Diversity rules!

Or it’s a bug’s life

When we arrived here in late June (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, 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’ve still left one patch to grow wild. The thrushes seem to like it, so that’s fine with us.

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, 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 by the log-fire in the lounge, with my mug of afternoon cappuccino by my side, 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. The lavender is in already and a glut of bulbs for some spring colour. If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have seen that yesterday was sweetpea sowing day. I’m looking forward to creating a sweet pea arch somewhere and a bed of dahlias for late summer colour. I know, I know, I’m wishing my life away, but that’s what gets me through the dark months of winter, planning what to sow and grow next year. So, we’ve ordered our native wildflower seeds and they’ve been dispatched already. I just need a dry day now to scatter them. Now, back to that list of dahlias…………

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