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Well as we say goodbye to 2021, for good or ill, it’s time to reflect on what the gardening group achieved this year. And looking back, it’s pretty impressive, especially if we factor in Covid and a bitterly cold late spring.
It was on one of those ‘finger- numbing’ days back in March that a group of us set about planting 1000 snowdrop bulbs. We chose the variety that grows wild in Britain, Galanthus nivalis. It isn’t actually native to this country, originating from mainland Europe, and having first been recorded here in the wild during the late 18th century. These beauties should be poking their heads above ground sometime soon, so look out for them around the far edges of the garden area.
No time to relax, because our next tasks were to create a wildflower meadow alongside the ramp (at the Brickfield Rd entrance) and start to clear the back bed in the garden. We had quite a run around trying to purchase some wildflower turf: it seems that everyone is creating meadows at the moment and it was flying of the shelves. In the end we decided we would have to buy some seed and be a bit more patient about achieving our goal. Then as Ian and Hilary arrived from The Hawthorns to help us out with the preparations, they said that SCC had some turf surplus to what was needed for their schemes. Well we didn’t need asking twice, we snapped it up and had laid it within a few days. All we needed then was a bit of rain to water it in and nurture it for the first few weeks. But from the end of March when it was put down, until the end of April, it didn’t rain once! That presented us with a real challenge as the meadow is some distance from the only water supply in the Rec. and the turves were definitely in need of a drink! You may have seen a slightly harassed looking man having to trail umpteen feet of hosepipe from the tap in Grosvenor Rd, all across the grassed area and over to the meadow. Well done Garth!.....and thanks to his persistence, with some help from others, the meadow flourished and attracted a healthy population of insects.
Having planted the meadow, we turned our attention to creating a small moth garden alongside the beech hedge. Garth, Jo and Angela raised a huge number of plants from seed; species that are known for their moth appeal. It has to be said, that we had mixed results. The stocks were a little underwhelming and the sweet rocket, being biennial, won’t flower until next year. But the tobacco plants made a stunning display in shades of pink and white and they had the most heady scent in the evening. It’s not hard to see (or smell) why the moths are attracted to them! We also sowed seeds of Evening Primrose and Sweet William directly into the ground, but neither ever saw the light of day. Growing from seed was hard work and with varying degrees of success, so I think it may be easier next year to go for the slightly more expensive option and buy plants…..budget permitting!
During the summer, we continued on clearing the back bed which was fairly overgrown and had a dense network of roots mainly from grasses and highly invasive mint. It was hard work but we did get some assistance from a group of geo-cachers on one occasion and the Community Payback Team (CPT) more recently. The plan is to allow a small copse of native shrubs and trees to grow on one side of the bed, and create a woodland style garden at the other. In the spring we had planted guelder rose, blackthorn and spindle whips, to supplement the birch, rowan, hazel and goat willow that were already there. And, once the group had cleared the area for the woodland garden, the CPT then dug in huge amounts of sand to help improve the drainage. This enabled us to plant the bed a couple of weeks ago, just ahead of the winter frosts.
The summer also saw the appearance of a number of large logs scattered around the garden area, to add to the log pile we’d already created. They were supplied courtesy of gardeners Bob and Rob, who kindly delivered and distributed the logs. A few of the smaller ones did mysteriously disappear, but the larger ones are still in situ. Decaying wood is an absolutely wonderful resource for various insects, which are vital in any healthy, functioning ecosystem.
Never ones to let the grass grow under our feet, (if you’ll pardon the pun), we set about planting 1000 purple crocus bulbs in November, ably assisted by Richard and the local Cub Scout group. The bulbs were a generous donation from the local Rotary Club, as a way of marking the organisation’s longstanding, international campaign to eradicate polio. The scheme is called “Purple for Polio’ as each child who’s vaccinated is given a small purple mark on their finger. Apparently there have only been 2 cases of polio recorded this year; one in Pakistan and the other in Afghanistan. A truly amazing result. So when the crocuses emerge in the spring, they will be a wonderful reminder of what can be achieved to combat viral disease and improve the lives of thousands of people.
Alongside all of this, we’ve had a Tree Dressing Event and a Greening the City event. The latter appeared briefly on South Today a couple of weeks ago in an article about Southampton’s bid to gain National Park City status. But we didn’t allow our moment in the spotlight to distract us as we carried on to reconfigure the central bed, moving some plants, lifting and dividing others, and adding lots more spring flowering bulbs. We also extended the existing meadow using wildfower seeds, as well as creating. another meadow on the opposite side of the ramp. CPT did the heavy work of removing the turves which was no easy task, given the gradient. We then planted 150 wildflower plugs which we’ll supplement with seeds in the spring. It will be interesting to compare the results obtained from wildflower turf, seed mix and plant plugs, having now used all 3.
Lastly you may have noticed various banks and hummocks appearing near the meadows...and no, they’re not illicit burial mounds as someone suggested!! The turves that were excavated to create the meadows have been used to build yet more insect friendly habitat, including our beetle bank. The greater the variety of microhabitat on offer, the greater the variety and number of species and that’s got to be good for all of us.
Well I hope you’ll agree that’s not a bad year’s work! But the pinnacle of achievement for 2021 has to be that the Rec was awarded the prestigious Green Flag Award. We like to think we’ve helped to achieve that, alongside the Council and other significant contributions from FOPR, especially our Chairperson, Bev. Now that’s got to be worth a seasonal toast!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!