Many years ago I was asked by the local Horticultural Society to help transform a long-time derelict allotment into a wildlife garden. I had recently completed a garden design course, so I pulled out my (borrowed) drawing board and drew up a little plan. To be honest, I was dead chuffed to see that the plan looked quite decent, so perhaps I might sharpen my pencils again!
At the time, with the help of the local primary school we dug out a pond and a boggy area, planted native trees and hedging, laid log slices around the area, and generally made good progress towards what I had drawn up.
I moved on to create the Kitchen Garden at Chiswick House, and my partner at the Wildlife Allotment, initially very enthusiastic – ordering engraved plant labels and taking full responsibility, gradually became less engaged.
A few months ago I challenged the new kid on the block, Jo Gilbert of Wild Chiswick, to take a look. With Mick Massie, local entomology expert, Jo slashed her way into the undergrowth and decided she would take on the challenge. The chair of the Horticultural Society agreed. My challenge was to locate the original plans, which – to my astonishment – I did, lurking on a detachable hard drive in a dusty drawer.
In an attempt to make a more concrete contribution to the new wildlife allotment I dug up some knapweed (Centaurea nigra) from my “lawn” where it has been ‘fruitful and multiplied’, to serve as a welcome starter gift. Knapweed should be left for the goldfinches to peck at the seedheads over autumn and winter, but as there was so much and some of it has flopped down I had enough to spare. It’s often the eternal problem of trying to create a beautiful garden that also serves wildlife properly and still looks good.
It will be interesting to see what the new team decides to do with the space. It’s not quite a tabula rasa, as the remnants of our old garden lie beneath the undergrowth, but good luck for the next stage. Abundance will be happy to stay closely involved.
Here’s the original plan.