NEWSLETTER CYLCHLYTHYR Number / Rhif 24 September / Medi 2005 http://www.treborthbotanicgarden.org/
Welcome to the September edition of our newsletter, and my first editorial. I’ve been working in the wings, gradually taking over from Trevor Dines and hope to maintain the high standards set by Trevor. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped to support me during this transition process.
Trevor remains involved in the Garden and has been busy with the Atlantic Ark; an exciting proposal for the future development of Treborth. He outlines the plans for the scheme in his article on page 6.
In May Grace Gibson wrote about those garden thugs – slugs! This time we have a response from Anne Cooke, plus a further tip for slug hunters from Grace Gibson featuring on page 3.
Bryan Hyde has taken the photo of the Black Guillemot on the cover, and has also written about the jobs we need help with in the Garden and Labelling plants which feature on pages 3 and 9.
It seems sad to be looking towards autumn days whilst writing this editorial on a sunny August morning, but Nigel Brown has written about the Star Watch, the Evening Visit to South Stack and the Weather and Wildlife on pages 4, 5 and 11, which ably conjures up the essence of summer. In addition, we have the Winning Gardens in the “Snowdonia Wildlife Garden Competition 2005” which includes the judge’s commentary on page 13. However, to ease winter’s progression we are introducing a Gardener’s Checklist of Jobs To Do on page 20. We hope you find it useful.
One of my tasks is to remind everyone that October sees the need to renew subscriptions:
£10.00 double at same address
£12.00 family regardless of the number of children.
Payable to: The Friends of Treborth Botanic Garden. Please send cheques to: The Membership Secretary, c/o Treborth Botanic Garden, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2RQ
If you have any comments, ideas or suggestions to make about the newsletter, please get in touch with the editor by email: firstname.lastname@example.org Andrea Roberts
A FEW OBSERVATIONS ON THE HABITS OF SLUGS
After reading Grace’s notes, I took a closer look at the slugs as I picked them off. If the large orange slug that visits the tubs in my yard is the one she refers to as the rich chestnut coloured one, it does plenty of damage in my yard. It is very partial to petunia, nicotiana – especially the stems - and even has a go at the leaves of ivy-leaved pelargonium. It doesn’t eat other pelargoniums, busy lizzie, or fuchsia. Slug hunting this evening (after rain, with a torch) I removed several that seemed to be grazing on the surface of a slate flower trough. Were they innocently feeding on plant material that I couldn’t see, or were they climbing towards a richer feast? What surprised me is how tough they are, and how fast they can move.
The smaller thinner orangey-white fellows, and the round orangey-white ones that look like blobs of jelly – are these the ‘garden slug’? - they fragmented the lobelia as well. They are more difficult to see and to remove. I don’t see many black ones and they seem to feed on the grass.
Then there are the snails- even more hungry!
TIPS FOR SLUG HUNTERS While not denying the compulsive fascination of the torch-light search for the enemy after dark, I find an easy way of finding them in the daytime is to put smallish pieces of slate between plants, and underneath almost every one there will be a ‘jackpot’!
As with all gardens there are a large number of jobs that need to be done, but insufficient hands to do them. A group of members usually meet on Wednesdays and spends part of the day working in the garden. Jobs undertaken are diverse, ranging from the cerebral (updating the database) to the heavy (digging, carting cuttings, moving compost, etc.), but most are relatively light e.g. weeding, potting up, shrub pruning, propagation etc. Often after people have settled in they are allocated their own beds, or areas, which become their responsibility. We are particularly looking for someone to look after our very essential compost bins which require strength to turn them.
An area of particular importance at the moment is the building up of experience and expertise in the cultivation, and conservation, of threatened species as part of the Atlantic Ark project. This is a new area for us, and we suspect, for everyone else. There are large areas of ground available at Treborth for this work with a number of different soil and environmental conditions. What is now needed is someone with the long term commitment and enthusiasm to get this area of work off the ground.
There is a nice winter job available preparing the labels for the garden’s 2000 plants, as explained in the article entitled “Labelling Plants” on page 9. This is one of our better jobs as it does not involve going outside, getting dirty, kneeling down, or getting wet. It just requires care, time and patience, and it may not be too cold and some of it could be done at home! Our plant records data base also needs updating.
Sadly there is no finance available for these Jobs but lots of thanks and satisfaction to be gained.
If you are interested please get in touch with the Secretary, Ann Wood:
who will put you in contact with the group members.
VISIT TO BANGOR, NORTHERN IRELAND
What, you may be asking, is a sea bird picture doing on the cover of this issue?
