We used to be called a nation of gardeners' and these days with the boom in allotments, grow-your-own, vertical gardening, straw-bale gardening, raised beds and oh, the list goes on, you would think we still are. I hope so.
Around here, there are only a few keen gardeners, l despair when a neighbour digs up his front garden and replaces it with piles of dry stone. I may slip out one night and throw some seeds around...maybe Verbena bonariensis, then later in the year or maybe the next, a frothy, purple cloud covered in butterflies will drift across our neighbourhood. I can dream.
We are on the edge of a small town surrounded by beautiful countryside but I still love to see insects and wildlife in my garden. When we moved here the emptiness of our new plot was a shock to me. Coming from a garden teaming with life, only one lonely blackbird visited us and was welcomed with open arms. He visited loyally for a few years, we knew it was the same boy as he sported one white feather on his right wing. One year he didn't come back.
I plant my garden with delicacies to treat the palette of bees, birds and flutterbies. At this time of year in early spring they love pulmonaria, although I have the pretty Pulmonaria 'Opal' with ice blue flowers, it is slow to spread and bees seem to prefer Pulmonaria officinalis, or Lungwort. Each year I dig up a few pieces and spread them round the garden. When I sit outside on a warm, spring day, I listen to the lazy drone of honey bees feasting on it's nectar.
I refuse to spray, preferring to indulge aphids, who munch on newly emerging shoots; I hope that a hungry ladybird will breakfast on them. I even resist the temptation of putting down slug bait, despite a preponderance of the slimey creatures. It has paid dividends, these days I can see tits pecking at tiny flies in the thicket of my roses; even long-tailed tits, my favourite, who I hope are friends from my old garden. I listen to the cacophony of young blackbird's squawking rudely in anticipation of their next hit of wormy delights. My soil if full worms, each spade-full of rich claggy, clay unearths a small handful of the wriggly critters, all good signs of healthy earth.
But I feel that my garden is a café, a motorway service station, on a long journey across a concrete and stone jungle for tiny, hungry birds and industrious bees. I hope at least I am worth the stop, Marks and Spencers I hope? Not Macdonalds.
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