Monday, 16 May 2016

One of the nice things about rough patches is that they know when to lie low!  After the showy clouds of colour and architectural forms of winter, they are cut back in March and the attention is drawn to beauty on the edges of the plot, such as emerging Blackthorn, and later on, at the time of writing in May, they are neat, lush green ovals separated by mown pathways, a lovely deep carpet leading the eye onwards to the foaming blossom of the orchard trees beyond.

Moss and plant stems and fibres revealed by the March 'clear-up' have been taken away by birds for their nests, now there's different activity amongst the cool, damp verdure: voles, mice, beetles, and bees visiting primroses and cowslips. Soon there will be a grass snake, even perhaps a slow-worm. On a hot day, the female pheasants and other birds love pecking about in there, or flopping panting on the grass in the sun.  I can see the willow-herb, teazels, and various kinds of thistles beginning their rush to the sky, and enjoy the smaller birds' acrobatic use of wild rose branches and dogwood stems, en route to their nests (3 sparrows on the house) or the bird feeder (marsh tits still visiting for seed).

I have also laboured in several other ways this winter to develop the 'wild life' here - firstly we have dug, removed turf from and cultivated a 40 square metre patch on the lawn and have now sown it with perennial wild flowers and plants for a wet clay soil, adding, for this first year, a 'cornfield mix' with extra poppies for good luck!  It is now covered by a light fleece otherwise I think the seeds would quickly be eaten.  Eventually it will form a layer between the hedge and the rainwater pond, allowing a corridor behind it for passing animals and birds ( I often see deer going that way, to the woods beyond).

That was the hard physical labour - also I have spent many hours at the computer filling in forms and consulting regulations and guidance in order to prepare new woodland plans, creating more wildlife corridors that will enable the joining of ancient and new woodland around the farm, and hopefully to the hills.  The garden is very much a part of this, with its glades, pathways and natural plantings - a bit like living at the centre of the spiderweb! Whatever the size of garden, it seems that by planting more naturally and considering the communities of 'wild life' using these areas, one's consciousness will inevitably be drawn to connections beyond, in a manner which brings balance and health into one's practical relationship with the wider world, an affirmation of hope and caring without which I would find it difficult to thrive.  Besides, its fun!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

A Summer of Delights

A cool and largely dry summer has given rise to some variations in the patches, most of them delightful!  Not many honey-bees, but I'm seeing more now the willowherb is out.  Some flowering parsnips have added colour and height, and the grasses have been lovely.
The pathways between the tall patches are enticing, and I feel very much enclosed in nature as I loiter along.
It is liberating to be less tall than whole communities of surrounding wild plants - or 'weeds'- as though one was suddenly transformed into the size of an ant!
Suddenly, one's own appearance is of no importance whatsoever - there are no human viewers - and one is free to communicate in a totally different way with the surrounding beings, which after all are of incredible strength, beauty, variation, and lineage.  So I am lost in wonder, which is a healthy emotion for we humans!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Monday March 23rd, 2015

Nearly a year since the last post! A combination of having been very busy and also of feeling that all I had to do last summer in the rough garden was to observe, admire, celebrate - even to get lost in those rough patches!! Like the honey bees I luxuriated in the willow-herb which put on an amazing show of colour. And so, after this spring's ceremonial shearing of the growth, I now emerge, like the pheasants, hungry for new things! 

The patches lasted well through the winter with their mix of architectural plants such as teazel
or wild rose and shelter-affording plants such as willow-herb (really beautiful in autumn frosts), long grasses and even old nettle stalks.  Now they have gone, I see that a new generation of teazels and willow-herb is on its way, some evening primrose and buddlea which I inserted are surviving, but the real surprise is two lovely patches of young dogwood with beautiful coloured stalks, lovely spring colour and very amenable to being cut back to whatever shape I require, and also some cowslips which seem to have put themselves there.  The alkanet I really dislike in garden beds has been rehomed here as has some kind of iris which grows naturally around here and pops up in the lawn in damp spots.  The wild rose shrubs are graceful, I only cut them back if they get too big or prang me! and their taller stems are useful for small birds visiting the feeders. I've decided to encourage the naturally-occurring rush and large-flowering  grass in these patches as they provide year-round shelter and habitat for all sorts of species which are otherwise left rather exposed in the spring. However I've already noticed birds gathering moss for nest-building from the newly-exposed ground.

