Eden horticulturalist Shirley Walker gives some great tips on creating a beautiful and evocative piece of wildflower meadow in your own garden.
It is hard to imagine British literature, art, poetry and music without references to wildflowers, and the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, D. H. Lawrence, William Morris, Ralph Vaughn Williams, and many others would be seriously diminished without the richness of our native flora for inspiration. Shakespeare alone mentions over 100 native wildflowers and plants in his plays and sonnets.
Whenever I picture a perfect image of the British countryside, I see rolling meadows filled with colourful wildflowers, but sadly, in reality, the number of wildflower meadows has been seriously declining since the 1930s, and only scattered fragments remain. Wildflower meadows and grasslands are our most diverse habitats, rich in wildlife, beauty, history and folklore. Species as diverse as cowslips, purple orchids, skylarks, barn owls, brown hares and bumble bees, to name but a few, depend on wildflower meadows and grasslands for their survival. These magical places are an important part of our heritage.
How to make your own wildflower meadow
You don’t need rolling acres of land to make your own wildflower meadow. A patch of lawn in an open, sunny position can be transformed into a mini-meadow, rich in wildflowers, providing cover and food for wildlife. The maintenance of a wildflower meadow is much easier than a traditional lawn and it will provide colour and interest from spring until the last dying days of summer.
The most successful meadows occur on nutrient-poor soils which prevent vigorous grasses from taking over. Before planting your flower species, stop using fertilizers and weed-killers, and keep the grass very short, removing all the clippings to prevent nutrients from returning to the soil.
I find the best way of introducing wildflowers into an established lawn is to plant small plug-plants in autumn, and for a naturalistic appearance, I plant in small drifts across the lawn. Make a small hole for each plant and add a little compost to the bottom of the hole to help the plant establish quickly. After watering well, I usually add some leaf-mould around each plant to deter competition. Don’t cut the grass until the end of summer to allow the wildflowers to set for the following year.
Use wildflower turf or seeds
If you want to create a meadow on a bare patch of ground you can ‘cheat’ and lay wildflower turf, which is naturally low in nutrients. It is supplied in rolls and can be laid exactly like regular turf, and usually contains 50% grasses and 50% native wildflowers, including bugle, yarrow, ox-eye daisy, birds- foot trefoil and yellow rattle. It can be bought from a number of specialist suppliers.
Alternatively, you can sow a wildflower meadow mix of seeds direct in autumn or early spring – if you have a heavy clay soil I would advise sowing in spring. You can buy a seed mix to suit your soil type or conditions and sow at a rate of 4 grams per square metre. Traditional hay meadow mixes contain both native grasses and wildflowers, but pictorial meadow mixes are 100% wildflower seed, and can be both native and non-native, with a range of colour schemes, heights and flowering periods. Before sowing, fork over the soil and rake it, and then scatter the seed throughout. Lightly firm the soil with the back of the rake and keep an eye on the watering until germination has taken place.
At Eden this year, you will be able to enjoy four very different pictorial wildflower meadows, blooming throughout the summer, and the roof of the ‘Hive’ building will be adorned with a traditional, native hay meadow mix.
Shirley’s pick of wildflowers
My favourite British wildflowers include the cowslip, with its deep yellow blooms held on tall stems in spring; bugle, which sends up a ring of tall, bright purple flowers; ragged robin, producing delicate pink blooms; sorrel, with its spikes of reddish flowers and crimson leaves in summer, and of course, the simple but perfect white ox-eye daisy.
Plantlife wildflower campaign
Plantlife is leading a campaign to save the UK’s remaining wildflower-rich meadows and grasslands through the ‘Saving Our Magnificent Meadows’ project. For more information go to the Plantlife website.
Have you ever asked yourself ‘how is chocolate made?’ as you chomp through yet another sweet treat? Find out more about the origins and manufacturing process of this ‘food of the gods’ in our infographic below, and at our Easter holiday event at the Eden Project, Chocolate Unwrapped (5-21 April 2014).
Infographic: how is chocolate made?
‘How is chocolate made?’ infographic designed by Paul Barrett.
We’ve just put the finishing touches to a brand new exhibit in our Rainforest Biome that’s all about how the humble rubber tree is playing a crucial role in safeguarding the real rainforest, in the Amazon.
Pay a visit to the rubber hut, surrounded by rubber plants, and you’ll be able to see how wild rubber is tapped directly from trees (Hevea brasiliensis) as liquid latex and then made into useful things like wellies and elastic bands.
