Harwood House - a WildCookham project
A WildCookham team has been hard at work at Harwood House, one of our local care homes, helping to create a a wildflower rich environment for the residents to enjoy. Our thanks to the (Gilly and Patrick Blake and Lesley and Adrian Doble for taking this on and providing this report.
Following a meeting in February this year with Morag Forsyth (Matron at Harwood House Nursing Home) a small team of volunteers began work to increase the value of the grounds for wildlife. A budget of £1200 was established, the site was surveyed and measured, and a provisional planting scheme drawn up.
The four main areas identified are:
A. Formal forecourt,
B. Laurel Shrubbery on the west side of the house,
C. Formal brick ramp to the lower part of the garden,
D. Upper and lower South banks below the main terrace.
Area A Three broken wooden plant containers were replaced by half barrels, filled with new compost, and planted with flowering shrubs ( Cotoneaster, Prunus, Daphne) and Spring perennials (Pulmonaria, Primrose, Wallflower). These tubs have been watered twice a week by volunteers. The Spring flowers will be moved to other parts of the garden when they have finished flowering and will be replaced by other perennials.
At the end of June, the tubs were refreshed by the addition of 2 Gaura and 2 Sedum plants to provide additional flowers for pollinators.
Area B This area contains tall laurel bushes growing on subsoil but with little topsoil. It is due to be planted by builders working on site (post covid19) subject to advice from the WildCookham team. The need for soil improvement will be assessed at that time.
Area C This narrow walled bed will be attended to when bedding plants become available again next year. It was initially planned to be planted as soon as Area D had been launched.
Area D A selection of 12 wildflower species was ordered as 160 plug plants from a trusted supplier ( Boston Seeds in Licolnshire) in March. Several factors, including covid19, caused a delay in supply with the result that the first 100 plugs did not arrive until the middle of May. By this time the ground was very dry and hard, again mainly subsoil, and forming planting holes on the upper and lower slopes was difficult.
When the plants were inspected two days after they were planted it was found that all except seven had been pulled out by rabbits. The surviving plants were watered. Furthermore each one was marked with a warning stick to protect it in the local strimming regime.
At the beginning of July a single Borage plant had survived . However, because the area is no longer strimmed, self-sown wild flowers (Self-heal, Medick, White clover, Hawkweed) are already growing strongly and bumblebees are foraging.
The limited success of this project to date has allowed us to learn important lessons and this has been achieved despite the severe limitations to supplies caused by covid19, and the “playful”nature of resident rabbits. Soil quality is poor but this actually favours wild flowers.
Our thoughts are these:
1. Introduce wildflowers by sowing seeds in the Autumn
2. Use plug plants again but earlier in the year
3. Create larger planting holes with added organic matter
4. Peg chicken wire on the surface over the plantings
5. Consider planting in a restricted and fenced area to the south of the concrete walkway
6. Protect the entire region of Area 4 from strimming to allow existing wild flowers to flourish so that they will produce pollen and nectar.
There are still adequate funds (approximately £700) in the kitty. The hope remains that the 2020 scheme will act as a blueprint for a more widespread planting in future years if the current project succeeds.
In the middle of June we received a further 160 plug plants that were ordered in March. They were planted in our Alleyns Lane allotment where they will stay until the Autumn so that they will be stronger when moved to Harwood House.
Gilly and Patrick Blake, Adrian and Lesley Doble