Category: Wildlife and Nature


Scylla- '4 weeks late'

Scylla- ‘4 weeks late’ in 2013

‘Everything’s four weeks late’. So said my friends and fellow gardeners Derek and Mary Manning in April last year (we were just emerging from the coldest winter in 50 years). This was when I wrote this last article in the series on gardening and climate change.

You might remember Mary from my first article in the series. She’s the Norfolk gardener who’s been keeping records of when certain plants first flower each year – for over 60 years in fact.

Over that time she’s seen a gradual creeping forward of when some spring flowers do their stuff, so supporting the evidence from elsewhere that the overall climate is warming in the UK and that Spring is starting earlier…. Yes, you did read correctly, spring is starting earlier! That is until 2013, when all the expectations flew out of the window as we had our coldest March for 50 years and, as any UK gardener will tell you, most plants were holding off until the real Spring arrived. The Manning’s evidence in 2013 showed that Scylla (the lovely purply- blue woodland bulb) flowered on the 4th April in 2013, almost exactly a month later than in 2012!

Why do I share this information with you? Well, if you’ve been reading my previous articles in this series you will have gathered that recent events in the UK’s weather (and further afield) seem to be prompting some rethinking of the theories and forecasts of climate change and it’s expected effects.

In my first article, I set out what the forecasts currently are and how these seem to be changing, so that unexpected or abnormal weather events (prolonged periods of unseasonal cold,wet or drought) seem to be increasing in their frequency and impact on gardeners – and everyone else. This could mean that we need to set aside notions of ‘lateness’ in flowers blooming or not, as the age-old certainties of what and when the different seasons happen is changing.

How can we gardeners cope with this increased unpredictability? My second article talked about how we can prepare the garden for this sort of uncertainty – how to create our own, managed ‘micro climate’ if you like. In my last article I talked about how this preparedness needs to be complemented by a watchful, vigilant gardener – I call him/her the ‘Constant Gardener’. A way of gardening which is tuned in to what’s happening in the short to medium term and can take remedial action to further ameliorate or take advantage of the weather we get.

This article is the final piece of the jigsaw, so to speak – what sources of information and intelligence are already open to us and that may possibly develop in the future? In short, how to ensure that as well as being well prepared, watchful and diligent we take advantage of all the information we can to better judge what we do and when in the garden. I want to cover the following topics:

  • Weather forecasting –  can we expect longer range forecasting to improve, to give us the forward view we need of how particular seasons are going to go?

  • Plant hardiness and quality are there any systems for judging and ranking plants to help us?

  • Pests and diseaseswhat early warning systems are there to help us prevent the worst effects of these in our gardens as the seasons roll on?

Warm if not sunny

Weather – can we expect seasonal forecasting to improve?

Back in April 2013 here in Norfolk we were forecast (I nearly said ‘promised’) rain over night on two occasions. This failed to materialise so I had to adjust my plant moving plans a little and the continuing dry weather meant I could get on with other weather dependent tasks in the garden. I have to say, I wasn’t that surprised as here in eastern England the progress of easterly tracking weather fronts can often promise rain, only for this to peter out over the rest of the country before we see any benefit. This day to day uncertainty is to be expected and to be honest I can probably live with it, as the weather forecasts, including their useful ‘severe weather warnings’, are generally reliable enough.

If I were overly anxious or wanting to plan things on almost an hour by hour basis the Met office’s ‘Nowcasts’  use radar to look a few hours ahead. Particularly useful for those harvesting waste water on an agricultural scale as well as extreme weather events involving potentially damaging hail, strong winds and lightning, I could look these up and plan my activities to the minutest degree.  What I really would value though, is a longer term picture of what the next few months or weeks are likely to hold weatherwise. Not surprisingly, it’s this sort of forecasting that proves to be the most challenging as it involves monitoring and then predicting a number of variables and is particularly difficult in the UK because of our position on the globe. As the Met office explains:

‘Our one-day weather forecasts are right six days out of seven, and today’s four-day forecasts are as accurate as one-day forecasts were 30 years ago. While this shows great advances in reliability, we cannot always predict detailed differences in weather at a local level.

This is because the atmosphere is an extremely complicated system, affected by a huge number of factors and with the potential to react in endless different ways. To ensure completely accurate forecasts at all times, we would have to greatly increase the amount of observations we get so they cover every part of the planet, every minute of the day. Even then, a supercomputer far more powerful than anything in existence today would be needed to simultaneously process all this information into forecasts.

