Thursday 17 May 2007

Why Bother?

Whenever I am asked the reason why I have spent so much time and energy in creating a garden for wildlife, I have no hesitation in explaining why the matter is so close to my heart and what has motivated me. I have been interested in natural history from a very young age and have been a member of the RSPB and the WWF for 40 years now. Our boys were members of the Young Ornithologists Club, which became RSPB Wildlife Explorers

I’m sure we are all aware that due to an ever-increasing population, more and more hectares of land are being used to build houses, resulting in loss of habitat for wildlife. Therefore, what we do with our own individual garden is of vital importance, both to us and to the environment, for I firmly believe we are the stewards of the earth.

This, in effect, is the raison d’etre for the creation of our garden at Barleycorn. We wanted to make a difference, to provide homes for some of the wildlife in the area around where we live, through the creation of ponds, the planting of deciduous trees and in the provision of nectar borders.
Over the sixteen years we have been here, we have witnessed several farm ponds being drained, hedges being ripped out to allow the crops to be sown right up to the edges of the fields, healthy trees being excavated and large tracts of the countryside being given over to plantations of evergreens, with only a few deciduous trees planted at the roadside as a token gesture to wildlife.
To help counteract these losses, the wonderful thing is that we can all make a difference through our own little patch, whether it consists of a single window-box, or is not much more than the size of a postage stamp, or is of some considerable size, or is somewhere in between. It is widely accepted that having gardens in which to grow flowers and plants connects us with nature and the earth. They awaken our senses and feed our souls, as well as creating little havens for wildlife. There is no better legacy to leave to our children and grandchildren, and we will have made our mark and left the world a better place.
I live for those who love me,
Whose hearts are kind and true,
For the heaven that lies above me,
And awaits my spirit too,
For all human ties that bind me,
For the task that God assigned me,
For the loved ones left behind me,
And the good that I can do.

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Cheerful Summer Bedding.

Even though we have a sizeable cottage garden with a large variety of wild and cultivated flowers, having a few pots and containers planted up with colourful Summer bedding can help to brighten up and enrich a dull area.

Alternatively, these containers can be transported to an area of the garden where the plants have finished blooming, or be arranged in a little group in a corner of the patio, thereby helping to soften the hard look of the concrete.
For nearly forty years, I have always managed to bring on trays of seeds without ever feeling the need for a greenhouse, though I do make use of a glass-covered coldframe to harden-off the plants.
Three years ago, however, my husband bought me a mini greenhouse with two shelves and a zip-on plastic cover. That year I thought I’d make use of the mini greenhouse to grow biennials and perennials, since I was used to my own method of bringing on the annual seeds.
The inevitable happened. I filled the two shelves with six trays of foxglove and delphinium seeds, which culminated in about 300 pots having to be hardened-off, though I did have great fun sharing them out with family and friends.

Friday 11 May 2007

'Bluebells, cockle shells, eevy ivy over...'

On Sundays after church, my Dad and I enjoyed going for walks in the countryside. One very memorable walk happened each year in the month of May. After two miles or so, we eventually came to a single-track road, which meandered down through a secluded part of the countryside into a valley, quite hidden from prying eyes.

About halfway down, just as we turned a bend in the road, there suddenly came into view a carpet of fragrant bluebells growing under a canopy of silver birch trees. As an eight-year-old, standing on that steep incline, looking up at those bluebells, I felt intoxicated, as if I had stepped straight into an illustration in one of my magical fairy books.
So strong was the impact of that memory, that, as an adult, I had no trouble persuading, first my husband, and then, our children, to go on little pilgrimages to see the floor of the wood covered in bluebells. Just as happened all those years before, the fragrance of the bluebells would greet us before we had actually caught a glimpse of the flowers.
No surprise, therefore, when given the opportunity of creating a garden here at Barleycorn, that I wanted to recapture that memory by paying homage to the bluebells, in a little bed entirely devoted to them. And keeping them company? Why, a canopy of silver birch trees, of course.
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went,
And cannot come again.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

'Daisy, daisy...'

On sunny days in Summer when I was a little girl, I spent many happy hours sitting on the grass making daisy chains with my friends.
I liked the bright yellow centres, sometimes tinged with green, and the rosette of dainty snow- white petals, tinged red at the tips when closed.

It was my dad who told me the story of how the daisy got its name, so-called because it is the ‘day’s eye’, as it opens with the light and closes again when the day is done. Perhaps that is where we get the expression, ‘as fresh as a daisy’, to describe the feeling after a good night’s sleep.
Daisies are among our most common wild flowers. We walk all over them, crushing them with our feet, and snip their heads off when cutting the grass, yet still they bounce back again. Perhaps, because they are so ordinary, they are seldom appreciated.
In the language of flowers, the daisy is said to represent innocence and, when closed, it is the emblem of purity.
Here at Barleycorn, having no grass because of my hay-fever, our elder son sowed a packet of ox-eye daisy seeds. Sixteen years later, they grow in profusion under the trees and around the ponds, making nectar borders for bees and butterflies.

Luther Burbank said, ‘Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.’ I feel that sentiment applies to all flowers, and, none more so, than the humble daisy.