Introducing the new Watling Gardens Butterfly and pollinator beds.
During spring 2013, the Watling Gardens beds were transformed from a mass of heavily overgrown, unhealthy, visually uninteresting shrubs on compacted soil, into a drift of four naturalistically planted, colourful, pollinator-friendly beds. The aim was not only to add space and texture with a seasonal succession of plants and shrubs to add movement, luminosity and hues of colour, but to make the Watling Gardens a beacon of how to transform a public space into an environmentally beneficial area.
After considerable soil improvement, each of the four colour coded beds were planted with a mix of evergreen and herbaceous perennials, meaning that all plants should have a life span of several years, dying back in the winter to return next spring and summer – BIGGER, BETTER and more COLOURFUL. All plants were wildlife friendly, attracting key pollinators; butterflies, hoverflies etc, providing nectar/larvae plants for key stages in the life cycles of moths and butterflies. Some plants were also evergreen to provide Winter structure, including several existing, unhealthy silver birch and dogwood trees which have now been given a new lease of life.
List of Plants and Their Benefits/Growing Cycles
Bed 1. The pink/purple bed. Perovskia - Russian sage now in flower with its haze of purple/blue. Swathes of Liatris spicata - much loved by red admiral butterflies, a key nectar source for Small Skippers etc, apart from being a stunning flower in its own right. Echinacea with its stately purple cones, and the purple spires of Agastache.
Bed 2. The purple/blue bed which has proven to require more shade tolerant plants, Verbena Bonariensis currently in flower, is great for pollinators. The Eryngiums which looked wonderful all summer will return to be enjoyed by all including finches who love their basal rosettes and violet blue stems. Other shrubs such as Hebe, will grow much larger next year as will the butterfly bush, Buddleja ‘Black Knight’
Bed 3. In the orange bed the elegant bronze fennels and grasses will continue to grow and add movement, as will the Philadelphus. The Inula Magnifica truly lived up to their name and looked magnificent all summer. Currently the Rudbeckias are offering late season colour and birds even enjoy their seed heads in winter!
Bed 4. The Green/silver white bed was filled with a lower growing canopy of more aromatic plants and herbs, like rosemary, lemon balm, thymes, lavenders which are also very attractive to pollinators. Tall architectural plants like Yarrow are not only magnet for hoverflies, ladybirds and lacewings, but alongside the Angelicas, added a lovely elegance and will continue to do so. Several herbs like the Ayervedic Gotu Kola were also added to appeal to different sectors of residents.
Plans are underway to launch a gardening club next spring for families and unemployed residents with the aim of engendering a series community engagement programmes/horticultural/landscaping skills workshops perhaps even leading to social enterprise start ups. A mini fruit orchard, vegetable beds, and vertical growing projects are also being discusse.