Biodiversity has become a bit of a buzz word. But it would be a mistake to think of it as just a trend because behind it, is the serious issue of the decline of garden wildlife including the all important pollinators.
I always like to have a project on the go, so for our first lockdown, that became “wilding” part of my garden. It was too late for me to remove the lawn turf, let the weeds grow out etc (I never ever use weed killer or any chemicals in my garden…..and it shows!) so instead I decided to try plugging it. This just meant growing the wildflowers from seed, letting them grow on a bit and then planting them in here and there in my chosen area. Scattering the seeds wouldn’t work in the lawn, which I cut as low as possible with the mower and then with a strimmer. I planted in some English Lavenders, yellow and red Achilleas, a few Catmint plants, red/purple Anemones plus a few tall field Daisies and Californian poppies purloined from my sisters garden to start off. My expectations were low…. because with not enough prep according to my research, it was possible the grass would regrow quickly and dominate. But…. as the flowers began to bloom, the area started to fill with colour, white Daisies, yellow Cornmarigold, purple/pink Corncockle, red and orange Poppies, pink/purple/blue Cornflowers to name a few, combined with the purples, red and yellows of the plants I had included. Set against the background of some existing planting…especially the orange Montbretia (from W. Kerry!) and red Crocomosia “Lucifer”……it gradually became surprisingly stunning.
Looking out at that total riot of vivid colour every morning, catching it as I drove out and in, or glanced out a window, was simply joyful. The abundance of bees, butterflies, hoverflies, etc to boot made me feel that I had made a difference! I have a good variety of pollinator friendly plants in my garden already…Campanula, Forest Flames, Berberis, Fuschias, Potentillas, Lupins etc but it seemed that the inclusion of a wildflower area led to an explosion of visitors, especially the easily recognizable ones such as bees, bumblebees, butterflies and moths. I now hope to build on it and have even more variety and colour next year!
My most recent project was to plant Spring bulbs to provide early food for pollinators with the bonus of beautiful flowers. My hundreds of Daffs don’t do the food part and I have nowhere near enough of any others. I have some Snowdrops (love them), Crocuses and Muscari , all of which are a good source of winter food for our pollinators. So, though I’ve always wanted to plant a carpet of bulbs…the sheer volume of bulbs needed and time required put me off but I have decided that this would be the year. I ordered over a thousand bulbs…Muscari, Crocuses, Fritillaries and Anemones. To be honest, it was very aspirational but I’ve got most of them planted. I roped in my daughter (for about 10mins!) so that in Spring she can lay a bit of claim to the beauty we have created. It won’t be a carpet though……..more of a medium sized rug!! I look forward to seeing how it turns out….if my cats will just leave it be!
For the second lockdown I drove all around Laois and was blown away by the vivid colours and abundance of flowers along the roadside verges and in the hedges. Anyone driving around the county and, particularly , Portlaoise, can’t fail to be cheered up by the fabulous displays of wildflowers on some of the verges and roundabouts. To be greeted with an explosion of colour still, on a drab October…and now into November day just lifts the spirits. It’s been a talking point and it might inspire people to consider giving over a small patch of their garden to a scattering of native wildflower seeds. Even a few, easy to grow, seeds of one of my favourite flowers, Nasturtiums, would make a difference. I adore the way they spread and grow wherever they want to, the messy wildness of them, creating bright spots everywhere….and they are great for biodiversity. Some people dread them and many people love an ordered, neat garden but it is possible to plant wildflowers in a pot or two. One of my sisters did just this and the result was beautiful. Any area, big or small, be it on land or in a pot, given over to food providing flowers will support our vital pollinators will make a difference.
The Pandemic has been, for the most part nightmarish, but one good thing to come from it is the reduction across the globe in pollution and early indicators are that nature is flourishing in this respite from human activity. Let’s hope this is true and that, that in turn, will have a positive effect on our lives post-Pandemic. In the meantime, I’ll get started on my wildlife garden pond…..!!
Bernie Fingleton, Mountmellick Library.