In early June, twenty six Friends boarded the ferry at Holyhead for our second trip to Ireland. This year’s destination was Bangor, Northern Ireland, and the bird on the cover is the black guillemot, known locally as the ‘Bangor Penguin’. During our stay members had only a short walk across the road from the hotel to the quayside of the Marina to see numbers of these birds at very close quarters, gathered in a group of twenty or so by the rails, or sitting in their nesting holes at almost arms’ length below us as they preened in the evening light.
Many beautiful pictures were taken of the gardens we visited, and a selection of these will be screened at our Annual General Meeting in October. All agreed that from the small private garden in Ballymena to the great National Monument of Mount Stewart, and even Guincho in the drenching rain, Ulster provided us with much inspiration and pleasure.
25 June 2005
There was once again an encouragingly good turn out for this joint meeting with the Gwynedd Astronomical Society and although we had to wait a long time for the midsummer night to darken we were rewarded with fine views of Jupiter and its four Galilean moons. With the four excellent telescopes kindly provided for the occasion, it was possible to discern the differently coloured latitudinal belts of Jupiter. Much more distant (390 light years) the true nature of Albireo, a star in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan) proved to be an eye catching surprise. It is in fact two stars, one golden-yellow (at 6000c similar to our sun)) and its companion bluish-green ( approaching 20,000c) ); these two stars form a strong physical binary unit and orbit their common centre of gravity. It is becoming clear that the majority of stars in the universe have companions and that infact our own sun which shines in solitary splendour is rather atypical.
When all but a handful of stalwart observers were left after the midnight hour we witnessed two dramatic white flares of sun light reflected from man-made satellites passing overhead. The evening ended with intriguing views of a little known comet streaming away in the north western night sky.
EVENING VISIT TO SOUTH STACK, ANGLESEY
28 June 2005 Gathering rain clouds seemed to enhance the dramatic effect of the great rugged cliffs of South Stack as 20 or so Friends set off to explore the wildlife interest of one of the UK’s finest coastal sites. Joining us for the evening were guests from a land locked county, Louise Tranter, horticulturist at Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses, as well as a landlocked country, Zoltan Nagy, a plant pathologist from Budapest, Hungary.
Not only is South Stack famous for the noise, and smell, of its bustling sea bird colony, which treated us to exciting views of auks, including Puffin, but it boasts botanical treasures such as Spathulate Fleawort (Tephroseris integrifolia ssp. maritima), a pretty yellow flowered member of the ragwort genus with silvery-hairy, spoon-shaped basal leaves. This rarity is found no where else in the world except the cliffs of Holy Island, Anglesey. We found a number of Fleaworts growing near the cliff edge path and enjoyed the bright and colourful collection of halophytic plants that together constitute one of our loveliest wild plant communities, Wild Thyme, English Stonecrop, Birds Foot Trefoil and the intense azure-flowered Sheepsbit (Jasionemontana). Magpie Moth and Six-spot Burnet moth seemed too fragile to survive this demanding cliff-top environment, but survive and thrive. As does another Anglesey speciality, the Chough – a flock of 26 of Britain’s rarest corvid welcomed our group with exuberant calls and seemingly reckless sky diving. But despite their joie de vivre the basic forces of life are never far away, and South Stack’s new generation of birds must remain vigilant to survive, as witnessed at the end of our trip when a young razorbill was captured by a predatory Great Black-backed Gull and swallowed whole.
The rain came as we finished our walk, 8mm of precious succour for the cliff top life we had just enjoyed.
THE ATLANTIC ARK As we all know, Treborth unfortunately faces an uncertain future. In September 2004 a £6 million application for Heritage Lottery Fund and Objective 1 money was unsuccessful. As a result we, and the University, are now looking for alternative sources of funding.
One proposal that we have devised comes from the increasing role of Botanic Gardens in the conservation of native plant species. This involves not only creating and maintaining living plant collections and seed banks, but also undertaking research that directly contributes to plant conservation, and actively supporting local and national conservation initiatives.
In Wales, we are ideally placed to specialise in a group of plants that make the Atlantic seaboard, or Atlantic Ark as it is known, their home. At Treborth the vision would be to combine the impressive natural biodiversity of the Garden with collections from not only the temperate regions of the Atlantic Ark but from its entire length, from the Azores to Spain and Portugal and on up to Norway and Iceland. Plants from these areas would be grown in “Mediterranean” and “Arctic” greenhouses, with Treborth becoming a true “Atlantic Ark” if you like! The site would then form a home and catalyst for active research on all aspects of Atlantic botany. Alongside this, programmes would be developed for training in both science and horticulture. Importantly, the Garden would be opened properly to the public, giving access to both passing visitors and the local community. New buildings on the site would provide visitor facilities, a research and an education centre, and access would be provided to marine life on the shore of the Menai Strait that forms the northern boundary of the garden, although not via the funicular railway of the previous proposal.