Over the autumn and winter I have seen roe deer, muntjac, stoats, numerous pheasants and a partridge using the grass 'pathways' between these patches, bringing them very close to the house.  We now have a duck who has fallen in love with some herb bushes (she nested in some mint by the front door last year) and the pied wagtails are back. I regularly see a fox, less welcome visitors are a rat (but I hope an owl will catch him) and of course grey squirrels which are a menace to birds.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Jacob's Ladder - a self-seeded plant with great attraction for bees, with allium behind, also self-seeded.

Looking from ground level, the different patches meld into one large patch of natural planting.  This a soggy bank where I frequently see snakes and slow-worms.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

All sorts of developments  have been taking place in the 'rough patches' this spring!  We have a pair of French Partridges, pheasants, a grass snake...and visits from spotted fly-catchers, goldfinches, woodpeckers, sparrows, frogs and toads...the plants in the patches have not grown that tall yet, but teazels, docks, thistles, dogwood, wild roses, rushes,willow-herb, forget-me-not, jacob's ladder and  allium are all proliferating and providing excellent shelter for the beasts.  Cow-parsley has begun flowering and attracting insects for the spotted-flycatcher to feed on. The 'runways' between the patches are perfect places for birds and animals to 'hide' and explore the shorter grass for slugs, ants and worms. Hedge-sparrows are nesting in the denser patches of nettles.  The slightly more conventional bed nearer the house plays its part in this activity, being well stocked with plants attractive to insects and birds and affording more cover - the pheasant regularly suns himself on an old tree stump there!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Welcome to Rough Patch Gardening!

Rough Patch Gardening
Welcome to my new 'blog' Rough Patch Gardening!

 It came about through my wish to share my delight and learning while developing an new garden in rural Herefordshire.  For the first time I've got a garden without much immediate history or previous design, but I do know the local environment well and so am used to its soil and species.  Even so - there's always so much to learn!  Its a wonderful opportunity to find out more about botany and biodiversity, and at the same time develop methods and practical skills through experience, that I can share.

A move to a garden full of rough grass, old agricultural land, criss-crossed by buried electric cables, water pipes, drains and soakaways, on a windswept plot, on heavy, wet, cold clay, over limestone, full of stones and lumps of concrete, badly drained and very uneven.  The totally rural view is wonderful! and the garden adjoins historic orchard and looks onto the Malvern Hills. 

My immediate desire was to provide more shelter, habitat and biodiversity.  I had limited time and money for development, but I owned a good lawn-mower (or two).  I had decided I didn't want a conventional 'country garden', however attractive they can be, as I love natural planting and have an aversion to affluent garden 'consumerism'.  I wanted also to 'go with the flow', work with nature rather than against it, so my planting policy is 'Beg, borrow or.....'

Personal preferences:
When I was much younger, and creating a garden on much kinder Evesham soil, my father said to me that if I wanted to make a pathway, I should wait a few months to see where I walked and then put the path there! Such wise words!  I like to apply that principle to 'rough patch gardening'.  Instead of having too many ideas from 'on top', let them grow up from below in their own time - then use their energy to sculpt and create your forms.  You can be a scientist, an artist, an observer, a facilitator. If you listen well, you can assist the energy of the place to express itself in a way that will be  constantly varying.

Don't 'landscape' mechanically - embrace uneven ground.
Allow plants to shade each other, allow transient plants to provide weed cover, allow them to teach you - even if its painful!
Look at the patches as communities, within a wider community.  This is SO important.
Enjoy change!