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Garden Club: Down to Earth with Robert Barker

Encouraging nature into our gardens is becoming more and more in vogue, which as far as I am concerned is a wonderful thing. After all, we need nature just as much as nature needs us, and making wildlife as comfortable as we are in our gardens can’t help but be rewarding. Where else can you get so close to nature?

Doing your bit for nature doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming commitment. Making small changes or adding a few additional elements to your garden will have a drastic impact and quite frankly there is no time like the present.

Almost any outdoor space can be a haven for wildlife. The problem is that as a nation we are becoming more and more impatient and the desire for maintenance-free Tarmacked driveways and artificial lawns is rising all the time.

As a design practice we are asked from time to time to include artificial lawns into our designs and it is the one thing that we refuse to use. As a father of two young children I appreciate the benefits of an artificial lawn - but how can they possibly benefit wildlife? Over time it will be just yet another addition to landfill.

Garden Club, Velvet Aug 19 (13809902)
Garden Club, Velvet Aug 19 (13809902)

The news of declining garden birds and wildlife numbers is becoming more and more worrying. For example, hedgehog numbers have plummeted by half since the year 2000 in the UK, and the number of breeding swifts decreased by 53% between 1995 and 2016. These are just two examples, but, sadly, there are many more.

So what can we do to help? There are of course societies to join, you can volunteer in local projects, but if that all sounds like a big step, then adding some potted plants to an area of your driveway, creating a bee hotel and hanging up a bird feeder or two will not only benefit your local wildlife massively, but will give you that amazing feeling of connecting with nature - and who knows what interesting things you will come into contact with?

This morning my assistant designer Danielle was telling me about her daughter Lucy placing water drinking bowls for hedgehogs in their garden (dehydration is a problem for lots of garden wildlife this time of year). After a few days Lucy went into the garden to investigate and found a frog relaxing in one of the bowls.

Make wildlife at home in your world and your world will feel more like home. If you build it, they most definitely will come.

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.

August’s Jobs

The moment lavender flowers start to fade, it’s time to pounce with your secateurs. Though it may seem a little brutal, a good haircut now will help maintain the plant’s shape and density, while also encouraging new growth.

Azaleas, rhododendrons, clematis and ivies can all be propagated this month. Layer the plants: nick the stem reasonably close to the ground, peg it down onto the soil and simply leave to take root.

If you’re going away, even just for the weekend, cast an eye over the forecast before you leave. If the outlook’s hot (you never know. . .), it’s wise to lift down your baskets and stand them on buckets in a shady corner so they don’t frazzle.

Should your rose bushes start to shed leaves, don’t leave them languishing on the ground; if foliage is falling at this time of year, disease – such as mildew, leaf spot or rust – is likely to be the culprit, and you don’t want it to spread.

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