Tag Archive: water


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A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

A pond is a fantastic resource for wildlife

Most gardens play an important part in promoting biodiversity and maintaining ecosystems – vital if we are to have a sustainable planet. You might want to further enhance your garden’s ecological value, or perhaps promote wildlife to help pollinate plants (important if you want to gather your own seed and/or are growing your own food) and to help control unwanted pests.

Promoting wildlife is also a way or enriching the garden experience – just think about birdsong, the buzzing and gentle flitting of bees from flower to flower, the colourful displays of butterflies and the fascinating movements of the myriad insects and other ‘critters’ out there! So how can you ‘design’ wildlife into your garden and gardening activities?

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

Plant nectar- rich flowers to attract pollinators

First it’s important to recognise that you and your friends and family are also going to use the garden, so there’s no need to ‘go completely wild’ and make it unpleasant or difficult for humans to use the garden. In fact the best designed and managed gardens (and often the most beautiful) can also be the best for wildlife. These are the places where nature has not been allowed to take over.

You can ‘tip the balance in favour of wildlife’ in a number of ways. If you have a large garden you can adopt a ‘conservation’ approach and set out separate areas to attract and support different types of wildlife. If your garden is smaller, you can provide a range of features for the wildlife species you want to encourage. This approach is especially important if you want to actively harness nature to control pests.

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

Bird feeders need to be out of the reach of cats!

So what can you do?

  • Create habitats that mimic those in nature and complement the local range outside the garden

  • Provide natural shelter, nesting, food and drink –  important as ‘stopping off’ points for temporary visitors to your garden as well as for longer term residents

  • Aim to increase diversity- and recognise that this is going to be a gradual process

  • Build in some key features, such as…..

Climbign planst like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

Climbing plants like Ivy provide a valuable food source for wildlife

  1. Native plants- these act as a host to many more species than non native plants

  2. Wildflowers, grasses, weeds- these attract butterflies and many other insects. Nettles are important hosts for species that aid a healthy garden; butterflies and ladybirds. Maybe you can grow these in a container if you don’t have the space to leave patch in the garden?

  3. Nectar and pollen rich flowering plants- these  feed butterflies, bees, hoverflies etc.- which in turn attract birds

  4. Trees, flowering and fruiting shrubs- these provide food and shelter for birds

  5. Climbing plants- they provide food and cover for birds and food for insects and butterflies. Examples include Ivy, honeysuckle, quince, wisteria, clematis..

  6. Hedges- these give food and shelter for wildlife (e.g hedgehogs, voles and shrews), food and nesting for birds- where it’s practical choose to install a hedge rather than a fence

  7. Water- a pond brings masses of creatures to drink as well as attracting resident pond life

  8. Wood piles – insects colonise the decaying wood, attracting spiders and birds; beetles lay grubs; toads and hedgehogs hibernate underneath; slow worms use it as home (and these prey on slugs)

  9. Compost heap – provides both food for the soil and home for minute insects and other ‘mini beasts’ which feed birds, hedgehogs, toads. It also acts as a possible nesting place for hedgehogs, toads and slow worms.

  10. Bird and Bat boxes, tables, feeders and baths- put these up in secluded and sheltered spots out of full sun – and out of the reach of cats! Birds need extra food in winter. provide a range of foods according to the species you want to attract. Birds need to drink and bathe to keep their plumage in good order- even in winter, so keep birdbaths unfrozen

  11. Stones and walls- toads, newts and female frogs usually spend winter on land, under rockery stones (or in a log pile). Beetles, spiders, insects live in nooks and crannies

  12. Bug hotels’ can provide a ‘man made’ substitute for the above, and are good fun to make with children.

'Bug Hotels' can provide a 'Des Res' for many insects and other critters

‘Bug Hotels’ can provide a ‘Des Res’ for many insects and other critters

Further information: A range of useful wildlife gardening guides

Old School Gardener

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IMG_6665Whilst on our summer holidays in Cornwall and Devon, we visited a fascinating iron age village – Chysauster, near Penzance. Thought to be around 2,000 years old, this wind-swept, rocky network sits on a south-facing slope overlooking Mount’s Bay.

It’s thought the location takes advantage of a natural spring on the hill slope, for to locate a settlement in such an exposed spot would other wise seem a little crazy. However, having got their supply of fresh water the occupants were able to create a microclimate within their thick stone encircling walls (The walls survive to heights of up to 3 metres). Channelled water to each house and it’s accompanying courtyard/garden and the tall, 4 metre-thick walls created a sheltered, sun soaked encampment – perhaps they even grew food inside these compounds?