There are all sorts of handles to turn, puzzles to solve, and binoculars to peer through – and you can even get your hands on real sheets of latex.
Created with Sky Rainforest Rescue – a partnership between Sky and WWF – the exhibit brings to life the fascinating story of how their partnership is providing small rubber production units to families in Acre, northwest Brazil, to give them a crucial livelihood, and in turn encourage them to protect the rainforest.
The production units, which come with the equipment needed to press liquid latex into sheets of rubber, mean locals can tap existing wild rubber trees sustainably, rather than clear large parts of the rainforest to cultivate rubber plantations.
The units give them a fairer deal, too, because they can sell the rubber directly to manufacturers at a higher price.
The initiative has also introduced schemes to support families in making their soil more fertile. This means they’re less likely to resort to ‘slash-and-burn’ agriculture, a traditional method of burning plants to bring temporary fertility to the soil.
All this matters because deforestation not only impacts the lives of animal and plant species in the region, but increases the damaging effects of global climate change for us all.
‘Learning more about the Amazon and why it is important to protect it is just one small change we can all make,’ says Head of Responsible Business and Sky Rainforest Rescue Fiona Ball. ‘We hope that with more people visiting the Eden Project, they will not only have a great day out, but will go away with a deeper understanding of the importance of the Amazon rainforest.’
Stop by and have a look when you next visit. In the mean time you can find out more about Sky Rainforest Rescue’s work on their website, where you can also enter a competition to win tickets to the Eden Project.
Students from 17 schools in the Penwith area of Cornwall have come together to create what could be the largest den in the world, with help from the Eden Project’s Education Team.
More than 70 children took part in the challenge at Trythall CP school in Penzance to create the largest and most beautiful den possible as part of a day of activities designed to build their practical, creative and team-working skills while using outside space.
The children took part in a range of activities throughout the day, including flag and crown making, tribal markings and marshmallow toasting before coming together to create a giant den big enough to provide shelter for all of the students and their teachers too.
Gill Hodgson, Eden Project coordinator for the event, said: ‘We know that learning and outside play is fantastically important, and this event was a brilliant opportunity to work with lots of schools and their young people to help them get outside more.’
The schools all belong to the Penwith Education Trust, which was set up to help schools collaborate and share resources.
The event was held as to launch a series of teacher training workshops from Eden that focus on the benefits of outdoor learning and how the core curriculum can be taught outside. It also helped schools in the trust to get to know each other better and to create lasting links.
The workshops will culminate in the National Empty Classroom Day event at Eden on June 20, 2014. Last year’s event saw more than 250 children use Eden as their classroom and this year around 400 pupils and their teachers from Penwith are expected to celebrate this event at Eden.
We invited several students to be ‘roving reporters’ for the day. Here’s their report of the event:
Today we arrived at Trythall School to participate in an activities day organised by the Penwith Education Trust and the Eden Project. It involved various primary schools around Penwith joining in on lots of amazing activities such as face painting, flag making and den building!
Many children commented on how much fun the day was. Jack, from Alverton, said that his favourite part of the day was ‘making the base of the den’.
There were also some secondary school students and roving reporters (that’s us!) from Cape Cornwall and Humphry Davy School that joined in to help the younger children and document the day.
The biggest activity of the day was building a really large den, which took most of the day. It was massive, and a few teachers were caught there trying to stay dry in all the rain!
The day was a massive success, and it would be really cool to have more days like it.
Words by Harry Knowles and all photos by Sebi Schmidt.
We’d like to say sorry to any visitors disappointed by the unexpected closure of the Eden site today.
This was a very rare event in our 13 years of being fully open to the public and was all down to a burst water main.
This was spotted shortly before we were due to open this morning when one of the team saw a plume of water shooting out of a grassy bank at the top of our site at Bodelva.
The water supply was immediately turned off. Facilities manager John Oxenham rapidly assembled a team to investigate the problem, which turned out to be a broken joint in the main pipe.
Because this is the main supply into Eden, it meant we would not have had a good source of drinking water and hot water for our visitors.
A replacement section of pipe was found and fitted as quickly as possible and by late this afternoon the full water supply was safely and securely restored.
Eden’s Head of Estates Ian Merchant said: ‘It’s a pity visitors weren’t able to come in today. This was one of those extremely rare occasions when we have had an unplanned closure and we worked flat out to fix the problem as quickly as we could.
‘It is all fixed now and we will be back to business as usual tomorrow.’