We are not there yet, but as we increase the number of observations, the complexity of the models, and the power of our supercomputers, forecasts should get more and more accurate.’

Online Weather services hold awide rnage of information and 'outlooks' for the month and season ahead

Online Weather services hold a wide range of information including ‘outlooks’ for the month and season aheadOf course it doesn’t help matters when the media gets hold of these longer term forecasts and makes simplistic and crude statements like ‘scorching summer predicted’ and so on.

This just discredits the longer term forecasting with all its hedging around with probabilities, if’s and but’s. The Met Office defended it’s work on long-range forecasting following criticism of its forecasts for the Spring and summer of 2012, when exceptionally wet weather hit the UK.

It concluded:‘We are confident that long-range outlooks will improve progressively and that the successes we have achieved in other parts of the world already will, in the future be mirrored in the UK. The Met Office constantly reviews the accuracy of our forecasts across all time scales and is recognised by the World Meteorological Organization as one of the top two national weather forecasting services in the world….Better understanding and representing the drivers of predictability in the global climate system that influence our weather patterns is as ever a priority for Met Office research in order to deliver improved advice and services on all timescales.’

Further comment  came in a reply to my specific questions about longer range forecasting and gardeners. Dave Britton of the Met Office said:

‘The provision of longer-range forecasts is extremely challenging and always will be for the likes of NW Europe and the UK, where only small changes in driving factors can have a big influence on pressure patterns, wind direction and therefore our weather. However the science of longer range forecasting is improving and just as we have seen huge improvements over the last 40 years or so in the provision of 3 to 5 day forecasts, we will see similar advances in long-range forecasting in the future too.’

The position in North America appears to be somewhat more predictable, though even here there have been exceptional weather events in recent years which may point to a more uncertain future. The larger-scale, continental climate here seems to make it easier to predict things like first and last frost days in different parts of the US and Canada, something that the Met Office doesn’t do, mainly because  the weather in the UK is much more variable.

So, apart from hoping that longer range forecasting will improve what other weather data can the UK gardener use to inform his timings and techniques? For fruit and veg growers a critical factor is air and soil temperature for germination and planting. Maybe we need to be even more aware of what’s needed for different types of plant- see the examples of this sort of information below.

Plant hardiness and quality – what systems are there to help us choose plants that perform and are resilient?

Another area of information we gardeners can use to cope with weather relates to plants themselves – their hardiness, resilience to particular extreme conditions and other qualities. In the UK the Royal Horticultural Society has reviewed both its plant hardiness and ‘Award of Garden Merit’ systems. The new plant hardiness system is now temperature based (instead of classifying the UK into four geographical hardiness zones which was the basis of the previous system).

Now plants are being put into seven categories from glasshouse plants (H1) through to plants which are ‘fully hardy’ (H7). The RHS Director of Horticulture, Jim Gardiner says he is conscious that in the UK plants have to contend with other factors than temperature when looking at ‘hardiness’ – the condition of the plant itself, prevailing climatic conditions, growing conditions, position in the garden, age, provenance and so on. We also have temperature swings to contend with (RHS – ‘The Garden’, February 2013). So I guess there is a recognition that this hardiness guide (which is currently limited to the plants in the RHS Award of Garden Merit scheme) has its limitations.

But, as Jim Gardiner says, it is a system which is plant, not place – based (like the US Department of Agriculture Winter Hardiness Zone approach – see the map below). So, it is perhaps more useful for the UK gardener, where our maritime context and variations in temperature and associated growing conditions can be much more localised (as well as increasingly unpredictable) than is the case in such a large continental land mass.

SIMP_All_states_fullzones_300dpi

USA Winter Hardiness Zones

USA Winter Hardiness Zones

The other main plant rating system in the UK – the ‘Award of Garden Merit’ –  is also run by the Royal Horticultural Society, and began in 1922. It received a complete overhaul in 1992 and a ten yearly review cycle resulted in a new list being compiled last year. In addition, following plant trials or round table reviews by plant committees and specialists, new awards are made every year. The ten – yearly reviews ensure that every variety is still available, hasn’t developed disease or pest problems, and hasn’t been superseded by something better. In the 2012 review, for example, the crab apple ‘Comtessa de Paris’ replaced ‘Golden Hornet’, which can suffer scab. In the 2012 review of the nearly 1000 vegetables holding the AGM, 404 were no longer available, so they have been deleted from the list.

