Diversity rules!

Or it’s a bug’s life

When we arrived here in late June 2022 (considerably later than planned, I hasten to add), we were greeted by lots of paving and tarmac with weeds galore, plus a lot of longish grass. Nestling in the grass and putting out long tentacles was an abundance of buttercups and clover, a considerable number of dandelions and in the front border, more rosebay willowherb than you could shake a stick at. We left it all to enjoy the summer sun and feed the invertebrates. In fact we left it so long that our guests started to comment on hiring someone to cut the grass for us!

Eventually, we had to succumb and drag the unwilling lawnmower, kicking and screaming, out of the dark depths of the shed. It took about three weeks of dashing out between breakfasts and welcoming guests to get it all done and we left one patch to grow wild. The thrushes seem to like it, so that’s fine with us and we’re now developing it into a wildflower meadow.

I bet you can guess that in Northern Ireland, like most places in the British Isles, the number of invertebrates is falling because of loss of habitat amongst other things, so we’re more than happy to do our bit to help the pollinators grow in number and keep the food chain going as it should. Throughout July and August last year, every time I did the shopping I’d be popping plants into my trolley and filling the patio pots that came with us from Somerset. Pretty soon the bees were a-buzzing and the butterflies a-fluttering, and of course with a couple of nut and fat-ball feeders the birds soon joined in the party too. And I’m on first-name terms with the guys at the garden centre now, as we set out no-dig beds and borders to add more colour to the garden and keep the insect restaurants going.

Sitting here now, a whole year later, I can see the feeding station under the cherry tree and watch the blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, wrens and robins as they come and go, twittering at the magpies, the would-be bullies of the garden, who lack the agility and balance of their smaller feathered friends and give us a good laugh when they “fall” off the slender branches of the tree. In fact, one morning as I was making breakfast, I glanced out of the kitchen window to see a peregrine falcon swoop down and take one of the baby chaffinches. This is the natural balance I was talking about. If you look after the invertebrates, the rest of the food chain will look after itself. So, in spite of the weeds growing between the slabs on the patio, there will be none of that dastardly weedkiller here.

By the time you get here (you are coming to stay, aren’t you?) there might even be a bee hive or two and there will certainly be more wildflowers in the grass and bee friendly plants in the garden. We’ve already added three hens so that we now have fresh eggs for breakfast!

Spring was a riot of colour with all the bulbs I planted during the early winter and the seeds that I sowed in March have romped away and are providing us with more colour and shapes than you can imagine! I’m absolutely delighted. So many different types of bees have made our garden their feeding ground this summer, particularly on the borage, phacelia and the drumstick alliums. It’s a joy to watch them. And probably the biggest success for colour and abundance has been the sweetpeas. Talk about cut and come again! Our breakfast room is constantly adorned with little vases of gorgeous splendour.

So I think, that on this day, which happens to be our first anniversary of welcoming guests, I can say that the garden has been a great success and I’m looking forward to planning and creating the next phase. You’ll just have to come and see for yourself……

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