October 2013 Newsletter

Autumn isn’t just my favourite time of year, but our busiest as well. It’s the perfect time to sow seed and to start thinking about planting in the bare root season, which starts in November. It would be lovely if you bought your wildflower seed / native plants and bulbs through us, but if not do make sure they’re properly “native” – i.e. from UK seed and grown in the UK. Amazingly – in the wake of the Ash tree problem – there still isn’t a requirement for people to tell you where the plants are from that they’re selling. It’s something we and our suppliers are working on with Kew and DEFRA. Like us, many online “nurseries” and garden centres only grow some, if any, stock themselves.

There have been a number of other hot issues about this summer. The badger debate has taken up all the column inches in the conservation world, but I’ve also been following changing attitudes to solar farms with interest. I’ll declare my interest here – we’re working with the trade association to improve requirements for new developments to promote biodiversity. They could actually bring significant benefits to otherwise barren sites.

Purple loosestrifeThe glorious summer has been a wonderful boon to butterflies and bees. It has been a great reminder that our invertebrates are so sensitive to the weather, and how poor that has been in recent years. I took a couple of nucleuses from a friend in mid summer and the bees have been going gang busters. By the end of last summer a swarm I hived was really struggling.

It has been brilliant for us at Hookgate Cottage too, as we complete the landscaping. Over the summer we had Phacelia, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Red Clover as a green manure and more recently the Purple Loosetrife has been fantastic. Here’s a Yellow Brimstone enjoying it. The recent rain has meant germination has been excellent for the meadow and lawn areas. Even the pond is starting to fill up.

freshwater habitatsI had a very jolly time at the launch of the Freshwater Habitats Trust, on a launch on the Thames. They used to be called Pond Conservation, and were one of my favourite charities. They’re a great example of a tiny, specialist charity doing a great job on a shoestring. I’ve been shocked to find out what a state our ditches, ponds and rivers are in, and frustrated that we could be doing so much to put that right. They’ve just had a very successful Radio Four appeal, but I’m sure they’d appreciate it if you could bung the odd £10 in their direction!