The AGM is intended to be of practical value to the home gardener and is awarded only to a plant that meets the following criteria:

  • Excellent for ordinary use in appropriate conditions – a cultivar or selection that outperforms others, perhaps for more flowers, length of flowering, scent, colour, form etc.

  • Available to buy

  • Of good constitution – the plant should be known to be generally healthy

  • Essentially stable in form and colour – it should perform according to its description

  • Reasonably resistant to pests and diseases – it should have no pest and disease issues that would affect growth and performance

Rudbekia laciniata 'Goldkugel'-  in the RHS AGM list and considered to be fully hardy (H7)

Rudbekia laciniata ‘Goldkugel’- in the RHS AGM list and considered to be fully hardy (H7)

Rudbekia laciniata ‘Goldkugel’- in the RHS AGM list and considered to be fully hardy (H7)

Just because a plant has an AGM, does not mean it will do well when poorly looked after. A large number of plants hold AGMs at any one time. The current list (which includes the plant hardiness rating) contains over 6000 ‘ornamentals’ and 1000 ‘fruit and vegetable’ varieties and is used in plant gazeteers such as the RHS ‘Plant Finder’ which lists where plants, including AGM holders, can be purchased. A similar system operates in the US, the ‘All American Selection’ (AAS), which is slightly younger and somewhat different to the AGM. The judges and the trial grounds vary from year to year and four categories are judged: Flower, Bedding Plant, Vegetable, Cool Season Bedding Plant, and only never-before-sold varieties are tested.

So, the new and updated systems of plant hardiness and quality look like being useful sources of information for gardeners considering which new plants (or maybe replacements) to grow in their particular location and with an eye on future weather extremes. And it is no accident that some experts are starting to identify plants that can withstand particular climatic extremes, like flooding.

Potato blight- early warnings of its spread for 8 years in the UK

Potato blight- there have been early warnings of its spread for 8 years in the UK

Pests and diseases – can we get early warning of possible problems?

Finally, it is clear that some (if not many) pests and diseases can flourish in different weather conditions. Is it possible to predict how different pests or diseases might affect your garden so that you can take the necessary preventative action? In the UK there are some useful ‘early warning systems’ especially for food growers. For example there is a system for potato blight, which is prone to develop in damp, warm conditions.  The Potato Council has offered a blight incident reporting service for 8 years. This information is collected on a voluntary basis by 300 ‘blight scouts’ drawn from members of the potato industry who are routinely walking potato fields during the season. You can sign up to be alerted about blight with the Potato Council.

You can  sign up for early warnings of the spread of aphids

You can sign up for early warnings of the spread of aphids

You can sign up for early warnings of the spread of aphids

The UK Horticulture Development Company Pest Bulletin provides early warnings of potentially damaging pest attacks and valuable advice for planning this season’s planting of fruit and veg. Providing information throughout the key periods of pest activity, the HDC Pest Bulletins are updated on a regular basis, especially when particular insects are developing rapidly.The HDC also produces a Pest blog.

The UK  Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) also produces a weekly regional ‘aphid alert’ which you can sign up to. All these systems have their value, but I’m not aware of any system that draws them together for gardeners on a regular, regional basis. Perhaps this is something the RHS might coordinate, incorporating the latest weather forecasts and advice about particular issues affecting different plants?

To sum up, there are already a number of sources of information and intelligence available to the gardener that can help ensure a successful garden. Some of these – e.g. longer term weather forecasting and pest and disease warnings  – would clearly benefit from further investment and coordination. These can  be put alongside measures to prepare your garden for unpredictable weather and adopting an approach to gardening which is ‘watchful and diligent’- the constant gardener. It will also be interesting to see the results of the RHS- University of Reading survey of gardeners and climate change models when it is published- hopefully sometime in April 2014.

Together they give me optimism that the gardener of the future will be well equipped to cope with climate change. And we mustn’t forget the importance of adopting sustainable gardening practices as well as a positive move to reduce the ongoing impact we have on global warming and its fuelling of further climate change.

rain measuring boots

One way of monitoring water levels?!

