A great coup for us last week. We were asked to come up with a native planting scheme and supply the plants for a large pond in Yorkshire for next spring’s Channel 4 series of The Landscape Man, presented by Matthew Wilson. Right up our street, but we only had 5 business days to do the whole thing… Undeterred, we parachuted pond consultant Hugh Roberts onto the site on Monday and had his planting scheme in our sticky hands that evening. Not only was he recommending a plant list, but there was also some bio-engineering to do to keep the pond bank from eroding. The owner had been persuaded to use granite sets to line a section of it, which would have to be removed and replaced with preplanted coir rolls. We had all the plants and rolls on site on Thursday to film the planting on Friday. Hugh was then on hand to help Matthew with the planting. Phew! Thanks everyone, especially Lew from Dragonfly Flora and Hugh. The site will not only be absolutely stunning but also a huge boon to wildlife – just the sort of landscaping we’re trying to promote.
This cold dry weather is a nightmare, but I suppose at least it’s given me time to sit down and write a newsletter. I’ve been a very busy boy over the last month, so much to catch up on.
We ran our first course in April, which seems to have been a great success. Tutored by Hugh Roberts of Environments for People we all learnt how to build a wildlife pond, now sitting in front of me. Thanks to Hugh and to our wetland plant supplier Gower Wildflowers. The pond’s already populated by a selection of interesting looking invertebrae, and the swallows are collecting mud from it as I write. All very rewarding. Next off are our meadow days, run by Sue Everett, on the 11th and 12th June.
I flogged up to Sheffield last week to go to an intriguing workshop on Green Roofs and Living Walls, which is an area we’re keen to get more involved with. We already have a relationship with a consultant, and supply generic native seed and plug mixes for green roofs, but hope to do a lot more in future to encourage folk to plant native plants rather than just use the sedum mats they have done in the past. Green Roofs in particular seem to me to be a fantastic and practical way to encourage biodiversity in urban areas – among other advantages!
I also hope we can do more work with seeds, where we are starting to supply end business customers directly. After a successful trial we are supplying the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA Enterprises Ltd.) with two native seed mixes particularly helpful for bees, which I have high hopes for. We’re also supplying Flowerworld with the seed for a 50,000 sachet promotion at Morrisons to promote the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Our other bee related news is that we’re expanding our range of plants and exotic trees for bees as a result of some suggestions from Andy Willis at the BBKA Spring Convention and Norman Carreck at the Laboratory for Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex. They’ll be supplied by R.V.Roger and available from this autumn.
We are seeing the first fruits of our work with designers, sourcing native plants for some very exciting schemes. We’re both promoting those currently working with habitat creation in mind, and encouraging others to think about it more.
As to life here, Kingsley the new ram has been a success and the mad Runner Ducks are laying again, albeit mostly not in their Duck house. My bees are happy too, and I’ve set up a couple of bait hives for them. Mike the gardener’s grand veg plot looks great and our various mini-meadows look promising too – if only it would rain!
I sneaked over the Severn Bridge on St. David’s Day trying to hide my Bath Rugby windscreen sticker, en route to the Gower to visit our native wetland plant supplier. It would have been a great visit even without the amazing weather; this is just the kind of business I’m really chuffed to be working with. Gower Wildflowers is the brainchild of David Holland, who also runs Salix and is one of the tutors for our “making wildlife ponds” course in April. Salix are a pretty serious outfit, who “provide vegetative solutions to water quality, civil engineering and soil erosion issues as well as ecological and landscape enhancement”. They recently bagged a big Olympic contract and their other clients include British Waterways and the Environment Agency. They’re split between the Welsh site and a much bigger nursery in Norfolk which, if the smaller site was anything to go by, must have the largest single concentration of frogs in the country! In Wales they share 3 acres with Gower Wildflowers, which started trading last year. They have a cafe and deli selling strictly local produce like pickled samphire and salt marsh lamb, sitting under an amazing native wildflower roof. There are plants for sale and some really nice demo meadow and pond areas, which among other things have the beautiful but increasingly rare Ragged Robin (lychnis flos-cuculi) in abundance. David has great plans for the site, which will look amazing. I screwed up my podcast recording, so I’ll have to get back there this summer (what a shame!) – in the cricket season.