August 2013


Auriol: in charge of developing Euroflor meadow mixes at Tezier facility for parent company DLF France – image: HW

Urban flower meadows are popping up all over the UK. Natural-looking but carefully designed replacements for traditional bedding schemes or turfed areas that flower for up to six months, meadow mixes have been available for two decades, primarily aimed at those who want to attract birds and pollinators.

But since they wowed Londoners and visitors in the Olympic Park, there has been an explosion of public meadow sites across the land, with local authorities in particular interested in their claimed potential to save money on maintenance while being loved by the public.

Highly versatile

Flower meadows are versatile, with mixes created for high, low and shady areas. There are also dry climate, perfume, colour-coded and part-edible meadows.

It is under the blazing Mediterranean sun that the delicately balanced mixes that produce many of these meadows are developed.

Valence seed breeder Tezier has spent a decade trialling meadow mixes for parent company DLF France marketed under the Euroflor brand, sold in the UK by Rigby Taylor. Olivier Auriol is in charge of their development, after clocking up a quarter of a century’s experience with the company.

“So far our biggest market is in France, the UK and Germany. We are developing in Scandinavia,” he says. “In France the market is in home gardening and agriculture, in Germany mostly landscaping. In the UK it is landscaping and home gardening.”

The Euroflor mixes only entered the UK market five years ago, but sales are exploding – up 50 per cent year-on-year in July and 30 per cent in each of the three years before that.

Howard Wood of Rigby Taylor research arm Grass Engineering says an increasing interest in sustainability as well as saving money is behind the sales boom, with clients ranging from local authorities and golf clubs to schools and universities, which all benefit from Rigby Taylor’s technical back up.

“What’s important in the UK in comparison with France is golf courses,” says Auriol. “Golf courses are quite new. The Olympic gardens gave a push but until this year it was not such a big market for us. There’s much more green space in the UK than in France so there’s more opportunity.”

There are 30 mixes being trialled at the Tezier facility, with more growing at UK sites including St Thomas’s Hospital and opposite the Palace of Westminster in London as well as 10 plots at All Turf in Cheshire as DLF sees how they do in the British climate before introducing them to the market.

While Wood says it is too early to analyse the results, he points out that Rigby Taylor already has a lot of data from southern England and is now focusing on mixes that perform best in the cooler north.

Soil is less of a factor. “Some species like lupin don’t grow in very acidic soil but generally soil type doesn’t matter,” Auriol explains. “But the mixes require a lot less water than grasses.”

While Wildflowerturf created a stunning effect by adding Euroflor to pep up its turf used in the Olympic stadium during the London 2012 opening ceremony, the meadow mixes are not designed to be added to grass. “There’s a lot of stupid things said about wild flowers – people think you can just sow them in the grass but it’s not possible,” says Auriol.

He recommends removing all vegetation and using a layer of 90 per cent builder’s sand to soil, which allows the seed to stick, then back rake. For every square metre of sloping or bird-prone soil, 5g of seed should be sown, although 3g is sufficient for flat surfaces.

After sowing, meadow plots must be kept permanently moist for the first three weeks as the seeds germinate. After that they can be left unwatered unless the weather is hot.

This year, Tezier is trialling both old and new varieties, with some mixes being planted three times in different months so visitors can see how different species flower at different times of the year.

Among those DLF France is assessing for possible 2014 UK release are Oceanique, the low-growing long-lasting Carnival mix and a European red field poppy-heavy mix developed to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.

Interestingly, Tezier is developing a parallel blue cornflower mix for the same reason because blue – the colour of French uniforms of the period – is the colour that French people associate with remembrance.

Complex process

Deciding on a mix composition is only half the process. Seeds must be grown on nearby farms, harvested, dried, cleaned, weighed, tested and packed before being shipped. There are 30 sorting machines at the company’s nearby factory and the seeds are rigorously tested for germination at each stage.

