Notes from an Urban Greenspace – 13th April 2020

Welcome to week four of the lockdown; or is it week five or three, I have lost count. As I write this I am listening to the Start the Week on Radio 4, all about the importance of gardens and greenspaces for our health (pick it up as a podcast if you can).

This is one of the sunniest Easter weekends we have had for a long time so I hope, despite the restrictions, you have managed to make the most of it. A stroll around your local greenspace is ok and just feeling a bit of fresh air, hearing the birds and seeing some beautiful flowers does us all the world of good!

Kent is renowned for being the garden of England. This title dates back to at least the 18th and 19th centuries when the county supplied the ever growing London with its fruit and veg. In particular, the fruit belt of North Kent was hugely important for this market. Sadly, most of the orchards are now gone so planting fruit trees is an important part of our conservation effort. Many species of insect, especially bees, and birds rely on them for food and the blossom in the spring and early summer is a gorgeous part of our landscape.

In my small urban greenspace my own orchard consists of two apple trees, a pear tree and a cherry. As you can see the cherry is in full flower and the local bees are loving it. I don’t get much fruit but keeping them pruned and trained along the wall is a very relaxing form of gardening.IMG_0025

Something I find absolutely fascinating is the behaviour of the ants and aphids that infest the trees every year. You will not be surprised to know that I have a chemical free garden so any invasive species such as aphids get free reign unless I remove badly affected leaves by hand. The ants have a special relationship with the aphids, effectively “farming” them like cattle to collect their sweet excretions. Watching them at work is amazing and the trees don’t suffer too much.

IMG_0021My meadow is coming along well. I have the usual array of wildflowers, such a docks, geraniums, clovers and dandelions. The dandelions are now in flower and attract a lot of different insects.  It is not a particularly big meadow but as I have said before if you add up all the gardens in Medway then you suddenly have a great wildlife resource!

Another plant just coming into flower at the moment is the bluebell. The woods around us on the Downs are the natural habitat for the native bluebell and as we know they will soon be looking magnificent; even though many of us will not be able to visit them this year. If you live within a short walk of the country park at Capstone then you can seem them in their full glory in the woods at the top of the park.

I have a few clumps of bluebells in my garden but these are the Spanish hybrid variety not the native one. The Spanish bluebell is larger with a more flamboyant flower than our native one and the two species produce a hybrid that lies somewhere in between. It is common in a lot of our parks and gardens and is still very attractive both to us and the insects. If you live near a wood and have the Spanish or the hybrid bluebell in your garden by all means let it flower but then remove the seed pods to prevent the seeds spreading. This will help in a small way to preserve the native species. (Check out the RHS website for more information)

That’s all for the moment.

Have a lovely week and stay safe.

Simon

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