Colin Reader of East Sussex based ‘Wild Flower Lawns and Meadows’ talks about the native wild flower Yellow Rattle and what a help it can be to suppress grass within a wild flower area.
Yellow Rattle – a grass reducer within a wild flower meadow. Yellow Rattle or Hay Rattle as it is also known, is a pretty, native annual wild flower with a very useful ability to suppress grass growth within a wild flower meadow or wild flower garden area. 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 when grass is sparse.
I include this attractive wild flower in all of my perennial wild flower meadow seed mixtures and will often add it to existing wild flower meadows if it is absent. Here are my Yellow Rattle seed packs and prices. 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. My friend Fergus Garrett took me to see his wonderful Yellow Rattle display at Great Dixter last summer in one of his newer wild flower meadows (see photo).
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. On my website I have information about what seed rates to use in grassland areas. 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.
For small areas you can use Yellow Rattle plant plugs, these are pre-germinated little plants to pop into your grassland, these are only available from late March for about 6 weeks. You can view these here:
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 plants for the following year.