20 August 2016
It’s about a year since we started refocusing here in the gardens, using more garden flowers to allow us to provide nectar and pollen for bees over a longer period than we could with only wild flowers, while respecting the setting of a semi-formal memorial garden. We thought it would take a couple of full seasons for the new plan to mature, so it seems a good time to look at how the gardens are doing.
When the current team started work on the beds about a year ago, we inherited some shrubs planted along the centre of the bed nearest the war memorial and down the centre of some of the other beds, and a couple of roses planted right next to the paths between the beds. We moved the roses out of the way of the paths, and we’ve gradually added lavender plants along the edges of most of the beds, to make an informal hedge and to provide structure through the winter when most of the annuals and herbaceous perennials die back. All the plants we’ve put in are establishing well and developing into a good framework for the more informal planting inside the beds.
This year the bulbs, pulmonaria and perennial wallflower provided plenty of nectar in early spring for bees as they emerged from hibernation and started nesting, while the other perennials and annuals gradually took over from them, including peas and runner beans planted by the children from the local preschool. We had a great display of poppies, cornflowers and oxeye daises in the top bed (nearest the car park). We try to have at least two of the bees’ favourite plants in flower at any time between February to November, and so far we’ve managed that. Right now the bees’ favourite flowers are the blue hyssops in the second bed down from the car park, and the yellow daisy-like coreopsis at the other end of the bed:
Now we’re getting ready for the start of the gardening year in the autumn. We won’t be cutting and clearing until the spring, so that we don’t leave too many places where bare earth will be exposed to heavy rain, which damages soil structure and leaches nutrients away. We leave stems when they don’t look too messy, to provide shelter for overwintering insects, and we also add leaf mould to protect the soil from winter weather and to start getting more organic matter into it – that’s ‘organic’ meaning a necessary component of all soil, rather than meaning a particular way of gardening.
We’re also adding a few more plants and moving others around to places where they’ll grow best, and we’ll also sow seeds of annuals like the bright orange Californian poppies that looked so good earlier in the year. And our other main job is to clear the wild flower bed (nearest the car park) and re-sow poppies and cornflowers for next year; they grow best on ground that’s been cultivated, so we need to turn it over every year.