The first aim of the project would be to assemble a comprehensive living collection of threatened species from the Atlantic Ark biogeographic zone. This would:
provide a living gene-bank of plant material which could be used as a basis for both research into areas, such as, genetic diversity, conservation biology to inform site management, autecological studies, education, rare species conservation, site management, and species identification.
allow the public to see the plants and to provide interpretation on what the Atlantic Ark is, the threats facing the flora from pressures such as global warming, and the positive work being done to conserve it e.g. the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. Interpretation could also focus on cultural connections between plants and humans in Celtic countries.
allow the establishment of links between other organisations with botanic collections in the Atlantic Ark area, e.g. Glasnevin Botanic Garden, Dublin, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Jardim Botanico Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal, Jardim Botanico da Madeira, Hortus Botanicus Reykjavicensis, Iceland. These links would be used to exchange both living plant material and expertise and knowledge. Treborth could perhaps become the centre for co-ordinating collaborative research throughout the Atlantic Ark.
The second aim would be to celebrate the native biological wealth of Treborth by improving access to the Garden, collating and publishing wildlife records and providing interpretation through a nature trail. We would:
provide interpretation of, and, improve footpath access to the Coedydd Afon Menai Site of Special Scientific Interest which lies within the boundary of the Garden
provide interpretation and limited access to the Menai Strait Special Area for Conservation, which forms the northern boundary of the Garden.
provide improved access to, and, interpretation of the Rhizotron, an underground soil profile viewing room which is unique in Britain.
compile and publish records of the 240 vascular plant species, 50 lichens, 150 birds, 32 butterflies, over 400 moths, 923 invertebrates and 21 mammals that have been recorded in the Garden.
make this biodiversity information available to visitors by producing a colour booklet detailing this diversity, with tips on exactly how and where to observe it.
establish a stylish nature-trail around the Garden in conjunction with the booklet. The trail could draw on the latest GPS technology to guide visitors around the Garden and provide interpretation at appropriate points.
establish a formal training course within the garden to teach wildflower gardening, using the many un-mown grass plots (wildflower meadows) for which Treborth is now famous.
establish a formal training course within the garden to teach native higher and lower plant identification, linking with the University of Birmingham/Field Studies Council in awarding Certificates in Species Identification and MSc’s in Biological Recording.
Obviously, the idea of an Atlantic Ark lends itself beautifully to close collaboration with other institutes and organisations, perhaps with sister “Ark's” across Europe. We are therefore looking for partners with whom we could work on a wide range of collaborative projects. Glasnevin Botanic Garden, Dublin, has offered its enthusiastic support to the proposal, as have the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Botanic Garden Conservation International, the Countryside Council for Wales, the National Trust, the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, the Botanical Society of the British Isles, PlantNetwork and the Snowdonia National Park Authority. Such support is extremely welcome. However, the challenge facing us now is in turning these plans into a reality. While we are pretty good at coming up with ideas and projects, it is turning these into solid business plans and grant applications that we find difficult, the reason being that we are all busy people and lack the appropriate skills to do this. It is hoped that the University can play more of a role in this in the future, especially given the natural links between Treborth and the new Environment Centre. It is likely that the plans are developed gradually, one element at a time, rather than through one big all-swinging-all-dancing grant, but this will place even more of a burden on those involved. It is also important to realise that this is probably just one element of what may happen at Treborth. Such a garden has to be economically viable and we will probably have to develop other, perhaps commercial, strands that use the facilities within the garden.
If anyone wants to help out, please do get in touch!
A plant which I have always wanted to grow is Acer griseum. You know what happens, you look it up in all the best authorities, mix a very special compost, select the ideal site for it when it grows to full height (15m), prepare a nice white label using the latest permanent marker, or pencil. Regularly you visit your favorite, congratulating yourself on that compost as it puts on another leaf. Then the weather closes in and you can’t get out there to see your specimen, work creeps up, and takes over. Then one day the weather improves, and you go out to see your favorite. Where is it? It was planted just here, but it is covered with weeds. Carefully you weed and find it again, but it has lost its leaves. Your heart sinks. In the following spring you look again: there is just a stick where you thought you planted it, perhaps it was not there, check the label, it was pulled out by a blackbird, or it is just a bare white tomb stone. The ink was not permanent!
There are at least 2000 plants which need labels in the Botanic garden. The specimen trees are easy, purchase those splendid expensive engraved labels with white lettering, mount high on the trunk away from peering fingers and clean every few years. The other 1,850 plants don’t warrant the cost. What then?
