We need to look at biodiversity as a one step at a time approach, every little thing we do will have a benefit, we should all feel empowered to make a difference!
When people hear the terms ‘native planting and biodiversity’ they could be forgiven for picturing scraggly hedgerows, semi wilderness and a generally unkempt appearance, this need not be the case!
Native planting can produce stunning flowers and fruits, thus, inviting a huge variety of small birds, bees, butterflies and local wildlife into your garden.
While I am not suggesting that we limit our planting palate to simply native planting, the target should be to incorporate a number of native plants into the garden in such a way that they look grounded in the planting scheme. This can be achieved in several ways;
Hedging - the standard approach is to use a single species and trim to perfection. But why not choose a primary native species like Hawthorn (Crategus monogyna) and try mixing some other fruiting varieties such as Holly, Hazel or Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) into the hedgerow. In this manner it is still possible to achieve a dense boundary which can be clipped sharply. You will also benefit from the fruits produced as well as presence of butterflies and bees that are responsible for the pollination amongst species. The mix of species will provide an array of flower and fruit colour spread throughout the year.
Borders and beds - Not all native perennials and annuals look out of place in a modern garden. Verbena officianalis forms a purple crop of flower all summer long, while Digitalis alba (fox glove) provides drifts of tall white spikes which will jump out of your planted borders midsummer. Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant) is an evergreen fern that provides a solid green colour and texture all year round. Rosa canina or Dog rose produces an abundance of pale pink flowers on a tall root stock which can be pruned back to base at the end of the season.
Trees - there's a lot to be said for the benefit of selecting native trees. Just consider the fruiting and colour that you will see each autumn and spring as the season’s progress. In addition to that you will be housing a large variety of insects and birds, further enhancing the biodiversity in your own small patch. Consider Quercus robur where you have the space to allow an Oak to mature, or perhaps Hawthorn or Hazel in a more restricted site.
Lawns and meadows - Does the entire green space really need to be mown to perfection? Irish wild flowers and grasses show beautiful colour through the summer months. This can be enhanced by seeding a native wildflower mix through a corner of your garden. Why not cut a pathway through the grass in order to encourage movement through the meadow space. I am also providing you with a ready made excuse to reduce the hours spent cutting the grass! Now biodiversity is doing more than just helping the flora and fauna!
We can further nurture the biodiversity in our gardens by eliminating the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Furthermore, encourage bird life to nest by providing bird boxes and keeping mindful of nest season (March 1st to September 31st)
The impact of this small patch of ecological biodiversity must not be underestimated. As our towns and cities grow, the green space where Irish wildlife and flora used to thrive, is gradually reduced and broken apart. We can patch the gaps broken in the green corridors and encourage biodiversity through our garden space.
For further information on native planting you can contact visit our garden centre in Cork or call 021 4888134.