Monday, 5 March 2012

The Conservation Garden

Spring is nearly here, the first daffodils are out and members of the Malvern local group have observed bees and frogspawn in their gardens. What can we do to encourage more wildlife to thrive this year? Rachel Salisbury’s talk on Thursday evening provided many ideas and discussed the environmental issues behind the choices we all make when planning what to plant in our gardens.

A conservation garden doesn't have to be unkempt. While there may be corners left not tidied or a fallen log left where it fell, the plants can be planned and managed in relatively formal designs. A wide range of plants is a good idea. It's best to know and understand your garden; encouraging plants which are naturally at home there, growing drought resistant plants in dry soils and not trying to turn alkaline soil into acid. Containers look attractive but watering them through the summer months may not be ecologically desirable. A pond is always a great wildlife habitat – even a small one will attract frogs, newts, water-loving insects and birds. A bird table and nest boxes will provide food and protection. It is better to manage without pesticides and other chemicals if possible, not least because most sprays are not particular to one type of insect and will kill beneficial ones as well as pests.

Some people are adamant that only “native” species of plants should be grown in our gardens. It is difficult to define precisely what native means and there are some native species one would definitely prefer not to have in the garden, like the creeping buttercup. Celandines, marsh marigolds, primroses, violets and honesty are all very attractive. Single varieties of most species are better for attracting bees and other pollinaters; the doubles are pretty but the bees can’t reach the pollen. There's no need to feel guilty about having some 'exotic' species; the buddleia is a prime example of a non-native plant which attracts more butterflies and moths than almost any other common species.

Gardening should not be a battle but an enjoyable and harmonious process. We are part of the ecology and gardens are for our benefit as well as the plants and wildlife we hope to encourage.

We're looking forward to our next talk - Rob Allen, Reserves officer at the Trust, on Wetlands Creation and Conservation, on March 29th at 7.30 pm.(Chase Sixth Form Annexe, Geraldine Close).  Don't forget you can find out more about us and other groups around the county on the Trust's website

Alison, Malvern local group

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