You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Blogger: Adam Murray
Hard Landscaping – bringing in the big guns
I don’t know about you but the 1980s was never a good decade for fashion. I am sorry cool kids with your high waist jeans, stone-washed denim and patterned leggings – it was never cool. The same goes for technicolour paving slabs. I know that I will probably look back at this blog post in 10 years time and think the same about my contemporary-meets-wildlife garden style.
Let the hard landscaping begin. The only way to do this though was bring in Mike from M H Garden Design to do all the hard graft (I can just about put up a shelf). Within days the harlequin paving was gone and replaced with reclaimed flagstones and decking to get the kid’s buggy to the back gate. Then came my pride and joy – the outdoor kitchen area. My name is Adam Murray and I love cooking and the great outdoors – I need two barbeques.
I very quickly realised that I am that pain-in-the-derriere client. I believe in the trade they call it a snagging list. All the issues I had, even before poor old Mike had had a chance to finish the job, documented in full (not in triplicate). My job is to have an eye for detail – it reared it’s slightly impatient head after the first day. However, give Mike his due and a bit of tweaking here and there we could already start seeing the transformation of our garden into something special.
Being inspired by Giving Nature a Home
The following weekend we went over to RSPB Minsmere for a fun family day out of den building, the beach and cheese scones. On the same morning my brother had sent me a photo of a “strange beast” he had caught in his garden and I quickly waxed lyrical about the wonders of stag beetles and how rare they are, let alone their monstrously long years as a grub. So with this fresh in my mind I was blown away my seeing another little fella walk across the path in front of me on the way to the Wildlife Lookout. It must be fate – so as soon as I got home I huddled with Mike and talked about the virtues of making homes for bugs, just like what we had seen at the new bike sheds on the nature reserve that day.
Making our first homes for nature
The following week I was back at Minsmere and The Lodge nature reserves, this time for work, and inspired by my previous trip I cashed in a favour with the site staff. My scavenging was a success and within days the garden/building site was full of logs for our log pile and pallets for our bug hotel. Step #4 in the Giving Nature a Home free guide, DONE (see guide as attachment below)! In the words of that great 1980s Kevin Costner movie “build it and [he] they will come”. Maybe the 80s weren’t so bad?
As you can see amongst the chaos that is our garden at the moment the wildlife is arriving. Not only when the sun is shining but also when we had the Fiji style tropical thunderstorms – our garden is really becoming a delight for the family and those little buzzing, tweeting and scuttling visitors.
Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer
Did you enjoy this year’s Hampton Court Flower Show (my 10 year old self would never thought I would be saying that)? Some top plants there and a bit of plant envy on my behalf. Which were your favourites? It is great to see such a variety of plants from around the world, inspiring the designs. I particularly liked A Space to Connect & Grow, Hedgehog Street and the outdoor living Al Fresco garden. I think my Mum and Dad must have done a good job on me (see pictures at the end of this post) as I have managed to pick up loads of plant names over the years – even the science names. Which makes me chuckle that I geek out on that just like a birder does with names like Calidris canutus.
The beauty of pretty much starting from scratch in a garden is that you get to choose a bunch of lovely plants (sad for the wallet though – although Mum has promised a load of freebies from her garden). The first on my wish list were the herbs – practical for cooking and also great for the (good) bugs. I also followed the advice of Mister Titchmarsh and planted some wildflower mix in rows so I could distinguish what was a weed and what wasn’t. To be honest I think it looks a bit weird and happily accept most weeds into the mix – after all the definition of a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. These will compliment the other bright flowering plants like the beautiful blue Agapanthus inspired from my trip to the Scilly Isles.
Next up in the Murray family plant parade were the more hardy greens. Firstly the horsetails for the bog garden, which I love because they haven’t changed since the dinosaurs, and then the succulents, which will cope with the sun trap and poor soil. Have I shown you my sedum hanging basket yet?
As the parade continues the first casualties have fallen. Slugs & snails loved my poppies. The centre piece so far is my lovely tall bay tree which I picked up for a bargain from the plant sale at the Lodge nature reserve & gardens (highly recommend popping along if you are travelling through Bedfordshire). Unfortunately as soon as a brought this untamed beast home – it started turning yellow and all the leaves starting dropping off. Time to refer to the experts http://www.gardenfocused.co.uk/herbs/bay-tree.php
Speaking of experts, have you seen the latest videos that were put together by our dear friends at RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden – not only can I pick their brains about plant choice but they have these Top Tip vids to help me give nature a home.
So with the beginnings of my plant wish list underway and after removing all the horrible pea shingle from our horrid 1980s near-dayglo patio, by Georgia I think we are underway. Next time we will be looking at laying down a bit of the hard landscaping and finally looking at giving all those beasties a home (thanks to Shirley's film debut).
If you have been inspired by what you have seen recently then please leave your comments below. In the meantime enjoy these pictures of my son (July 2014) and I (July 1981) doing the obligatory watering of the plants.
Next time: Going hard(landscaping) and finally Giving Nature a Home
If I had been lead to believe what I was told at school and that all I could have a job in conservation was as a scuba diving marine biologist or jungle living monkey lover (tried a bit of both – leeches and seasickness scuppered both) then I would have given up ages ago. I am a font geek/brand checking/queue watching/pop-up cafe loving conservationist. Not only that but at work I get to learn cool stuff like what stag beetles and hedgehogs love.
So I embraced this new science knowledge and my creative flare (a bit of a split personality thing going on) and started to design our garden and tackling Phase 3 of Operation Wild Times.
Phase 3: Adding in the new (family or wildlife friendly) stuff
□ Get creative and design your garden
□ Love your soil
□ Find some helping hands.
□ Lay down hard landscaping
So here it is, after many late nights of browsing the internet, my mood board (yes I said a mood board, stop your chuckling).
You get the general idea, a modern contemporary feel with practical stylish solutions to family and wildlife needs. Key take-home messages are, use recycled/reclaimed materials when possible and look to other sectors of the market for clever ideas.
This manifested itself with my first mini project – my Hanging Herb Garden of Norwich. Good soil is limited in my garden and I can’t afford to bring in tonnes of top soil like my brother did so instead I looked up and started gardening on the vertical. I used a wire curtain hanging system and bathroom toothbrush pots to make the most of a sunny wall to grow some “micro-greens”.
Got me thinking about the importance of our soil and that most of my garden is under a good few inches of concrete – not family or wildlife friendly. Take a look at this video to see what I mean from the soil advocates.
After grubbing around in my treasured dirt and getting creative I came up with my final design. Drum roll.... here it is (I recommend an old graph school book for drawing yours to scale).
As you can see there are a few restrictions to consider; getting our Little Gem’s buggy from the back gate to the back door is the main one – hence the minimal hard landscaping covering my precious soil.
Final step in this phase is knowing your limits and bringing in the big muscle and professional skills. Now as a newcomer to Norwich/Norfolk/East Anglia I did not know where to start with finding a reputable garden landscaper so I jumped on that Rated People website and came across Michael of M. H. Garden Design. He is a lovely chap who is very enthusiastic about wildlife gardening and jumping at the chance of doing something different from the usual driveways and rockeries. You can find examples of what people usually ask him to do here.
Next time: Patios and the Parade of Plants!