One way of monitoring water levels?!

If you have any comments on these ideas or have some of your own, I’d love to hear from you!

Previous articles in this series:

Four Seasons in One Day (3): Climate Change and the Constant Gardener

Four Seasons in One Day (2): Preparing the garden for climate change

Four Seasons in One Day (1): Climate change and the garden

Further information:

Top pest and disease threats in Britain

RHS Science Strategy

Dig for Victory- how your garden can help beat climate change

Watering advice

Wikipedia- Tiwanaku

Sir John Beddington’s warnings on climate change

Britain like Madeira?

My Climate Change Garden

UK Meteorological Office – impacts of climate change on horticulture

Royal Horticultural Society – gardening in a changing climate

‘Gardening in the Global Greenhouse ‘ – summary

RSPB- guide to sustainable drainage systems (download)

RHS guide to front gardens and parking

Old School Gardener

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drought

How about a brief relook at gardening and climate change?

I originally published a series of four articles about gardening and climate change in 2013 and reposted them in 2015. Reports of a strong ‘El Nino’ effect forecast for the past few years coupled with man-made global warming seem to have resulted in more dramatic weather events, albeit the results in the UK might be a little gentler than typhoons and droughts..the latest horrific wild fires in Australia, flooding in several places and the continuation of polar ice melt AND the heightened profile of climate change through Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and young people’s protests around the world, suggest that a republishing of these four articles might be timely…

In this first of a series of posts about gardening and climate change, I explore just what the experts are predicting for the UK and what this might mean for our current gardens and gardening techniques.

I think it was Nietzsche who said that madness comes not from uncertainty but certainty. But for the gardeners of Britain, pulling their hair out in the face of ‘the wrong weather at the wrong time’, climate change and the unpredictable weather it is bringing us can frustrate even the most seasoned horticulturist, though perhaps stopping short of madness! It poses significant challenges to gardening customs  and practices, which have in the past been based on the predictable passage of the seasons within fairly certain timings and within, by and large, expected bounds of temperature, wetness, wind and frost (though in the maritime setting of the UK these can all vary considerably from area to area). So maybe we need to look upon these greater levels of uncertainty as a challenge and one which will actually be mentally stimulating!

The underlying changes have already begun to unfold in the UK (and elsewhere):

  • A gradual, overall rise in average temperatures

  • Increased frequency of extreme weather events like rain and flooding, frost and snow, wind or drought

drowned cars aus

A few years ago a seminal article on the impact of climate change on gardening in  the UK (‘Gardening in the Global Greenhouse’ by Richard Bisgrove and Paul Hadley of the University of Reading) pointed up these trends and started the debate about what they will mean for Britain’s gardens. The main conclusions were:

  • reduced frosts

  • an earlier spring

  • higher average temperatures all year round

  • increased winter rainfall, leading to increased risk of flooding 

  • hotter, drier summers, leading to an increased risk of drought.

FloodedGardenMayCredAdrianBloom_L

They pointed to how these trends were likely to make looking after large areas of lawn and grass increasingly difficult and costly, and how some traditional garden features may have to be replaced by new ones, more suited to changing conditions (e.g. loss of some ‘cottage garden’ favourite plants). Arguably there is even a greater challenge for heritage gardens, which have traditionally featured large lawns, herbaceous perennials and specific planting combinations and effects which were developed in climatic conditions that will gradually disappear.

It also seems that there’s something of a north – south split in the UK, with the south becoming warmer and drier and the north subject to wetter weather, in the winter especially, though recent storms and flooding in the south west and southern Britain might seem to run ounter to this trend.

On the plus side, botanic gardens have had to be intensively managed in order to grow the widest possible range of plants in ‘living collections’ and these highly managed environments may provide scope for growing an increased range of plants, as increased temperatures and the other key trends take effect. Botanic gardens are also in a key position to promote and spread knowledge on climate change and its effects.

In gardens more generally, plants are also grown in very favourable conditions:

  • propagated in controlled conditions

  • planted into carefully prepared ground

  • protected from pests and diseases and competing plants

This should give us some optimism that the techniques and conditions for responding to climate change are already well developed and gives the garden an advantage over nature.

frosted plant

Though rather slow and insidious, it is already possible to detect some of these trends. The Central England Temperature Record shows that between 1750 and 1900 (150 years) the average temperature in Central England increased by 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.7 degree celsius). During the 20th century this trend advanced faster so that the average temperature rose by a further 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit with two thirds of this increase happening since the 1970’s.

