Newsletter No.14: May 2011

Chelsea is very much in my thoughts at the moment. I’ll be on the Hilliers stand for the first half of the week, where they are featuring our Meadow Anywhere seed mix. We have been growing planters for the exhibit – I say “we”, but I’ve been helped out by Steve Morton, the seed supplier, which has calmed my nerves considerably. Hilliers are handing cheques for £4,000 to Butterfly Conservation and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at the show, which is the donation to them from sales. Now that’s how this should work!

Chelsea is also important to me as it gives me the opportunity to talk to landscapers and designers. If Habitat Aid is to succeed we have to persuade these folk to use native and local plants and to source them from us. We have a growing and enthusiastic group of retail customers who have been brilliant in spreading the word, but unfortunately you only plant an orchard or sow a meadow once!

New Products
In addition to the new products in the pond section we are now also offering wildflower turf – popular among designers as it gives you low hassle instant impact meadow.

Oh yes, and we have confirmed the Perry Pear varieties we are selling, for delivery bare root from autumn. How can you resist a tree called Beetroot Wick Court Alex?

I’m also revamping the “perennials” section on the website, which will end up as more “woody perennials” by the end of the month.

Ponds
Our recent “making wildife ponds” course with Hugh Roberts was a great success, despite the dry weather. It reminded me what a great thing ponds are. We’ve recently expanded our product range in this area to include coir rolls and mats, pre-planted with either well established mixed plants or phragmites (reed). This is a really clever trick. If you use a butyl or plastic liner it can be difficult to create planting spots without using baskets (yuk!). Coir provides a growing medium which will keep the plants in place – plants which are already well developed, so will give you instant impact. The rolls sit nicely along the banks and you can lay the mats on gently sloping sides. Prices very according to delivery, so are available on request.

New Developments
We are chatting with a some high profile potential charity partners, with a view to designing and supplying new products for us to sell through our website, or through retail intermediaries. Watch this space!

Social Media etc.
I’m getting better at social media. We now have over 800 more or less genuine Twitter followers (I tweet as Habitat_Aid), in addition to our Facebook page, and the blog seems to be going well – I’m trying to get into Wikio’s Top 20 Environmental blogs.

According to Alexa the main website is now ranked the 393,031st busiest in the world, by the way. That looks like it might put us somewhere approaching the top 10,000 for UK traffic, whereas a year ago we were more like 20,000th. Like our progress overall I don’t know whether the result is good or bad, but the rate of change looks great!

Ponds to the People

Bentomat Liner
We Paid For This?

Today was the day of our first course – making a large scale wildlife pond. We were a class of 10, with Professor Hugh, from Environments for People, Rob the Plant from Salix Rivers and Wetlands and, of course, Hugh the Slew in charge of the machinery. The dogs thought it was brilliant and we’ve ended up with a state of the art pond, thanks in no small part to the muscle power of the paying punters. Although I was dashing about I learnt a huge amount, and I can’t wait to get involved in some water projects. The quality of our partners in this area means we should be absolutely spanking at it. I’ll post more pictures here and on the photo gallery as the pond fills up so I can get our beautiful plants in and it looks more interesting than a hole in the ground. Whatever Parsley thinks it’s quite an impressive hole in the ground at its deep end, mind you, and its apex will be a really nice boggy area.

Pond digging
Parsley is unimpressed by Hugh the Slew
Lining the Pond
…but we think he\’s great
Deep thought
Roger and Hugh help the Prof. with the overflow
Wildlife Pond
Ready for Rain