Wildlife Gardens are a beautiful, easy, and cheap way to have a lovely garden, whilst really helping our struggling native wildlife! From a simple pot with wild flowers in, cutting a hole in your fence to let hedgehogs come and go, to not keeping fish in your pond, there's a whole host of cheap and easy ways to improve your garden for wildlife!
The outside of our shop has always been on the more industrial end of Blakemere Village. But Sandiway Ales has paved the outside of their brewery, and turned the entire outside into a lovely beer garden, so we thought we could create a wildlife garden from a sorry patch of grass, and not only improve the overall aesthetic of our location, but also really help our local wildlife!
So here is the canvas we had to work with, the trellis we had placed there before the photos were taken:
First off, we decided to remove the old stone edging remnants, and replace it with fresh, new willow edging. We also dug an old sink into the ground to become a tiny wildlife pond. We felt the edging would give a clear boundary to the car park area, help to make people more aware a garden is growing here as everything settles in, and just generally keep it neater!
We always have pallets lying about, so we modified one, and used an old cement bag to make a fabric hammock between each pallet wood-strut, to create a plant pot on each level of the pallet. We then cable tied this below our sign post to make a vertical garden! We have planted it up with some pansies, and lots of creeping plants such as nasturtium and aubretia to attract lots of pollinating insects, and pile over the sides to hide the old cement bag over time:
We skimmed off some turf, replacing it over some very bare patches of soil where we wanted grass to be, and created flower beds out of the areas we had skimmed the turf from:
We were given some buddleia which had been growing in unwanted areas over the site, and although the leaves wilted and this year they may be a bit under-whelming, by next year these should be full of beautiful cones of flowers! They are so good for insects they have the common name of "the butterfly bush"! We wanted to create two hedges of these, one in the flower bed just shown, and one in the photo below. As we dug down, we realised the tarmac from the carpark carried on under the corner of the garden. We changed the plan for the corner, bringing in the largest rocks we could find to create a rock garden at the corner! We set the edging back from the tarmac as you can see, as cars often park here and we didn't want the fence to be squashed:
In Sanctuary Garden Centre at Blakemere, Paul has a huge selection of lovely plants to choose from but amongst them were a few that he had put aside as seconds, so we decided to give them a second chance and placed them in the wildlife garden! We've placed alpines and a couple of aubretia cuttings in amongst the rocks, along with some ferns that had sprouted up in cracks in buildings at Blakemere that they needed removing to prevent the roots damaging the walls - the wildlife garden is quickly becoming a plant retirement garden!
We had a few pond plants donated including Marsh Marigold from our parents' ponds, which combined with some gravel sized stones for the floor, and larger stones to help anchor the new plants, the mini-pond has taken shape and will be great for insects such as dragonflies, and as it's just below the tree with 4 different bird feeders in, can double up for a bird bath!
Finally we planted some sweet peas and the remaining pansies in the pot by the trellis, excuse Fern sniffing the plants!
After a week, we knew our plans had failed! Wildlife garden yes, but exclusive rabbit salad bar? Maybe not! The rabbits nibbled their way through quite a few of Paul's rescue plants, so we went back to him, and rescued some new plants, and purchased a few plants that rabbits are less likely to demolish! These included a beautiful rhododendron, some foxgloves, and some woody plants such as honeysuckle. Between these plants and the softer, tastier plants, they now seem to be thriving, and the rabbits are still nibbling, but it's not so drastic!
We also scattered lots of wildflower seeds from SeedBalls, and some we were given by Chester Zoo. The bare-soil around the tree is being left to become full of wildflowers! So here are some photos from now - a few weeks after planting! By summer, and certainly by next summer, the garden will be full of beautiful flowers!
The pond has settled in and the plants are begin to grow! You can see a fox glove coming up in the background too!
The sweet peas have grown massively!
The pallet is growing well, the aubretia has started to flower, and the seeds of nasturtium, indian cress and morning glory have all started to grow! The cement bags will be covered up in no time!
And finally a photo to show a couple of the other plants we put in the beds. You can see the turf we moved to cover the bare soil around the lamp post has settled in too!
We'll keep you updated with the garden's progress, but we hope it will be a great success that visitors to Blakemere will enjoy, and we hope it softens our end of the site!