This record also shows how 5 of the 6 warmest years since records began in 1659 occurred in the ten years 1989-99. The prevalence of frosts has also declined: an average of 55 frosty days in the 1880’s has reduced to about 35 days by the 1980’s. And closer to home, here in Norfolk, a local gardener has kept records of when certain plants started flowering in her garden from the 1960’s to the 2000’s. Mary Manning’s records show the advancing of Spring: Winter Aconites began flowering in mid January in the 1960’s and by 2000 this had moved to mid December. The same is true of Hazel, which first flowered around the beginning of February in the 1960’s and has likewise moved to before Christmas in forty years.

Global CO2 levels seem to be rising by about 1% per annum, though predictions of the future rate and impact of this inevitably vary according to assumptions about economic growth, reductions in carbon emissions and other factors. But although these underlying trends seem increasingly accepted, we also seem to be getting freak frosts, floods or droughts of varying length and intensity – almost at any time of the year, making the normal weather patterns of the seasons less and less ‘normal’.

Looking at the underlying trends, the impact of climate change on our gardens will most likely be determined by factors such as plant hardiness and tolerance of excessive wet, or drought conditions (see the chart for one forecast of reductions in water availability across the globe). This poses a challenge to the gardener’s ability to drain land or supply water as needed.

the-contribution-of-climate-change-to-declining-water-availability

The British Meteorological Office points up some of the other potential impacts:

  • ‘Increased carbon dioxide levels will increase rates of plant growth and perhaps development (bud burst, flowering and leaf fall)

  • Changes in temperatures are expected to bring an earlier onset of growth in spring and a longer growing season

  • Mild winters may reduce the yield of fruit trees, because colder temperatures are needed to break the buds

  • Increased temperatures will aid the growth of more plants from warmer parts of the world

  • Higher temperatures and decreased summer rainfall will cause stress, especially in plants with extensive, shallow, fibrous root systems

  • Annual moisture content of soils is likely to decrease by 10-20% across the UK by the 2080s, with substantial reductions (of 20-50%) in soil moisture possible in the summer by the 2080s

  • Fungal diseases will thrive with the wet winter conditions.’

Old School Garden in the snow

So, as gardeners we have to cope with both the longer term trends (which arguably will not be very noticeable in the short term) and, perhaps more importantly, increased frequency of unpredictable, extreme weather events of uncertain length and impact. This ‘seasonal uncertainty’ is perhaps our greatest challenge as well as trying to use gardening practices which help to reduce CO2 emissions and are broadly sustainable.

Over the last four decades, extreme weather events have severely damaged many gardens and resulted in major economic losses. These events include:

  • Severe winter weather in 1962/63 that killed many hardy plants

  • Drought in 1976, which weakened trees and dried out lakes

  • Storms in 1987 and 1990 that felled millions of trees

  • Torrential and prolonged rain leading to soil erosion, flooding and drowning of plant roots in 2000, 2001, 2007, 2012 and now 2014

As Monty Don says,’The number one rule remains the same: do not fight nature’ (Gardener’s World Magazine, January 2013). He goes on to observe how ‘the past couple of years have been noticeable for the wrong weather most of the time’. We do not yet know if a new weather pattern (which is another way of saying climate or ‘average weather’) will establish itself , or whether we are in for ever more uncertainty. Or perhaps that’s just it – ‘the one certainty is that the weather will be more uncertain’ and we need to adapt our gardening techniques and habits to cope. As Monty says,

‘Expect the unexpected and be flexible’

So, lets look upon these new circumstances as a challenge to our gardening skills and respond to nature’s call. In my next post on climate change I’ll be looking at the advance measures we can take to better prepare our gardens for the unpredictable and longer term impact of climate change. If you have any direct experiences of climate change or any other comments I’d love to hear from you.

Further information:

Britain like Madeira?

My Climate Change Garden

UK Meteorological Office – impacts of climate change on horticulture

Royal Horticultural Society – gardening in a changing climate

‘Gardening in the Global Greenhouse ‘ – summary

Old School Gardener

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Trees and shrubs are important for all forms of native wildlife, including birds, mammals and insects. They will add another dimension to your organic growing area – providing leaves and fruits as a rich larder; habitat for nesting; shade and shelter, plus height for safety. A mature oak tree will support over 280 different insects. See Beneficial Insects..