Primarily agricultural and unfortified, and probably occupied by members of the Dumnoii tribe, the village today has the remains of around 10 courtyard houses, each about 30 metres in diameter. Eight of these form two rows. The houses have a similar layout with an open central courtyard surrounded by a number of thatched rooms, orientated on an east-west axis, with the entrance facing east. A field system in the vicinity demonstrates the site’s farming connections. The whole site also has wonderful views of the surrounding landscape.

Work is underway with local schools to create an ‘iron age garden’  where some of the old varieties of wheat (such as Spelt) and other plants will be grown. The Site Manager, Steve (whose accent I immediately recognised as East London!) , gave us a great potted guide to the place and he’s obviously enthusiastic for the site’s future development as a super educational as well as heritage ‘must see’ attraction.

 

Further information:

English Heritage

Old School Gardener

The Oregon Garden, Silverton via Gardening Fans

The Oregon Garden, Silverton via Gardening Fans

 

Picpost: Gingerbread house

PicPost: Nature's embrace

Where’s that lawnmower…

picture from ilandscape

Keep the bird bath topped up in hot weather

Keep the bird bath topped up in hot weather

Well, yesterday was St. Swithin’s day and folk lore decrees that the weather on that day sets the pattern for the next 40, so we can ‘look forward’ to days in the mid to upper 20’s Celsius (and warm nights too):

‘St. Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.’

dost = does
thou = you
nae mair = no more.

And the forecasters seem to be saying this hot weather is likely to continue for the next couple  of weeks at least. So how can we care for the fragile eco systems that are our gardens? It’s all about moisture- using it wisely, keeping it in place in the plants and making sure wildlife has enough to survive. Here are 7 tips that might help:

1. Apply a mulch around plants that are most sensitive to water loss – grass clippings are ideal as they are light reflective (though you might well not have many that are usable in a heat wave- see tip 5 below). Straw is another option.

grass_mulching_tomatoes tiny farm blog

Grass mulching tomatoes from  tiny farm blog

2. Water your garden early morning or late evening (ideally from your own saved rainfall or ‘grey water’ forom the house) – morning is best as the plants need most of their water during the day time when they are growing. Leave a bucket or watering can full of water inside the greenhouse to help keep up humidity and so reduce the rate at which plants lose water through transpiration.

3. Get creative about shading your tenderest plants and crops – use shade netting, cloth, or fleece and maybe even think about using picnic awnings, table parasols and even tent poles with bedsheets!

movable awning

Movable awnings can bea useful shade for tender plants

4. If you need to plant out seedlings try to plant them alongside taller neighbours to help provide some protection, or even better hold off transplanting until the weather is more suitable – you can better care for seedlings in a container if you remember to water and shade them (and pot them into bigger pots if need be).

5. If you haven’t already stopped mowing your lawn then do so and leave at least 5 – 8cms of growth to help conserve moisture.

6. Avoid adding fertiliser to your ground as plants don’t need it in the heat as their growth rate slows.

7. Look after the wildlife – top up ponds, bird baths and drinking bowls for hedgehogs etc. and put out some food for these critters too, as it will be harder for them to find natural food like worms which bury themselves deeper into the ground.

Here’s hoping you and your garden survive the heat – how long before we Brits are hankering after a ‘traditonal’ Summer!

Old School Gardener

Water management- Peruvian style

‘Great article discussing how Peru’s ancient cultures manipulated their water supplies in ingenious ways in order to survive in each of their many microclimates’ via Growveg

Maples (Acers) provide glorious autumn colour in this Japanese style garden

Maples (Acers) provide glorious autumn colour in this Japanese style garden

Today’s ‘snippet’ on different garden styles focuses on a very distinctive form, ‘Japanese Gardens’.

Japanese gardens have a balance which is achieved through the careful placing of objects and plants of various sizes, forms and textures. These are placed asymmetrically around the garden and are often used in contrast – rough and smooth, vertical and horizontal, hard and soft. These gardens often create miniature idealized landscapes, frequently in a highly abstract and stylised way. Pruning and garden layout are usually considered to be more important than the plants themselves which are used sparingly and with restricted use of both different species and colours.