This process can take up to a month, with some seeds at the factory, which also processes Claude vegetable seed mixes for UK sale by Suttons Seeds, Unwins and Nickersons, taking up to three months to process and costing up to EUR300,000 per kilo.

Once packaged, mixes are ready to ship with one last tip. Auriol says some operators need to be reminded that different-sized seeds separate in transit and must be re-mixed before sowing. He advises mixing seeds in buckets with sand and for novices to do a dummy run with sand to ensure even coverage.

Meadow flower mix Candidates for potential release next year

– Oceanique

Features Californian poppies, sweet williams, perennial flax and viper bugloss. Olivier Auriol says: “They grow over the winter, resist frost and grow again in May. The mix is loved by pollinators, especially bees.”

– Carnaval/Carnival

Features Dimorphotica, morning glory, love in the mist, ornamental grass and English marigold. Auriol says: “This mix is not too high, which means you can see the mix easily and the ground cover is spectacular.”

– Commemoration mix

Features European-native field poppies (Papaver rhoeas). Auriol says: “We tried several different mixes because poppies only flower for 15 days.”

Report from Horticulture Week news pages 22 November 2013

Open Meeting, Saturday September 28th – 10.30am São Rafael Room, Sheraton Pine Cliffs Hotel.

We are pleased to confirm that we will be holding our first Open Meeting at the same venue as our Spring Conference this year. Starting at 10.30am, with the business meeting, this will be followed by an illustrated talk on Garden Design by Marilyn Medina Ribeiro. Marilyn has degrees in Graphic Design and Landscape Management and has worked in nurseries, parks and private gardens. In 2008, she moved to the Algarve, managing hotel gardens and later founding her own company to promote sustainable land management. Web site www.waterwisegardens.com

Light refreshments available. We will ask for a contribution of 5 euros per person from those staying on for the talk and coffee.  Please let Rosie know by Friday September 20th if you are coming along so that we have an idea of numbers for refreshments.  We will have a selection of second hand books and journals available, and seeds, all for distribution.

Group Order for Bulbs suitable for Mediterranean gardens. We are once again offering the opportunity for everyone to take part in a group order for appropriate and recommended bulbs for mediterranean gardens from a prepared list.

We have looked at our own experiences of bulbs ordered in the past and also looked at the excellent talk on bulbs from John Fielding at the Spring Conference this year for inspiration. You can now click on this link https://vimeo.com/71566334 to see this excellent presentation his personal selection of Geophytes, (Bulbs, Corms & Rhizomes) from the Spring Conference by John Fielding. Some of his recommendations have been included in the offer list.

MGS Algarve is offering this service to all of our members, contacts and fellow garden clubs on an ‘at cost’ basis and will be aiming only to cover our own expenses.

We have to order in large quantities to gain the excellent discounts on offer so we need to know as soon as possible if you wish to order any of these bulbs – this will indicate the level of interest and a list of CONFIRMED prices can be circulated to those interested.  Please try to make your order in multiples of 5 or 10 bulbs as a minimum.

Following on from this we will  get a quote for  transport costs and send out final TOTAL prices to those ordering.  We expect the prices offered plus transport will be very competitive and should be similar to prices on bulb orders we have arranged in the past.

Algarve native bulb, paperwhite narcissus

If you wish to place a large order for any bulbs not currently listed, but from one of the suppliers  spring collections, please let us know and we will try to include this in our bulk order to attract good discounts on price and transport costs.

The current plan is to have orders confirmed and placed in time for delivery to arrive here in Portugal so that you can collect your orders at the Garden Fair on Saturday October 26th if you wish. Any onward postage within Portugal will be charged separately. Any bulbs not collected at the sale or left with us without follow up will be offered for sale later.

The prepared list  is available as an excel file and we encourage you to use this format to make your order. If you would like this list in any other format, please let me know.  Any requests for the list or questions can be sent to me at rosie@thebtf.net

Bulb orders should be sent in by   Saturday September 14th   at the latest.

    Please send all queries to Rosie at  rosie@thebtf.net