OUR GARDEN OR THEIRS?
By Veronica Flowerdew
Why do we keep pets? Is it for their sake or for ours? Why do we create a flower garden? For our own enjoyment or just for the plants? On seeing gilly flowers (wild wallflowers) growing far up on the walls of an old church tower, I decided not to bother with bedding plants anymore. Instead I gave my flower beds over to the plants themselves. Finding out which plants grew best in the soil in my part of the world, I set about establishing all kinds of suitable wild and old cottage flower species, allowing them to grow just as they preferred. Aconites, snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils all came and went followed by primroses, cowslips, oxlips, campions and bluebells. Ivy leaved toadflax and yellow cordalis colonised nooks and crannies in the brickwork and amongst the stones in sheltered corners. Harebells established themselves all over the place and, in one border, flowers of the cornfield, such as cornflowers, corn marigold, corncockle and red poppies took over. Hound's tongue popped up near the hawthorn hedge, borage raged near the potato patch, and blue-flowered chicory reached to the heavens beyond the onion patch vying with the greater knapweed for prominence as it took over from the earlier goat`s beard. Teasels grew tall and, soon, the garden began to attract all kinds of interesting creatures, all competing and interacting with each other.
Bees, bumble bees, ladybirds, lacewings, hover flies, butterflies, moths and many more all came along attracted by the native species of flowers and the vegetables benefitted as these insects fed upon such pests as aphids and their larvae. Song thrushes came to feast on the snails and, in the spring, house martins returned to build under the eaves and eat up the flies. Hedgehogs came to feast on the slugs and we put out food for the foxes and badgers. Jackdaws, starlings, house sparrows, great tits, blue tits, robins and dunnocks all nested and several kinds of finches came to feed on the bird table. One day a male sparrowhawk knocked a sparrow to the ground just outside our back door. For several minutes we watched him as he tried to retrieve his prey from a pile of sticks. Then, taking pity on him, we decided to help by going outside and removing the sticks for him. Flying onto the garage roof, he watched our efforts. Then, as we reached the sparrow, it wasn't dead as we thought, but flew away seemingly unharmed, and the sparrowhawk departed in disgust. Were we wrong to feel sorry for him? Anyway, a few days later, his mate came and caught a sparrow along by the hedge, where she landed to pluck it before taking it home to her young. Hawks and falcons are such beautiful birds, all part of the Web of Life, which, if we leave it alone, will ensure a vital balance. Hawks are NOT being cruel, but just doing what comes naturally to them.
One of the best modern ways to protect our garden crops without resort to any kind of pesticide is to cover vulnerable crops with fleece or enviromesh, which will prevent all kinds of root fly pests and caterpillars. Do not use slug pellets, which will kill birds, cats and other animals. Beer traps are best for trapping slugs and snails.
from Now And Zen - August 2000