Historically, there are four distinctive types of Japanese garden:

  1. Rock Gardens (karesansui) or Zen Gardens, which are meditation gardens where white sand replaces water

  2. Simple, rustic gardens (roji)  with tea houses where the Japanese Tea ceremony is conducted

  3. Promenade or Stroll Gardens (kaiyū-shiki-teien), where the visitor follows a path around the garden to see carefully composed landscapes

  4. Courtyard Gardens (tsubo-niwa)

Other key features of Japanese Gardens include:

  • Typical Japanese plants – e.g. Azalea, Camellia, Bamboo, Cherry (blossom), Chrysanthemum, Fatsia japonica, Irises, Japanese Quince and Plum, Maples, Lotus, Peony, Wisteria and moss, used as ground/stone cover

  • Water features and pools

  • Symbolic ornaments

  • Gravel and rocks

  • Bamboo fencing

  • Stepping stones

 

Bonsai- literally meaning ‘plantings in tray’ – is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower). Bonsai is not intended for food production, medicine, or for creating domestic or park-size gardens or landscapes, though some people display their bonsai specimens in garden settings, as this video shows.

Let me know what you think makes a Japanese style garden, and if you have some pictures I’d love to see them!

Further information:

Wikipedia – Japanese Gardens

Pictures of popular Japanese plants

Japanese plants

Japanese Garden Database

Japanese Garden history etc.

Wikipedia- Bonsai

Other posts in the series:

Country Gardens

Modernist Gardens

Formal Gardens

Mediterranean Gardens

Cottage gardens

Old School Gardener

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This beautiful tropical garden is  located next to the Palace of Belém (the Portuguese Presidential residence).  The 15 acre garden is a charming, yet often overlooked spot that has maintained a number of ponds, towering palm trees, and many hundreds of species of tropical plants that it had when it was created in the early 1900’s.  The Tropical Botanical Gardens (Jardim-Museu Agrícola Tropical) are also known as ‘Jardim do Ultramar’ (‘Garden of the Colonies beyond the Sea’) or ‘Jardim das Colónias’ (‘Garden of the Colonies’) as most of the plants come from old Portuguese colonies.

The entrance is an avenue created by huge California Fan palms and Mexican Fan palms, and on each side you can see several ‘living fossils’ – species that have not suffered any mutations for millions of years. On the left, Ginkgos, Dawn Redwood and Monkey-puzzle trees go back to the age of the dinosaurs. Close to the lake you can see Sago palms, native from Japan, and sacred figs from south east Asia, also known as the Buda tree. There is an oriental garden that shows off the Chinese Hibiscus.

Created in 1906 by royal decree (King D. Carlos I), and located in the grounds of a former zoo, it was opened in 1912, the presence of natural water influencing the choice of location. It sits on the slopes overlooking the River Tagus in Belem, one of the most interesting of Lisbon’s districts. It is one of three botanical gardens in the Lisbon area, the others being the Ajuda Botanical Gardens (also in Belem) and the Botanical Gardens near the Science Museum in central Lisbon.

The garden has rare tropical and subtropical trees and plants (many of them endangered species) from all over the world, such as Dragon Trees from the Canary and Madeira Islands and Brazilian Coral Trees. Most of them are labeled, so a visit here can also be a learning experience. It is a tranquil place regularly visited by leading international scientists and botanists. Its scientific work continues today and in its grounds you will find a seed bank, greenhouses, in-vitro culture laboratory and a xylarium (wood collection).

A highlight is the Macau Garden complete with mini pagoda, where bamboo rustles and a cool stream trickles. Young children love to clamber over the gnarled roots of a Banyan tree and spot the waddling ducks and geese.

It is a joy to amble along its palm – lined avenues and discover the grottos and ponds, the oriental garden and the topiary accompanied by the friendly birds. A welcome, peaceful, shady retreat on a sweltering summer’s day!

Other articles about Portuguese gardens:

Portuguese Gardens: Estrela Gardens, Lisbon

Oranges and Azulejos: Portuguese Heritage Gardens

Sources and further information:

Go Lisbon

aportugalattraction

Old School Gardener

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This is the second in a series of snippets of information and pictures that try to capture the essence of different garden styles.

Mediterranean style gardens have undefined pathways, often covered with loose material such as gravel, which is used as a mulch over planting areas- this serves to unify the different elements of the garden. Other key features of this style include:

  • shady seating areas – pergolas, arbours or under sun awnings
  • gravel or paved/tiled floors
  • rills and pools of water and the sound of flowing water
  • succulents, silver foliage and other drought loving plants
  • terracotta pots and tiles
  • mosaic wall/floor features
  • painted walls

Let me know what you think makes a Mediterranean style garden, and if you have some pictures I’d love to see them!

Old School Gardener

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