The creative team of chocolatiers from renowned British chocolate company Montezuma’s share their chocolate tasting tips ahead of our Chocolate Unwrapped event this Easter.
How to taste chocolate
- Before you start, it’s important to make sure your chocolate is the right temperature. Room temperature (roughly 20 degrees) is the ideal temperature. Don’t put it in the fridge, as this will add moisture to the chocolate and could cause it to ‘bloom’ – that’s that grey coating on the surface.
- To get ready for your tasting, you’ll need to cleanse your palate with a glass of water.
- When you place a piece of chocolate in your mouth, let it sit on your tongue for a few seconds to let the cocoa butter melt.
- Once it’s reached body temperature you should experience the chocolate flavours to their fullest. It’s the magic temperature of 37 degrees that breaks the molecular bond of well-tempered chocolate and releases the taste.
- Finally, chew the chocolate and enjoy!
Interesting chocolates to taste
One chocolate can taste so different from another; and it’s the cocoa content which has the biggest influence on this. At Montezuma’s we also like to experiment with new flavours and ingredients, including herbs, spices and essential oils.
If you’re up for a real chocolate taste experience, we’d recommend you follow the instructions above and taste these four bars in the following order:
Organic Very Dark 73% Chocolate
Our very first creation, this chocolate bar is smooth with hints of vanilla running through it. You shouldn’t be able to taste any bitterness.
Organic 54% Milk Chocolate: The Dark Side
A hybrid between milk and dark chocolate, it contains the highest cocoa percentage allowed in a ‘milk’ bar (according to our friends at trading standards)! This is rich and sweet all in one.
Organic Smooth Milk Chocolate
The closest to a ‘normal’ milk chocolate bar this one has the perfect balance between sweetness and vanilla.
Organic Creamy White Chocolate
We’ve taken great care to make sure this white chocolate bar is not too sickly sweet by including subtle hints of organic vanilla; you can spot flecks of it if you look closely. It also steers clear of inferior vegetable fats, containing a massive 29% cocoa butter.
Montezuma’s was founded by Helen and Simon in 2000 “with only a kitchen sink sized machine, huge enthusiasm, spades of naivety and most importantly, a broad ideal to bring chocolate innovation to a boring and staid British chocolate market”. Find out where you can buy Montezuma’s.
The Chocolate Unwrapped festival takes place at the Eden Project this Easter (5-21 April 2014), where you can find out the fascinating story of this ‘food of the gods’, try your hand at making it – and, of course, taste it!
Not sure what to get your mum this Mother’s Day? Here’s a selection of gifts from the Eden online shop that we’ve picked out especially for mums. From gorgeous bouquets of Cornish flowers to handmade, all-natural skincare gift sets, there’s sure to be something from our top 10 list to please every mum out there. To make sure your gift arrives in time for Mother’s Day, simply order by 25 March 2014 – or by midday 27 March for bouquets.
1. Mother’s Day bouquets, from £17.50
With mums in mind, we’ve gathered together a selection of some of our most beautiful, hand-tied bouquets of locally-sourced Cornish flowers. Choose from colourful mixed and seasonal flower bouquets, from lilacs and bluebells to tulips and lilies.
2. Skincare set, £10
Pamper your mum with one of our handmade, natural skincare gift sets. Choose from two nurturing sets, featuring Eucalyptus foot cream, Lemongrass hand cream and Rosehip moisturiser. These are perfect for refreshing skin and keeping it smooth and fragrant.
3. Become a gardener for the day experience, £99 per person or £175 for two
If your mum is passionate about gardening, then this is the experience for her. Our ‘Become a gardener for the day’ experience offers the chance to pick up tips and techniques from our gardeners at Eden while spending the day planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in our beautiful gardens and Biomes. This hands-on session is designed for one or two people and includes lunch and refreshments, as well as a gift and certificate for your mum to take home.
4. Chocolate collection, £10.50
Is your mum a chocoholic? Then we’ve got your Mother’s Day present all sorted. Handmade in Cornwall from fairly-traded cocoa, this chocolate gift set contains five beautifully presented and sumptuous bars in a mouth-watering array of flavours, from Dark chilli to Cornish sea salt!
5. Allotment kit, £10
Perfect for beginner gardeners, this allotment kit comes with everything your mum needs to start growing her first veg patch. The kit includes a pair of floral gloves, handmade gardener’s soap, plant ties for runner beans, amongst other goodies.
