Session 2 of the River of Herbs wildlife gardening course was held today at our Orchards in Park Frankendael.
As with the first session, the emphasis was on seeking ways to help wildlife which may find their way into your garden, whether that is a window box, tiny balcony, cluster of pavement plant pots or a larger space. Wildlife needs shelter, food and water to do well. Each creature has a specific set of needs and preferences and it is impossible to satisfy them all in a simple garden. What we can do is improve our outdoor spaces to help more wildlife to do well, if they find their way into them.
Orchard / Woodland / Park Location
River of Herbs Orchards are surrounded by dense Hornbeam hedges and they surround a well maintained parterre garden behind a 17th century country house, which sits in one corner of a city park. Beyond the formal garden is a sizeable woodland which is lightly managed. he whole area is wrapped around by a more traditional park complete with massive low cut lawns and waterways. RoH orchards themselves are full of fruit trees, ranging from 5 – 70+ years old with a thick ground layer of wild plants. These are interspersed with edible and medicinal herbs which have been added by the project volunteers over the past two years. Each of the four orchards has a different character, caused mainly by differences in available light. two have huge overhanging Sycamore trees, one is half shaded by an old yew tree and the fourth is home to an old Japanese cherry which lost a massive limb two years ago, creating more light. the ground cover in each has common elements and many differences. For instance, Stinging nettle is the dominant plant in one orchard, woodland geranium being dominant in another and yet cleavers, ground ivy and yellow deadnettle grow in both. A path has been created in each orchard, to keep foot traffic on the majority of the soil to a minimum. Below, the photo (from several years ago) shows the orchards shadowed by woodland on all sides.
Surveying the orchards
Simple plant surveys were conducted when we adopted these patches of land 2014 but no animal surveys to date. Surveys of gardens are clearly not essential but they important if you need to show how things have changed, probably as a result of your actions. We have good photo records of the changes but no written data so today we did a little surveying. We began the session with a mindful walk around the orchards followed by a wildlife survey. Animals noted were feeding, travelling, singing, buzzing, collecting and watching. Some of the creatures sighted were;
- Great tits
- Shield bugs
- Song thrush
If you like the idea of surveying, several wildlife organisations actively encourage surveys at certain points of the year. Here are a few examples…
Naturalis (NL) Bijenradar
De vlinder stichting (NL) Butterflies and Dragonflies
- If you know of more that I could add to this list, please let me know. riverofherbs(at)gmail.com
Food, Shelter and Water
We then considered the current orchard availability of water, shelter and food for various creatures. Some food plants came to mind and were added to a wish list. Woodland canopies have a massive surface area and although too high for us to inspect, it is clear that they are host to enormous wildlife populations. Locations for birds to dig out insects from old wood are present in some orchards but not in all of them. So this could be improved by creating more log-piles. Water is glaringly absence within the orchards although the land is actually a sort of island, surrounded by a canal. Shelter is present in some ways but more can be offered. So we set about improving these aspects during the session. We created…
- Bumblebee drinking stations
- Plant cover for some existing pruned branch piles
- Beginnings of a wetland area
- Bug holes in logs with a drill
- Buried bumblebee nest teapot
- Plant list to help provide year-round nectar
Some wildlife friendly plants for the woodland floor (I have excluded plants toxic to humans) –
- Woodland geranium / cranesbills
- Ferns (only some are edible and at certains times of life cycle).
- Stinging nettle
- Wild strawberry
- Wood forget-me-not (flowers edible)
- Woodland grasses
- Wood sage (Teucrium scorodonia)
We also looked briefly at –
- Growing trees from seed
- Green roofs
- Plant pot gardens