Where possible, the organic grower plants trees or hedges, along with flowers, shrubs and water, to provide a valuable and diverse ecosystem.

Many of our native creatures are also predators of garden pests. Did you know that a ground beetle eats slugs? And a family of blue tits can eat 100,000 aphids a year? Natural pest control is an essential aspect of organic gardening.

Trees don’t have to be huge. The following list provides ideas for trees for small and large gardens. Some can be grown as a hedge. Hedges supply housing for over 30 species of British birds. A mixed hedge will also provide a variety of nectar producing plants, supporting bees and other pollinators.

Key

N = native

O = non-native

D = deciduous

E = evergreen

Extreme conditions tolerated: W = wet, Dr = dry

Specific soil type: Cl = clay, C= chalk

Common alder, Alnus glutinosa. Full height 22m (70 ft), suitable for hedge.
Can provide a home and food to at least 90 insect species. Small woody cone-like fruit is important food for birds such as goldfinch, siskin and redpoll
N, D, W, Cl

Ash, Fraxinus excelsior. Eventual height 40m (130 ft)
Flowers provide nectar for insects, the seeds or ‘keys’ are food for birds and small mammals. Over 41 associated insect species.
N, D, C

Quaking Aspen, Populus tremula. Eventual height 20m (65ft)
Aspen colonises new ground and is quick to grow. The leaves move in a magical way, immortalized in the poem ‘Lady of Shallot’- ‘willows whiten, aspens quiver, little breezes dusk and shiver’. Over 90 associated insect species.
N, D

Nuthatch feeding in tree

Beech, Fagus sylvaticus. Eventual height 36m (120 ft), suitable for hedge.
Richly coloured autumn leaves and beech nuts, or ‘masts’, provide food for many birds such as tits, chaffinches, nuthatches, as well as squirrels and mice throughout the winter. Over 64 associated insect species.
N, D, C

Wild Cherry,Prunus avium. Eventual height 9-12m (30-40 ft)
Bright red fruit are popular for birds and mammals in early summer. Scented white flowers are attractive to bees and flies in the spring.
N, D

Bird Cherry, Prunus padus. Eventual height 6-9m, (20-30ft)
Beautiful white to pale pink blossom fill the air with almond fragrance in the spring. Attractive to bees and flies. Bitter black/red fruit, are eaten by birds. Common along streams and watery areas in North of England and Scotland.
N, D, W

Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster frigidus. Eventual height 9m (30ft), suitable for hedge.
Sweet scented flowers are borne early summer, popular with many insects, followed by a mass of scarlet berries in the autumn. These are much loved by birds including the waxwing and pheasant. C.horizontalis is very popular with bees in the spring.
O, D

Crabapple, Malus sylvestris. Eventual height 9m (30ft)
Pretty pink or white flowers in the spring, followed by small bitter fruit in the autumn. Many mammals such as foxes and badgers, as well as birds, enjoy the fruit. Over 90 associated insect species.
N, D

Buckthorn, Rhamnus Eventual height 5m (16ft), suitable for hedge.
The small yellow flowers of the Purging Buckthorn in spring provide food for the brimstone butterfly, whose caterpillars also feed on the leaves. Black berries in the autumn are borne on the female plant and are enjoyed by birds and small mammals.
N, D,C

Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna. Eventual height: 8m (26ft), suitable for hedge.
A small tree or shrub. Heavily scented white flowers in early spring are much loved by bees and other insects.The bright red berries, called ‘haws’ are a favourite food in winter for many birds including fieldfares and redwings. Leaves are food for the brimstone moth and oak eggar moth. As a hedge, it is a fast growing and sturdy plant, and can be ‘laid’. 149 associated insect species. The midland hawthorn, Crataegus oxycanthoides, is more tolerant of shade and heavy clay soil.
N, D

Hazel,Corylus avellana. Eventual height 6m (20ft ), suitable for hedge.
Classed as a tree or shrub, regular coppicing will keep the tree quite short. Nuts and leaves provide a great deal of food for birds and mammals, including the now rare dormouse.
N, D, W, C

