Snakes in the grass

This year, for the first time in a while, the Snake’s Head Fritillaries in the meadow bit of our garden have managed to open before being consumed. I am not sure what eats them, I put it down to the muntjac usually, because I have seen it nibbling in the area and the flower buds are always neatly and completely removed. Poor things never get a chance to multiply, but what surprises me slightly more is that they come back each year anyway. That is more than can be said of the gladioli byzantinus or camassia leichtlinii that I add from time to time in the hopes of echoing Great Dixter’s Topiary Lawn.


Snake’s Haed fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)

This year I’ve added a few wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) and I am hoping that they will like the spot and will spread. Everywhere would be good.


This year’s addition to the meadow – narcissus pseudonarcissus

The meadow zone is just an area of grass that I don’t mow (and I am always looking for excuses to get rid of a bit more lawn). It isn’t that big, about nine by seven paces. My favourite thing about managing the area is cutting the paths through it. There is something very attractive about mown paths. Unfortunately, over time they have evolved from slighly meandering curves to more or less straight lines. I blame the heavy lawn mower!


I cut the whole area once a year, in September and leave the wilting plants to drop their seeds for a few days. Then I rake the whole mess up and compost it.

To help suppress the more vigorous grasses and establish a more diverse wildflower meadow I sowed yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) about five years ago. This seemed to work for a couple of years, but I am now seeing fewer and fewer yellow rattle plants return. I might have to re-do the process.

Meanwhile, I am just enjoying seeing those wonderful chequered bells hanging above the fresh green grass.


The cowslips are just starting to light up the area too and are attracting a good number of insects. Sadly, I’ve no idea what this fine fellow is.


I wondered about a tour of the area at ground level, but within seconds my jeans were soaked through, so I abandoned that idea. Maybe in the summer, following the meadow brown butterflies. However, I thought that it was worth getting an insect’s view of a snake’s head fritillary, looking into it’s jaws:


Looking into the jaws of a snake’s head fritillary

It is an impressive view, but not especially snake-like.

And once again I couldn’t help thinking what a fantastic parasol this would make, so I have taken liberties with another famous painting to demonstrate:

snake4 sargent

Morning Walk by John Singer Sargent with Fritillaria meleagris

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in Flowers, Nature, Spring, The home garden, Whimsy, Wildflowers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Snakes in the grass

  1. Tina says:

    The flower works nicely shading the elegant lady. They’re lovely booms, not ones I’m familiar with, though.

  2. Chloris says:

    I love the idea of a fritillary parasol. They would make pretty lampshades too Do you have pheasants? They pull the heads off fritillaries and toss them to one side. A ground level tour of the meadow is a great idea..

    • We definitely have pheasants, so you have probably solved that question, thanks. They come for the droppings from the bird feeders. Maybe this year they are so keen to enjoy the de-hulled sunflower seeds that they are running passed the fritillaries!

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Allison, I love this intimate view of this checkered beauty and I find your parasol composite absolutely delightful! I was also noting how tall your grass is already, ours is just starting to grow. We’ve had a few warm days in a row, so I expect ours will catch up soon!

    • Thanks Eliza. Having cut the rest of the lawn yesterday, I can safely say that I let it grow too long, because it was harder work than I expected carting all those wet clippings to the compost!

  4. What a fabulous shot from beneath the backlit parasol of petals, it illustrates the scale-like pattern so beautifully. Birdsfoot trefoil is an easy perennial host plant for meadow butteflies. Controlling coarse meadow grasses using annual yellow rattle seems tricky in a domestic garden. Looking forward to seeing your pics of the meadow brown butterflies!

    • Thanks. One of the dilemmas of the meadow patch is that the vetches and birdsfoot trefoil do so well in it and are presumably busy fixing nitrogen. Meanwhile you are suppose to keep the fertility down to encourage wild-flowers like hare’s bell etc. In truth the patch is probably too small to balance things right, but the yellow rattle really was OK for a couple of years, so I probably will try again.

  5. Sam says:

    Ha ha, love the fritillary parasol – inspired. Great shot from underneath and worth getting wet for.

  6. Christina says:

    Smiling because of the last image. I love Snake head fritillaries but I’ve never been able to grow them.

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