6. Time for tea gift set, £14.50
These gorgeous gift sets make an ideal Mother’s Day gift and each include two vintage-inspired design mugs and a tube of delicious Cornish biscuits. Choose from three sets, which each feature a different flavour of biscuit: all-butter shortbread, chocolate chip shortbread or original Cornish fairings.
7. Mother’s Day azalea, £17.50
A great alternative to a bouquet, this Cornish-grown evergreen azalea will make a brilliant gift for your mum this Mother’s Day. This azalea produces gorgeous crimson flowers during the spring and comes in a lovely terracotta pot. (To make sure this arrives in time for your mum, order by 4pm Friday 21 March 2014.)
8. Great Cornish Food Book, £17.99
Far from just another recipe book, the Great Cornish Food Book is an all-out celebration of Cornish culinary traditions and culture. If your mum’s a food-lover, she’s sure to be tempted by this book’s collection of yummy recipes, tips, and tales sourced from around the county.
9. Olive tree gift bag, £14.50
Our olive tree gift bag is perfect for olive-loving mums and contains a small olive tree plant and a packet of our delicious, herby olives. Olive trees are hardy and slow-growing plants, and are great for growing indoors, and even outdoors during a hot summer.
10. Butterfly gift set, £17.50
This butterfly gift set is a great gift idea for mums looking to add something new and a bit different to their garden. Our set includes everything your mum needs to start attracting beautiful butterflies to her garden and includes a feeding station, collection seeds and food for butterflies, as well as a Butterflies of Britain Field Guide.
7pm Congratulations to the 2014 World Pasty Champions! The winners are:
Cornish Pasty Amateur
- Winner: Terry O’Connor from Watford
- Second: Jon Lovejoy from Plymouth
- Third: Vanessa Far from Bristol
Cornish Pasty Professional
- Winner: David Timmins
- Second: Jason Robbins
- Third: Ryan Smedley
Cornish Pasty Company
- Winner: West Cornwall Pasty Co
- Second: Simply Cornish
- Third: Proper Cornish
Cornish Pasty Junior
- Winner: Simon Cornish, 12 from Launceston
- Second: Michael Webb, 14 from Helston
- Third: Alice Avery, 12
Open Savoury Amateur
- Winner: Don McKeever, chicken and chorizo pasty
- Second: Jon Lovejoy, cheese, chorizo and chilli pasty
- Third: Terry O’Connor, bacon, egg and tomato pasty
Open Savoury Professional
- Winner: Nik Brown, Cornish steak and Doom Bar ale
- Second: Andy Heath, Cornish yarg and onion in a vintage Davidstow cheese sauce
- Third: Gemma Hearn, Bahn Mi spicy meatball and sweet chilli sauce
Open Savoury Company
- Winner: The Shop @ The Shop Ltd, salmon, hake, pollock and monkfish pasty
- Second: Prima Bakeries Ltd, peppered steak pasty
- Third: Cornish Premier Pasties, red Thai chicken curry pasty
Open Savoury Junior
- Winner: Daniel Beddoes, 12 from Bristol, chicken fajita pasty
- Second: Rhys Heath, from Bodmin, savoury mixture
- Third: Robbie Mowbray, 10 from Padstow, haggis, neaps and tatties pasty
Well done to everyone who took part – see you all next year!
5.02pm Father and son Dick and James Strawbridge went head to head in the Great Cornish Crimp Off at Eden today. Who won? Er, we don’t really know, but it was great fun anyway!
3.30pm Representatives of the charities that will benefit from the Localgiving.com Charity Begins in Cornwall campaign. Donate to the campaign online here.
2.49pm Judging has now finished! The results will be announced at the Oggy Oscars Award Ceremony at 6.15pm on stage in the Mediterranean Biome.
1.56pm Check out the flavours of the new Eden Extra-ordinary Pasty, made in collaboration with the Posh Pasty Co. Which would you choose?
1.44pm Young Toby Hastings tries his hand at crimping in the Crantock Bakery workshop.
1.38pm Lyndsey Stephenson won our Facebook competition to name an ale specially brewed by St Austell Brewery for the World Pasty Championships. She named it ‘Crimper’s Pinch’! Well done Lyndsey!
1.08pm Today we’re launching the Charity Begins in Cornwall campaign to help raise money for the following Cornish charities :
- Battling On
- Community Greenspace
- Gwealan Tops
- Lizard Child Trust
- Pengarth Day Centre
- Penhaligons Friends
- St Petroc’s Society
- Wild Woods
They’ve all got stalls at Eden today, so come and say hello, and please give generously!
