In his small patch of south London, DAVID MORGAN has been doing his bit in the battle to reduce the impact of climate change, and here he offers suggestions about how you can help, too
“Every plant counts and too many places where plants might flourish and flower have been lost.”
That sentence uttered by one of the Royal Horticultural Society team at Wisley stuck in my mind. I have only got a small garden, but in the last few years I have tried to make sure that I made every plant count.
I now have a front garden packed full of bee-friendly plants. Currently the Love in the Mist flowers, blue and inviting, are attracting large numbers of bees and other pollinating insects.
As more people are becoming aware of climate issues and the importance of nature, I wondered if there was anything I might do to increase the number and type of plants we grow at home. Pots and troughs were my solution. Different varieties of compost, positions in sun and shade have allowed me to create new mini habitats.
With more walking done during the covid lockdown, I realised that nature finds all sorts of cracks and crevices where seeds germinate and grow. Cracks in the pavement, gaps in walls and soil by a roadside drain are all homes to plants.
And if the plants flower, then they will attract insects to pollinate them. I ought to have been more aware of when nature takes a lead.
Looking again at where I live, I realised that there was potential to grow something in the small space at the back of the garage and maybe even at the side of the alleyway too.
Dandelions and other weeds grew there. I remember as a child picking the seed heads of dandelions and blowing them. The number of breaths it took to disperse all the seeds told you the time by the Dandelion Clock. Six successful puffs and it was six o’clock, wasn’t it?
Discovering how important dandelions are to the bee population, I let them grow and just threw on a handful of wildflower seeds to see what might happen. It has taken three years for a very small growing area to become a colourful oasis.
Many people took on the “No-mow May” initiative when they didn’t cut their lawns. This gave the wildflowers rooted in that area a chance to grow and thrive. “Laziness,” some people shout, “keep your lawns trimmed neatly at all times.” But have you seen what’s flowering since you stopped cutting the grass? I don’t have a lawn but I would be on the low mow side of the argument, and not just in May.
Visit some of the local parks and nature reserves where grass-cutting has been delayed and you’ll see the extraordinary purplish hues of the different grasses and vetches appearing. They are at their best now in mid-summer. Wild orchids and other exotic-looking flowers can often be found on the local chalky downland, such as at the butterfly sanctuary at Hutchinson’s Bank near New Addington, or at Roundshaw Downs, off the Purley Way.
In our gardens, weeding is one of the less-popular jobs. So why not avoid doing it? Just leave a small patch wild to see what happens. I have done this with a small area and last summer there were suddenly common grasshoppers jumping about. Where they came from I don’t know, but I hope I might see them again this summer.
I have put up insect and bee “hotels” on the sunniest fences and walls. Nothing used them for two years, but now they have leaf-cutter bees in residence. They used pink petals from the garden roses last summer to seal the tubes containing eggs.
The Whitgift Foundation is offering lots of advice about bee hotels, and many other green issues on their website.
A neighbour of mine has planted on top of his shed, creating a little roof garden of succulent plants and grasses that need very little looking after. Another friend has got space for window boxes on her windowsill. Even if you think that what you do won’t make much difference, then encourage others near you to plant something.
Houses with paved fronts for parking can usually position a couple of pots in them. If the neighbouring plot did the same, then you have doubled the number of growing spaces instantly.
In Merton, the council is running a Greener Street initiative this summer, involving schools, businesses and residential areas. Some people are adopting the space around a pavement tree and growing plants there. Wherever the planting space chosen, put in plants that are good for pollinators and wildlife, like sweet woodruff, bugleweed or lady’s mantle. If you try wildflower seed then they prefer soil that isn’t enriched.
Greener streets help our well-being and filter out pollution. Give it a go.
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