Holly, Ilex aquifolium. Eventual height 20m (65ft), suitable for hedge. The small, pale green scented flowers attract butterflies, bees and other insects, in late spring/early summer. Long-lasting red berries are important winter food for many birds including the thrush and small mammals. Spiny, glossy leaves are eaten by caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly. It is important to have both a female and a male tree for the development of berries.
N, E

Hornbeam,Carpinus betulus. Eventual height 24m (80ft) , suitable for hedge.
Dead leaves remain overwinter when grown as a hedge, rather than leaving a bare framework. Seeds are important food source for squirrels and birds.
N, D

Small-leaved Lime,Tilia cordata. Eventual height 22m (70ft), suitable for hedge.
This can be grown as a hedge, with sweet smelling flowers that are highly attractive to bees early summer. Host to 31 insect species. Commonly found in limestone regions in England and Wales.
N, D

English Oak, Quercus robur. Eventual height 35m (115ft ) , suitable for hedge.
Can provide home for more than 284 species of associated insects. Although lofty at full height, this tree can be pollarded, or coppiced, and can also be ‘laid’ to make a hedge. Long lived.
N, D

Rowan,Sorbus aucuparia. Eventual height 12m (40 ft)
Sweet smelling flowers in the spring attract many insects. Orange berries in the autumn are an important food source for many birds and small mammals such as hedgehogs. Over 28 associated insect species. Can survive in exposed situations.
N, D, W

Silver birch, Betula pendula. Eventual height 15m (50 ft)
A beautiful tree, with silvery-white bark. Suitable for small gardens. Older trees play host to bracket fungi and birds such as woodpeckers. Supports 229 associated insect species. Seeds popular with over-wintering birds and small mammals.
N, D

White willow, Salix alba. Eventual height 18m (60 ft), suitable for hedge.
Flourishes beside water; useful in reducing soil erosion. Over 200 associated insect species.
N, D, W

Source: Garden Organic

Angel Oak, Johns Island SC- said to be 500 years old

Angel Oak, Johns Island SC- said to be 500 years old

Ingra Tor, Dartmoor...a favourite place

Ingra Tor, Dartmoor…a favourite place, visited recently

imagesOn Saturday a group of about a dozen volunteers set about transforming the space around my local church, St. Peter’s Church, Haveringland; from a wildlife friendly, but rather dishevelled churchyard into the first stage of creating a more ‘managed’ space.

The newly established ‘Friends of Haveringland Parish Church’ arranged the event following a visit from Norfolk Wildlife Trust who gave us some very helpful advice, and my own efforts at producing a Management Plan for the churchyard. The overall aims of this are to achieve a space which is a balance of:

  1. Accessibility to recent graves

  2. A place for reflection and calm

  3. Wildlife friendly

  4. Prevents deterioration of the church building and grounds

  5. Low maintenance

  6. Easy accessibility to the Church (and some surrounds to church?) for wheelchair users

The overall layout features:

  • Blocks of ‘meadow’ (major perennial weeds dug out, strimmed annually and raked off) surrounded by regularly close mown paths.

  • Areas of regularly close mown grass around recent graves and close to the Church; possibly including seating and ‘photo opportunity’ spaces.

  • Perimeter trees (firs) pruned from ground to above churchyard wall height, and an entrance avenue maintained to it’s established crown height.

  • Other major deciduous trees pruned to raise crowns; elders and hawthorns removed.

  • Regular removal of invasive ivy, grass and weeds on perimeter walls and next to church walls (drainage trench).

A few days before the event, this is what the place looked like.

Our first ‘Groundforce Day’ focused on strimming and mowing the rough grass and then raking the cuttings off to avoid fertilising the soil (so as to encourage wildflowers to thrive and spread), removing thistles, Ragwort and sapling trees from poor locations and trimming back trees along the front wall of the churchyard to open up the churchyard to the outside and to improve views out to the surrounding fields. One of our team also made a start on weeding the pebble drainage trench surrounding the church walls- a painstaking job. Here’s a layout plan that will guide our work.

st. peters planWe made good progress until ‘rain stopped play’ around 3pm, by which time the strimming was done, most of the cuttings had been raked away, some of the ‘weed thugs’ removed and the front row of trees trimmed to provide great views in and out of the churchyard. We also planted our sign showing we are members of the Churchyard Conservation Scheme run by Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Norwich Diocese…

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HUGE thanks to Deborah (refreshments), Gisela, Andre (and for the cakes too), Andrew, Brian, David, Fred, Les, Neil, Norman, and Richard (and Nancy for the delicious lemon drizzle cake).