Thanks to a partnership between Eden Project, Localgiving.com and the Cornwall Community Foundation, for a limited time, donations made to these charities through Localgiving.com will be doubled pound for pound.
12.57pm Legendary Cornish rappers Hedluv and Passman have been dropping some ‘ot beats on stage in our Med Biome.
And here’s their video for The Pasty Song, recorded at last year’s World Pasty Championships
12.06pm Olympic rowing gold medalist James Cracknell is here today. We gave him one of our new Eden Extra-ordinary Pasties to sample.
11.49am: Crimping masterclass from Crantock Bakery
11.44am Father and son TV chefs Dick and James Strawbridge enjoy a quick pasty before their stage appearance this afternoon.
11.07am Judging has begun! This is Richard Shaw, who has travelled all the way from Hampshire to enter his pasties in today’s contest. One is known as the ‘Incendiary Bomb’ as it includes ghost chilli (aka Bhut Jolkia) – one of the hottest chillies in the world! Watch out judges!
10.28am Have you ever seen such an ‘ansom array of oggs?
10.09am Good morning pasty fans! Welcome to the Eden Project’s third annual World Pasty Championships! Entrants to the competition are already bringing their oggies into Eden to be judged by our expert panel. Good luck to everyone entering!
Come down to Eden today to enjoy a programme packed with pasty-themed fun, including live music, chef demos and workshops – see the full programme.
TV chef James Strawbridge, who’ll be on stage with his dad Dick this afternoon, gives a few pasty making tips in this video:
We’re proud of having just achieved the Planet Mark, a new sustainability stamp of approval.
We thought it only fitting that we worked hard to make the grade for the scheme which we’ve helped create with sustainability consultancy Planet First!
Last summer we undertook an environmental performance audit across all of our operations to measure carbon, energy, water and waste use.
Over the last two years our teams have worked hard to improve the accuracy of our environmental data reporting and to improve our carbon footprint. A programme of efficiencies began in 2010 with the installation of condensing boilers, domestic hot water services and an LED retrofit, all run and monitored by a Building Management System and Energy Management System. The use of gas oil has been greatly reduced and the use of heating oil was stopped 3 years ago.
Now, through the Planet Mark programme, we have committed to a further 5% annual reduction in its GHG emissions.
Eden is one of almost 100 companies signed up to the scheme. Each organisation that signs up automatically supports the work of the Eden Project with 10% of fees going to the Eden Trust for sustainability education projects. In return, businesses receive the Eden Project branded Planet Mark to add to their marketing communications.
Planet First delivers the Planet Mark certification with ongoing support for each client, to help measure and monitor their performance and encourage employees, customers and stakeholders into sustainable action.
This origami sycamore seed model mimics the way a sycamore seed twists and turns as it falls through the air!
Now you can make your own origami version when sycamore seeds are out of season.
How sycamore seeds fly
The sycamore seed has evolved over time to become the perfect shape for dispersal by the wind: its insect-like wing structure aids its ability to fly, while the heavy nut at its base makes it rotate as it falls.
This means that the sycamore seed falls more gradually than other wind-dispersed seeds, and therefore can disperse itself across a much wider range.
Take a 10x10cm sized square piece of paper (it’s best if the paper you use is quite thin and easy to fold).
Start by folding it in half diagonally and then unfolding it.
Fold it in half diagonally again, this time starting with the opposite side of the paper, then unfold.
Fold one corner of the paper to the centre line and then unfold it again.
Repeat this with the opposite corner and unfold again.
Fold one corner over to the top line on the paper (figure 8).
Unfold and then repeat this with the other corner.
With the second corner still folded over, fold up the bottom edge of the paper (figure 11).
Now fold the left corner over (figure 12).
Then fold over the rectangular strip that’s still sticking out (figure 13).
Now fold this edge over again. This is called a ‘valley fold’ (figure 14).
Fold the edge in two again to create the stem of your seed. Make sure to press down firmly along the crease (figure 15).
Now press along the sides of the stem in order to make it slightly tube-shaped. This is called a ‘mountain fold’ (figure 16).
Your maple seed is now ready to fly. Throw it as high as you can into the air (or drop it from somewhere high up) and watch it spin!
Come and design your own flying seeds at our Freaky Nature event, which takes place at the Eden Project, 15-28 February 2014.
This YouTube video from Jo Nakashima shows how to make this origami seed, which was originally designed by Davor Vinko.