as a whole, but most notably in the following new areas:

The Spring Bulb Meadows

Aberglasney’s Stream Garden was traditionally a combination of long grass with Snakes head fritillaries and amenity grass. Over time, traditional meadow management has been introduced, allowing the grass to grow wild, and wildflowers and bulbs to set their seeds, before it gets mowed in July and November. The result has been the successful establishment of Narcissus bulbicodium and Fritillaria meleagris – both of which are thriving. In addition to these treasures, separate drifts of Camassia leichtlinii and Camassia cuisickii have been introduced along with the more recent additions of Leucojum aesetivum ‘Gravetye Giant’. Wildflowers such as Ladies smock or Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis) are also recolonising in this area and produce wonderful spring shows.

Nigel McCall

Nigel McCall

The Annual Meadow

A more traditional-style meadow of annual British native wildflowers can be found at the top of the Gardens, and produce wonderful displays from June to October. A natural seedbank has begun forming here after 5 years of growth and development, meaning that in time it’ll no longer require annual seeding. It’s managed similarly to the Spring Bulb Meadows and is cut with a flail mower in autumn to remove organic matter and stimulate harvesting. Corn Chamomile, Corn cockle, annual Corn Flower, Corn marigold, Corn poppy and White Campion have colonised this meadow, along with local natives such as Ladies Smock.

Rewilding at Aberglasney Picture: Nigel McCall

Rewilding at Aberglasney Picture: Nigel McCall

The Woodland Meadows

Aberglasney’s woodlands comprise mainly oak and beech trees in an area that is quite open and sunny. The implementation of woodland pasture management promotes biodiversity in the woodland’s understory by flail mowing it in July and November without removing cuttings. Doing so reduces grasses, brambles, and nettles, but encourages Celandine, Bluebell and Wood Anemone. Brambles and other taller plants are allowed to persist around the edges of the meadow to create a diversity of habitats.

The Evolution Meadow

This is an interesting area that is a mini arboretum of Birch Magnolia and other cultivated trees. A different approach from conventional meadow management is taken here: the gardeners simply cut the grass once in October but don’t remove it. This procedure favours woodland plants such as

Bluebells, which have already colonised the area very quickly. Over time, as the trees grow and shade the ground, the site will evolve into more of a woodland with new species arriving year on year.

Long Grass Areas

These were the standard amenity grass areas that are similar to those typically found in towns and roadsides. Pasture management has replaced regular strimming and mowing – which doesn’t allow plants to flower – so that grass can grow wild before it’s cut in July and, if possible, the process is repeated in November. Doing so creates the perfect conditions for Narcissus which have been planted in large drifts and are thriving in these areas. Pasture management has also been great for wildflowers since the removal of organic matter impoverishes the soil and creates a more favourable environment for them.

Individually, and in combination, the rewilded areas support a much greater level of biodiversity than traditional amenity grass ever could. The most notable changes have been that Honeybees and Bumblebees are far more common, and honey crop has improved year on year. Mammals such as field mice and invertebrate pollinators are also spotted more frequently since wildflower species have recolonised in the grasslands.

Nigel McCall

Nigel McCall

Aberglasney’s Head Gardener, Joseph Atkin, said: “The aim of this project has been to create sustainable grasslands and wildflower meadows without compromising visitor experience, and we’re very happy with the results in all cases. The public have been supportive of what we’re doing and there seems to have been a positive change in opinion with people welcoming biodiversity areas, long grasses, and wildflower meadows. We hope our work and its results will inspire others to start rewilding their own gardens and green spaces.”