…and also thanks to Peter Richardson and Dick Rowse for the loan of two special strimmers!

Here’s to Haveringland Groundforce Day #2 (date to be confirmed, but probably mid October- watch this website)! We will finish off the weeding round the church walls and tackle the ivy on the churchyard walls.

For now, the Church looks ready for the special Harvest Festival event this Sunday, 11th September when a vintage tractor run, the Aylsham Band, children’s activities, standing steam engines, refreshments (and toilet facilities), and an informal Harvest Service (hopefully outside) will be on offer- please come and visit us from 2.30-pm to 5pm (St. Peter’s is set in fields just off of the Haveringland Road, between Cawston and Felthorpe).

Old School Gardener

One hundred water voles will be reintroduced into the National Trust’s Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales this weekend, in what is believed to be the highest upland water vole reintroduction project (by altitude) ever carried out in Britain. This will be the first time the endangered mammals have been seen at Malham Tarn – England’s […]

via Endangered water voles return to Yorkshire’s Malham Tarn after fifty year absence — National Trust Press Office

My wife and I had Sunday lunch at a pub (‘The Trout and Tipple’) in Tavistock, Devon a couple of months ago. It was hot and sunny, so we decided to sit outside in a secluded courtyard…with its own magnificent Gunnera plant providing us with some welcome shade.I was amazed by the close up of the leaf structure, which resembles an aerial shot of an urban landscape…

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Old School Gardener

WP_20160515_15_01_07_ProOur second full day in Glasgow. Having taken the short train trip in from East Kilbride, we set off once more on the tourist bus and stopped off to see the Transport exhibits at the Riverside Museum..

From here we bussed and walked to the Botanical Gardens, where there were some very interesting, exotic displays in various glasshouses and plenty of very pleasant outside areas where people were soaking up the spring sunshine in their lunch breaks…

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A short walk to the Kelvingrove Museum and Park where we explored some of the superb art and artefacts on display and then went onto see Mackintosh’s School of Art- which you probably know is undergoing significant rebuilding after the fire which severely damaged some of the best known areas, such as the library….

Sauchiehall Street called …. and we took advantage of the Willow Tea Rooms  (another Mackintosh gem) for a classic afternoon tea…

The day ended with a walk through the town centre, catching the bus once more (having had a quick look around City Hall) exploring the ‘People’s Park’ alongside the river followed by a look around a Mackintosh museum and a quick beer in the famous ‘Horse Shoe’ Bar…

Back to East Kilbride for an evening meal and then home the next day.We scraped the surface of Glasgow in two days, and shall certainly return for another look at this very lively, friendly and engaging place.

 

Further information: www.peoplemakeglasgow.com

Old School Gardener

WP_20160515_13_25_28_ProHaving completed our journey from Skye to East Kilbride, just south of Glasgow, we spent a wonderful couple of days exploring ‘the second city of empire’. We’d never been before…we were wondering what it would be like, given it had a rather ‘mixed’ reputation in former days.

We needn’t have worried. Yes, this is a working city and there are parts which aren’t that pretty. But the efforts to regenerate the centre and its surrounds seem to have paid off. We were impressed at the range and quality of the architecture and cultural offerings here…and the friendliness of the people.

Today’s post sets out some pictures from our first full day’s visit, when we took the tourist bus and initially stopped off to visit the Cathedral…

From here it was short walk to the Necropolis set out above the city, it is a wonderful space celebrating the lives of Glasgow’s worthies…and glorious on a sunny day with lovely cloud formations. We stopped off to chat to a group of RSPB volunteers busy stripping turf in order to create more wildlife (bird) friendly spaces amidst the tombstones….

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And from here we discovered a super museum in one of the oldest merchant houses (‘Provand’s Lordship’) in the city and with its own, rather special tudor-style garden with knots of Box and interesting beds iof medicinal and other herbs…

Our second day featured a trip to the Botanical Gardens, Museums the Mackintosh-designed School of Art and afternoon tea at another  Rennie Mackintosh project….more of that in a couple of days..

Further information: www.peoplemakeglasgow.com

Old School Gardener

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