You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer
Well we have come full circle, my name is Adam and I love plants and gardening. I dismissed plants outright when I chose Zoology over Biology (including botany) for my undergraduate degree. My shoulders sank and I huffed at the thought of doing chores in the garden as a kid. Now look at me, #OperationWildTimes is up and running and you and I are now in a world of “plantification”. So you can imagine my disappointment, head-hitting-hands moment when I went to Geoffrey’s place with my 3 ½ year old and came across this.
Are they saying spend money on more plastic and pretend to do gardening – “just like home”? Surely it is better to kick open the back door at home and do the real thing outside, it is cheaper and better for the children too, the sort of things long lasting childhood memories are made of. Haven’t they seen that gardening is now the coolest thing to do especially for the teenagers aged 16-18s and Under 35s. Well OK not necessarily cool but really rewarding, calming, and you can give you and yours a little oasis. Then you can go all Noah on the wildlife and build a place where they can call home too.
Every evening since our garden has been done (save a few tweaks like wobbly paving slabs, decking and hammock post) Mrs. M loses me to my thoughts and the wildlife buzzing around me in the garden. I can’t tell you how relaxing it is. So now that I have caught the bug (and on a mission to ban all plastic versions of reality) I have been released like a captive born gardening beast out into the big wild world, eager to learn and see other creations.
My first stop this week was the Exotic Garden, on Thorpe Rd in Norwich. As I had walked passed it for the last 3 ½ years on the way to work I had been meaning to go for a while but now the bug-bitten Murray made it happen. I was blown away by this surprising small plot of land that had managed, with clever winding paths and vistas around every corner, to create a magical wonderland. With magnificent monumental cannas and cacti and cascading sedums and house leeks, I was in plant heaven. The butterflies and bumblebees were going mad for it too. Just think, their garden is only 5 minutes walk away from my house and with the same micro-climate and south facing aspect – maybe we will have our very own wonderland in the future.
Next up on my visits of inspiration was to our good friends at the RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden in John Constable country. A pleasant old fashioned train journey to Manningtree from Norwich ended and we were met by the smiley face of Mark who whisked us off to the garden. There I soaked up the atmosphere, the young families on holiday frolicking around the garden following the treasure trail while the more sedate visitors sat and enjoyed their ice creams, watching nature pass them by. If you look closely you can find similarities between the more exotic gardens. The orchid like flowers of the country garden sweet peas, the tall standing teasels and thistley pom-poms of the echinops and the rambling ground sedums – in my minds eye close counterparts to their blousy tropical cousins. Not only do the architecture of these plants inspire in the garden but I love going there to pick up some plants to bring back home and learn some top tips too. Here are a few of those gems.
My name is Adam and I love plants and gardening. Your mission should you choose to accept is to join our band of merry wannabe green-fingered folk and get out there this bank holiday and get dirty, it’s is good for the soul.
Take a look below at the attached file from my interview with Mike the gardener about his thoughts on the power of getting outside and your hands dirty.
How are you coping with the summer holidays? A bit soggy around the edges as you dodge the thunder storms? Noticed that the roads are quieter and your usual haunts are “full of screaming kids”/children having fun? Or have you managed to get away from it all and enjoy some natural spectacles like the wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings?
With my wife on maternity leave and a primary school teacher this is first and probably only year that we will not be following the crowds (and exorbitant holiday prices). It also means that we are staying at home taking a "staycation” (read the report from Visit England for more info) - in other words enjoying the wonders of East Anglia and most importantly our new garden.
So time for a “papa smirk”, a Murray-ism for when my dad has a cheeky knowing smug grin (some say he looks a bit like Papa Smurf too). Now that our lovely garden is nearly down, bar my never ending to do list, these are a few of my favourite things that I will be enjoying this summer.
1. Flowers blooming and succulents taking hold
2. Kid-proofing the garden
3. Adventure Play (any excuse)
4. Hunting for Bugs
5. Outdoor Living
And these are a few things I would do differently
I would probably do this whole project at a different time of year so that bedding in the new plants would not need so much watering. I am sure you would get more bargains in garden centres later on in the year too. I would also set out with any contractors what my level of attention to detail is like and whether they can meet that level. Also how do you test this before they start?
Things you can do
Whatever your favourite things are, and feel free to be inspired by the good and great Dame Julie Andrews, you too can make your green space work for you, your family, friends and your local wildlife. Why not take a look at the RSPB Giving Nature a Home web pages and Adrian Thomas’ blog for more info. Enjoy the rest of the summer and see what you can do to avoid the crowds and enjoy your own wildlife oasis however small it may be.
In the words of Mr Meatloaf 2, out of three aint bad. In other words, I am so nearly there with completing our wildlife garden that keeps everyone happy. Last weekend I referred back to the Giving Nature a Home guide that I downloaded for free here. Below you can see our progress so far in reaching that Nirvana state...
Step 1: Grow flowering plants
I have a increasing rather than decreasing Flowers Wish List inspired by my recent trip to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen (just 20 minutes outside Norwich – have you seen the posters?).
Step 2: Invest in a tree or shrub
I am in a bit of a dilemma, good ol’ Mike-the-Landscaper was very generous and we now have not one but three trees in our garden, a cherry, apple and pear. I am a bit stuck about what to do with them – maybe a bit of “espaliering” is needed. RHS I need your help!
Step 3: Give your mower a rest
Our lawn was left to relax but now needs some TLC including edging. There is nothing more satisfying that getting a lawn edging spade, drawing out a perfect semi-circle and having some razor sharp edges. We are never going to have that traditional striped British lawn that Mrs M craves but this little bit of mossy, muddy green is still our very own. That is until the Little Chief put his small size 7s on my edges and broke them up. Next step “skip diving” for some old roof tiles to line said lawn.
Step 4: Make dead wood piles
Done (thanks to the guys at RSPB Minsmere) – bring on the stag beetles.
Step 5: Make a pond
Done – bring on the march of the frogs. Just need a bit of extra planning to make it feel like a watery haven. We are already seeing dragonflies buzz overhead like some rumbling Lancaster Bomber flyby.
Step 6: Feed the garden birds
Easy – and find more tips and FAQs here, especially during the winter.
Step 7: Build a wildlife shelter
This is not any old shelter this is a Casa del Murray wildlife shelter.
Step 8: Create nature corridors
So our little garden is now an oasis amongst the asphalt and high rising walls. Not only that but on one side of my garden is a 20 ft drop and the other is solid wall. So I am a little worried that hedgehogs and frogs will have to do some Mission Impossible style climbing to get into our garden. Next step – a friendly hole in the back gate.
Step 9: Be green when you garden
Ongoing - the battle between us and the snails continue – but I have a cunning plan so watch this space...
Step 10: Tell us what you have done
Done – have you enjoyed these blog posts, let me know if you have in the comments section below.
I also have my ever expanding To Do list or let's call it a Wish List – all inspired by late night trawling on the web (you should see my Pinterest boards now) or visits to our beautiful nature reserves.
NEXT TIME: These are a few of my favourite things