‘Land Leaders’ Karen and Catherine share an update on their eco-intentional Labour of love. Building on the great work of other Cotham gardeners over the years our new Eco-Champions (Land) have been busy during lockdown; and the natural world has done its bit too.
At the beginning of March we began our work as ‘Land Leaders’ at Cotham Parish Church, as the benefice pursued its commitment to eco church. Drawing on the results of the land survey, we made initial plans and thought about long term possibilities. Before Christmas an article in Connections described in greater detail how we want to increase biodiversity and encourage wild life, consolidating and developing what has already been started. We would like the gardens to represent the church and to be a living expression of our commitment to the natural world.
Work began for a brief period in March but was interrupted during lock-down. Taking care to maintain social distancing, we resumed the work in the second week of May. Maintenance was the top priority: weeding, pruning, collecting litter etc. but we are constantly mindful of holding to the eco church principle of developing a sanctuary for wildlife – insects, bees and wild flowers and honouring the spirit of this particular ‘land’.
Below is a summary of work carried out in April and May:
As you may have noticed there is a new barrel planter by the entrance to the church. The geraniums below the mahonia are flowering well at the moment with other plants to flower later. In the meadow garden the wooden planter, beautifully established by our predecessors, is vibrant again.
We have pruned the lower section of the privet hedge to keep it away from the pavement, and where unclipped it is starting to flower. The toad-flax and ferns remain, rising elegantly through the hedge. We plan to prune the hedge top as needed throughout the year.
There is sprouting foliage at the base of the lime trees and we have decided for the moment not to prune, as it creates a perfect environment for insects and small nesting birds at ground level. We have, however, removed foliage or ivy which extends onto the outer wall by the pavement. We are allowing flowering shrubs to grow: weigelia, philadelphus, abelia and others in the front car park. This will enable them to flower more prolifically next year, so we will only prune minimally to keep the pavement and car park area clear. The azalea is struggling in its present position, so we intend to move it in the Autumn.
We have been weeding the meadow and south gardens, removing bindweed and herb robert as far as we can. Pretty as the pink flower of the herb robert may be, it is invasive and makes the garden feel neglected. The many saplings from beds round the church have been removed. The ivy climbing up the church wall has been clipped at base rather than removed, so that the dying leaves can be still useful for insects and blue tits. In early June we mulched the rose bushes with fallen blossom from the horse chestnut tree.
The wild flower meadow is coming into its own; yellow rattle planted by Dave Patterson has begun to flower. We are adding a few wild flower plug plants, to increase colour in this area which is visible from the road. We have mowed a pathway to the bench and beyond.
We are using the green bin minimally, making our own compost. Compost heaps and wood piles in both gardens are providing a good habitat for insects, which are important food for birds and bats.
We made good use of the water butt during the hot month of May when there was virtually no rain. Since then we have acquired three other water butts in response to requests we made on ‘Next Door’, a local social networking site. There is no siphoning system with a water butt, so watering cans enable us to tend to those plants in particular need!
At the moment we are meeting weekly, usually on a Tuesday morning between 10 a.m. and 12. In the coming weeks we will continue to pull out saplings, brambles and clip the roots of ivy climbing up the walls. We would like to make a new flowerbed in the meadow garden, near the bench. [A bin and notice is also needed here for the constant litter that is being left behind.] Our next project is to make and install a variety of bird boxes which may involve the children, once we have mastered the art. [We recently installed 2 bird feeders in the trees opposite the bench and they appear to be receiving visitors!] If you’d like to be involved as we continue to develop the eco friendly gardens, please do get in touch.