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The story so far Part III: Bee hotels and Beetle banks
Having created the Pollinator Patch (PP) in the central bed of the garden, we turned our attention to the remaining beds. We also considered what it might be possible to achieve in the wider park that would have ecological benefits.
Clearing the remaining beds, proved just as challenging as the PP had been. Undaunted, we dug, weeded and pruned, removing plenty of tenacious brambles. Any fragment of root and stem left in the ground will quickly regenerate, and keeping on top of them is an ongoing challenge.
We continued our policy of trying to introduce shrubs and plants that have some wildlife value, and this included a selection designed to attract moths. Sadly, the role of these beautiful insects as pollinators, is very much underappreciated. To help, we grew sweet rocket, tobacco plants, stocks and evening primrose from seed, with some success. These are largely biennial plants which we hope, having given a wonderful display in their second year, will have gone on to seed and sustain themselves. They are also highly scented, especially in the evening and as moths rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate food (and mates), these plants are very attractive to them.
As well as food for insects, we looked at what else might benefit them. We provided saucers of water, for them, as well as for birds and small mammals, such as hedgehogs. But we do have difficulty keeping them regularly topped up, especially as they frequently seem to have been deliberately emptied. A pond would be ideal, but obviously requires some consideration, not to say, a lot of effort and resources. Maybe one day?
We also tried to provide suitable opportunities for nesting bees, both bumblebees and solitary bees. You may have noticed a few upturned flowerpots tucked away in the borders. The idea is that they replicate the abandoned nest of small rodents, favoured by bumblebees to create their own nests. I’m not sure that they’ve so far been very successful, unlike the bug hotel that was made by one of our ex- members. Solitary mason bees have definitely taken advantage of this. They could be seen last summer, flying in and out of the small tunnels drilled into a block of wood: once inside, they lay their eggs in individual chambers, before sealing up the entrance.
Solitary mining bees need a substrate that they can excavate, in order to create their nesting tunnels underground. To help them, we filled a large pot with a mixture of sand, gravel and soil, and pricked out some tunnels. But as with the bumblebee nests, we’ve yet to entice any tenants. Nesting and roosting for birds and bats were also a consideration, and the ecology team within the Council, put up a number of boxes for both, throughout the park. The boxes were supplied by FOPR
Since we started up, we’ve planted lots of spring flowering bulbs in various locations around the Rec. These are an invaluable source of nectar for early flying insects, and the floral display should improve year on year as they spread. We’ve built log piles and scattered logs throughout the borders, as rotting wood is a vital resource for so many insects. Our beetle bank, made up from turf lifted to create the meadow, offers various aspects, and is yet another potential habitat. We hope that when it’s planted with wild flowers it will prove attractive to a number of wee beasties.
One of our most recent projects has been to create our own compost bins, for which we have to thank the Community Payback Team. These bins give us the opportunity to recycle at least some of the garden waste on site, and to generate our own organic compost.
Further planting was carried out by the Council last Autumn. This included 2 spring flowering trees; a crab apple and a flowering cherry, as well as a row of the dogwood ‘Midwinter Fire’, alongside the ramp. The latter will provide a stunning display every winter with their flame coloured stems.
Finally, keep an eye on the bed beneath the flagpole at the Grosvenor Road entrance. The Council have recently planted it up with shrubs and flowers to provide year round colour, and yet more precious resources for pollinators.
The last 3 Nature Notes describe our gardening journey so far and I hope you’ll agree that between ourselves and the Council, we’ve really achieved quite a lot. But there’s always more to do, so grab your trowels, get yourselves down to the Rec and join us for the next chapter!!
Words by Denise Long
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