Almost every piece of outdoor space in the UK has the potential to become a nature reserve of sorts. All it needs is for householders, architects, garden designers, gardeners to think outside of the box – and for the general public to be more nature-friendly.
Take green roofing for example. If the top of a building isn’t being used for anything else, why not add some low maintenance plants that will provide shelter, food and sanctuary for all manner of small creatures?
Historical Sites Could Set An Example
Last week I visited Cyprus. I’ve never been there before and was keen to visit some of the Roman sites on the Island. I was dumbstruck by the way these centuries old mosaics were in such beautiful condition. But what impressed me more than anything, was the way in which whole sites were managed for nature as well as for visitors.
This photo doesn’t do it justice, but this Roman amphitheatre in Paphos is plastered with wildflowers. Chamomile, mallow, cyclamen….the list goes on. I’ll bet it will be gorgeous in springtime.
The Tombs of The Kings. Chamomile plants like this one are allowed to grow wild. It’s beautiful!
Rather than manicured lawns and high-maintenance landscaping, this ancient site is adorned with wild flowers and alive with bees and birdsong. Having said that – it would never reach British Health and Safety Standards for visitors.
Take the archaeological park in Paphos. A vast piece of land that is home to the remains of several Roman houses and a plethora of well-preserved mosaics. Guiding the visitor from site to site are well maintained paths with strategically placed benches. But there are no manicured lawns, no cultivated flower borders, no hedges or gardens. Just acres and acres of wild flowers and grasses.
True, I only saw one butterfly – but maybe that’s usual for Cyprus. There were lots of small birds flitting about though. I suspect they nest there. And honey bees. Plenty of honey bees.
It struck me that this sort of approach to landscape management could work incredibly well in the UK. Just think how much money could be saved on landscape maintenance and instead spent on research and education. Granted, the climate, soil type and culture in Cyprus may be very different to the UK. I’m sure too that plenty of people would grumble.
My Husband is a fine example. In the first instance He was unimpressed by the wildness of the area. Within a couple of days though, he was pointing out different flowers that he’d spotted and asking about names. Curiosity got the better of him. As a member of Feltwell Parish Council though, I don’t imagine he’ll be encouraging re-wilding in the village churchyard. Shame. My bees would love it if he did.
In My Own Garden
That short break in Cyprus has encouraged me to rethink some of my garden plans. I do need to cut down the workload and re-wilding some of the garden may just help me to do that.
So here’s the plan:
I already have a small mini-meadow. That will be expanded this year. In fact I need to get a move-on with that.
In the vegetable garden, I want to add a couple more raised beds so that I can introduce bee-friendly flowers into the cropping.
One of my flower borders is going to have to be sacrificed to lawn because I’m finding it difficult to manage everything.
I want to add a hazelnut tree to the mini-meadow – the bees love the catkins.
I do need to put up a fence this year to enlarge the chicken run. But rather than go for fence panels, I think I’ll put up a wire fence and plant a native hedgerow beside it.
Instead of bedding plants around the patio, there’ll be Cottage Garden Meadowmat installed. Less work but still as much colour and variety.
The small front garden is overlooked by my office window. I want much more colour and interest out there so there’ll be a re-think of the planting plan…..In fact I might ask a garden designer friend to help me with that. Low maintenance, wildlife friendly, colourful, scented and in keeping with the Georgian façade of the house. That’ll be a fun challenge.
Other Ideas For Re-wilding A Garden
I would like to do more for wildlife, but budget, time constraints and the needs of the people who share that space with me have to be brought into consideration.
However, if you want to do more for wildlife, here are some suggestions to pick and choose from.
- Put up a nest box
- Build a log pile
- Replace a patio slab with sedum plants for nectar-rich flowers
- Plant bee-friendly shrubs and flowers – look for the “perfect for pollinators” logo in garden centres
- Dig a pond
- Put out a shallow container of water for hedgehogs to drink from and birds to bathe in
- Install a green roof – perhaps on top of the shed or the bin store
- Grow a small area of wild flowers. – Wild flowers are difficult to grow from seed but Meadowmat wild flower mat is easy to install and maintain. It’s rewarding too.
Planting for Pollinators
This video has some great ideas for wildlife gardening