You may remember that last month Howard Vaughan introduced us to the garden at our RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve on the London/Essex garden. Here's Howard's latest news: The garden plants are now pretty dormant for the winter and the time for some seasonal tidying is upon us. We've cleared and redug the vegetable beds and planted some broad beans, onions and rhubarb for the spring. We use this produce in the visitor centre cafe - great for the road miles (or lack of) and even better for the visitors. We grow seasonal crops in three raised beds - they are the centrepiece of the garden and show how you can have a productive garden at the same time as it being good for wildlife.
We've got some pretty large flowerbeds, mainly out in front of the visitor centre, which we've planted up in big drifts of Lavender, Verbena, Sedum and Michaelmas daisies. They were great for this year's influx of Painted Lady butterflies, and now we've left the old flower heads as they not only hold plenty of seed that Goldfinches seek out but are home for a myriad of over wintering insects that provide sustenance for Dunnocks, Wrens, Tits and Goldcrests.
There seems to be a good crop of berries this season and our Rosa rugosa hips, which look pretty attractive to us, clearly look just as good to the Greenfinches who know just how to extracting the nutritious seeds from the flesh. We have a supplementary feeding station too, where we hang drying heads of our sunflowers, and here there are Collared Doves aplenty as well as finches, so the garden is now a great place to kick off your birdwatching on a trip to the reserve.
Right: An example of Howard and his team's great 'drift planting', here of Rosemary, Sedum and English Lavender.
And left: Howard planting-up the wildlife pond in the garden, showing how far Howard is willing to go to get his wildlife gardening right! This wasn't in November, I hasten to add.
I'm delighted today to pass you over to Julia Makin to tell us the latest news from RSPB Old Moor's wildlife garden, and news that they've trumped me with their household water gardens:"May I second Adrian’s lack of enthusiasm for going outdoors this week; it is truly biblical weather outside!So when all creative glory has finished in the kitchen, put the kettle on, grab some scrap paper and put your feet up. It’s time to start dreaming of spring.What would you love to see where next year? And how can you make your life easier? Remember, if you’ve created a space you’re unhappy with, you can change it. Even the best gardeners would agree – no one gets its right first time!At Old Moor we’ve planted native bluebell, snowdrop and garlic bulbs and are already imagining clouds of colour under trees and around benches, which will make these features look as though they’ve been there forever. To work around our hectic lifestyles we’ve decided to introduce new, low-maintenance shrubs such as box, bay and hellebores before winter which create structure and provide vital food and shelter for birds. Although we strive for native where possible, we are including (non-invasive) hebes because they’re just so pretty and bumblebees quite like them too.Finally, Adrian’s October 23 blog has given me some ideas for water features. We have both a sink and tin bath pond (ha!) that somehow never got finished (well, we’re only human) (photos below). So I propose a little (friendly) competition for who can get the most/unusual visitors next year. All mini-pond owners welcome to join in. Please send all photos, descriptions and moments here please!"
Click here to see Julia's Old Moor blog, and if you'd like to make a visit to Old Moor, it is well worth it - great food, great Tree Sparrows, great reserve! Have a not-too-wet gardening weekend, and see you in my next blog post on Monday - Adrian :-)
I recently took delivery of some various sized logs to keep me warm this winter. Some are so big; two people can barely lift them. Fired with inspiration from your Forum posts helped me take a critical look at what, from this consignment, I can share with wildlife before I cut and split them. By now I guess you all know, where possible, I like to share my comforts with wildlife and this frequently includes my firewood. This is just one example – I will share some of the others over the coming weeks – if only to inspire those of you using firewood to do the same! I selected two very large butts of ash to transport to the end of the garden to create some standing deadwood in my planed copse area. I just need to accost an unsuspecting neighbour to help me get this one down the end of the garden!! There’s also a whole load of alder poles and straight away I visualised a vertical screen just adjacent to my wood shed. I can create a gentle curve with them where the dark outline is in the picture below and plant some nectar rich plants at their base. The screen will give me extra privacy in summer when lying by my pond watching all the wildlife in and around it.
Some of the other smaller pieces were sufficiently twisted and knarled to lend themselves to placing randomly on my yet to be planted drought garden.
Please excuse my wimpishness, but given the driving wind and lashing
rain I failed to venture into the garden this weekend, bar to clear the
leaves from the pond (the Flowering Cherry is moulting madly) and to
top up the bird feeders.On the subject of bird feeding, I’m
passionate about trying to let the garden provide as much as possible
by growing plants that harbour insects and produce seeds and berries,
but that doesn’t stop me doing a fair bit of supplementary feeding.
Without my seed and peanut feeders, the number of visits that birds
make to my garden would be only a fraction of what they are, despite
all my efforts to actually grow their supper. I liken the feeders to
dangling, magic seedpods – birds must marvel at how they replenish
themselves.The good folk at The Lodge must have sensed that I’d
be a frustrated couped-up bunny this weekend, and so sent me through
some online RSPB links for indoors birdfood activities. If you’ve got to keep the kids or grandkids occupied, you might like to try these family activities: to create a bird feeder, or to make a bird cake
(and no, that’s not a cake with a bird in it, cheeky!). These photos
show children at some of our recent Feed the Birds Day events getting stuck in, making bird cake, making wooden seeds feeders that can be hung on a wall, and making hanging bird feeders out of wire and logs.
If you’re wanting something to do more cordon bleu, here are some recipes bird-friendly celebrity chefs have suggested.
And if you just want some information on the best foods to use, then check out this RSPB guide.
The RSPB is actually just embarking on some new field trials to further our knowledge on what supplmentary foods birds like best. I’m one of their volunteers testing out the products in my garden. Sadly all volunteer places are taken, but I’ll keep you updated on how I get on, as daily I measure consumption rates at my seed feeders and weigh my fatballs!
Here for your Friday delectation I’d like to introduce you to the amazing new garden at our amazing new nature reserve near Middlesborough. I’ve been able to visit it twice during its creation, but best if I hand over to Dave Braithwaite to tell the story cos it's his garden (but they’re my pictures I'll have you know. Adrian ;-) At Saltholme, we wanted to create a garden that offered our visitors quiet contemplation, a wildlife experience in its own right and that demonstrated the natural succession that plant communities go through. If that wasn`t enough, we also wanted a garden that was rather more designerly than what immediately comes to mind when someone tells you they have a "wildlife garden". A garden that offered wildlife opportunities whilst still looking the part in the suburbs; something that had broader appeal to the average gardener. Given these challenges we thought that it would be a good idea to call in an expert: no other than the celebrity gardener Chris Beardshaw. He designed a fabulous garden that is partially walled with planed and vertically installed railway sleepers. Gabions lead to a bleached larch pergola with seating (right) that gives a view back across the garden space.
At the heart of the garden there is a large pond (left), which is the start of an ecological journey through time. For me the greatest inspiration is the small stumpery: dead trees (a by-product of the local forestry industry) planted upside down with their roots pointing skyward. They provide drama and sculptural intrigue. But more than this, the inverted root boles fill up with rainwater, micro habitats that are home to specialist communities of microbes and invertebrates. The garden really works and is a credit to Chris`s design skills. Equally it is credit to the tenacity of the staff who built the garden throughout last winter ... a wet and bleak experience it was too. But the team stuck to the task and we had the beginnings of a fabulous garden in place for the visit by Kate Humble who formally opened the reserve on 6th March. The garden is still embryonic and we are lucky to have a team of volunteers who look after it and will give it the TLC it needs as it grows to maturity. Dave BraithwaiteSaltholme Site Manager
Want to see the garden? Check out how to visit here.