Where are all the flowers? London Fields wildflower meadow is looking like a “parched rugby field”
PUBLISHED: 10:58 22 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:42 22 May 2014
Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett is among those who have slammed Hackney Council for spending £11,000-a-year on a wildflower meadow which is yet to bloom.
Gardening experts have also waded into the row over the management of the green space in London Fields, which is currently bare despite it being peak growing time.
Although difficult to establish, a natural wildflower meadow should self-perpetuate from seeds generated by flowers the previous year, and native plants should attract butterflies, birds and insects.
But the council has opted for a more managed approach, sowing costly seeds every year on the area – which is as large as a football pitch – and spraying herbicide to kill weeds before planting.
Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett branded the meadow a “death trap” after seeing a council worker spraying the area with weedkiller glyphosate.
Ms Hamnett, 66, who was made a CBE in 2010 for services to the fashion industry, has since launched a campaign to ban the herbicide in Hackney, which is linked to organ damage and infertility.
“It’s a lovely idea to have a wildflower meadow but it’s being cackhandedly handled,” she said.
“If they had looked after it properly right now it would be like the countryside, this is the month when everything is in flower. “To prepare a wildflower meadow you don’t need to spray with herbicide, you just need to plough.”
Paul Holt from the N1 Garden Centre in De Beauvoir, which sells wildflower and hedgerow seeds, was shocked at the state of the meadow.
“It looks like a parched rugby field,” he said.
“If it was full of native flower seeds they should be a foot high or two foot high by now, ready to do what they want to do, it’s just weeks to go until flowering.”
Kerry Rankine from Stoke Newington based social enterprise Growing Communities, which runs an organic veg box scheme and farmers’ market, finds it ironic the council is using a commercial weed killer in a wildflower meadow.
“It does seem crazy, glyphosate will potentially devastate the wide variety of wild flowers they have in the wild flower meadow, they are actually undermining their own project as well as contributing to the build up of herbicides in soil, and potentially destroying the microorganisms that make the soil healthy.
“If you go on the marshes right now there are wildflowers there, it’s humming with bees, it’s absolutely thriving, that’s an environment that’s left naturally, it’s about diversity of species and not treating it like it’s a golf course.”
Kim Wright, the council’s corporate director for health and community services, said they had considered five tenders for the seeds and picked the one offering the highest quality and best value.
“The cost of maintaining and seeding the meadow over following years will be significantly lower,” she added.
She added that using the herbicide for weed control on wildflower meadows was recommended by The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society.”
Industry bosses insist glyphosate is safe, and a spokesman for chemical giant Monsanto, which markets the product under the name Roundup, claimed the German government recently reassessed its safety and said it had “limited toxicity for man, animals and the environment”, and “minimal toxicity for bees.”
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