by Dr Rosalind King
We got the keys for our first home in June 2011. It was very exciting for me, not because I was about to own a house but because I was about to become a garden owner, and could finally have a patch of land to nurture creation in! As an Ecologist keen on getting wildlife back into gardens, the most important thing to me is a garden.
This garden was a nature-desert, a blank canvas of closely mown lawn and cypress tree rows, providing endless opportunity for habitat creation and encouragement of wildlife. We watched it grow and change that first summer, observing where the sun fell, which areas wildlife valued and where we could make things better for nature. In Autumn 2011 we set about to fulfil our first responsibility to nurture God’s garden as we were asked to in Genesis, to return God’s creation to this barren space. After nearly 10 years I’m impressed how far we’ve come, although I’m still keen to do more. It’s an extensive list for a small semi-urban space, but anyone can have a go themselves. Here’s what we did:
- First to go were the rows of tall cypress; dense, blocking out light and turning the soil into an acidic dust bowl. After a few months of allowing the soil to recover, these were replaced by a native species-rich hedgerow of hawthorn, hazel, holly, hornbeam, field maple and beech (with a bit of currant and two cherry trees as nectar resources)
- A tangle of evergreen ornamental shrubbery was removed, replaced with a wildlife pond, into which frogs rapidly moved and have thrived ever since. It’s lovely to see froglets hopping through the long grass in summer, plus the water is alive with other mini beasties like freshwater shrimp, diving beetles, daphnia and water boatmen
- The pond connects to a bog garden, into which I’ve planted snake-head fritillary, water avens and ragged robin. I’ve added a log pile too, for frogs to rest in over winter
- In the shadier areas we planted woodland plants, including English bluebell, foxglove and red campion
- In out of the way places I’ve nurtured nettles, helping support the butterfly population
- We left the lawn to grow long in places; the front lawn is especially interesting as it has rarer fine-leaved grasses with spring-flowering violets and lesser celandine plus parrot waxcap mushroom in autumn
- We sowed a native wildflower garden in a sunny spot last spring, which has attracted a myriad of hoverflies
- We’ve installed bird boxes and feeders, a home-made hedgehog box and a south-facing bat box, hoping to attract the pipistrelle bats that flit past each evening.
We manage this all with wildlife in mind, only trimming the hedge once berries have gone, less frequent lawn mowing and leaving wilder areas. We still managed some traditional English gardening with a vegetable patch and some flower beds, so doing both is possible. And this seems to have inspired others: last year we made Hedgehog Box 2 and installed it in a school, plus planted a new hedgerow and woodland area.
Why not try starting off with one small change and see how nature can flourish? It’s so fulfilling watching nature return and by doing so, helps us return to God’s way of living at peace with all creation (Col 1:20).
This ‘Meet the Community’ article was written by Dr Rosalind King, for the Wild Christian email, ‘Nature and celebration.’ Rosalind King has an Ecology degree from Lancaster University and a Ph.D. in Restoration Ecology from Liverpool University. Based in North West England, she actively manages her garden for wildlife, undertakes conservation activities in her local woods and enjoys a varied career as a Consultant Ecologist helping bats, badgers, newts and other creatures stay safe.