Ink and pencil on plastic labels have a short life because they fade. The labels become brittle and break, and only the bottom half of the label is found with “an. Iaca” written on it. The short life does not matter for some tasks e.g. annuals and temporary labels, and the easy marking is useful, but to produce readable labels requires care, time, patience, and a good hand. Aluminium labels are a great improvement on plastic, as they have a very long life and the writing in pencil and markers has a reasonably long life. Hand written labels are usually difficult to read from a distance. This encourages visitors to pull up the label to read it, and then either not replace it, or replace it in the wrong position, or to borrow it as memo. The ideal label needs to be readable from about 2m without the label being disturbed, and needs to be large enough to include all of the information required. Most labels only require the plant’s genus, species, accession number, and the cultivar name. A 6” label covers most requirements, and by bending the tag through 90˚ so that the written face is uppermost, and pushing the tag into the ground it can be read without disturbance, and can be anchored with a piece of wire with a hook through the hole in the tag. Plants which need more detailed identification can be labelled using a larger label which is set at an angle and made from polypropylene which has a long life.
Hand writing labels is a very laborious task. The best solution for the Garden is the use of plastic stick-on labels which can be printed either with a hand operated machine, or, as we have a data base, directly from the computer. These labels can be produced in different colours if required, and even transparent with coloured lettering. These stick-on labels can be used with both plastic and aluminium plant labels, and have a range of type faces and sizes, so that an easily read professional looking result can be obtained.
The layout of the type is important, both in terms of readability and in following the correct conventions. The usual convention is for the initial letter of the genus to be in upper case, and the initial letter of the species in lower case. The rest of the letters in the name being in lower case i.e. Magnolia stellata and the cultivar name where required in the form “Scarlet Glory” in probably a lighter font and enclosed by inverted commas. It is scientifically correct to write the genus and species name in italics. The latter arrangement is good because it eases the reading of the label.
Labels for shrubs are a problem as it is difficult to position them near the stem as the branch structure soon covers them. The best arrangement is to attach the label to the branches by plastic covered multi-stranded electrical wire. The tie moves on the branch and damages the bark if it is not covered by a soft material. Dark labels with white writing are readable without being too intrusive.
In our own gardens most people only label the very special, or, new unknown plants, as they can remember and name of their other plants with pride as they show them off. Sadly I can’t remember plant names so my garden used to look like a graveyard of unreadable labels. I tried every special pencil, scratcher, pen and label. The only method I found successful was to bury the labels or to write in pencil on Alitag labels.
For Treborth, we plan to write the labels with a Brother printer (www.brother.co.uk) and there are several specialist label suppliers:
(www.theessentialscompany.co.uk) they have the widest range and are knowledgeable.
(www.alitags.com) very durable and not over intrusive
When we start making the labels we shall need people, with a little computer literacy, to print the labels and we shall also need people to stick the labels from the machine onto the plant labels. Could you help? If so, please contact our secretary Ann Wood :
May began with the sort of unsettled weather which we had grown accustomed to during April’s showery reign. Though generally finer by mid month it remained cool, and perhaps as a result, the moth catches were surprisingly low in number and variety. On only one day in May (27th) did temperatures reach 20 degrees. Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia) once more increased its colony size, with 61 flowering shoots at the main site, and 9 more along the limestone woodland path. A very welcome sound on 14th clearly announced the first cuckoo of the year, and the first record at Treborth for the last 3 years, whilst an Osprey flying north at height above the Garden on 30th was the very first sighting, though perhaps not unexpected, what with the recent colonization of the Glaslyn valley just 20 miles to the south west.
June began with another interesting bird fly-over, this time Crossbill, and again on 24th, this time five individuals (perhaps a family party). Great Spotted Woodpeckers revealed successful breeding with regular visits to the Garden bird table by adults and recently fledged offspring. Siskin too may have bred, a family party seen on 22nd. Moth numbers in the second half of the month improved with increasing temperatures day and night. Hummingbird Hawk was recorded by day on 22nd and Lime Hawk by night on 14th. However, generally moth numbers were appreciably down on last year, the average nightly catch being just 48 individuals of 23 species compared to 148 individual moths of 31 species in June 2004. Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) bloomed on the playing field bank by mid month but none showed in the main Garden meadow plots this year. However Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella) has colonised at least one meadow plot this year. Fox cubs were observed playing in a nearby field mid month, the first proven breeding locally for many years. They are surprisingly scarce at Treborth, even though there appears to be suitable habitat and plenty of food in the form of a burgeoning rabbit population. This no doubt encourages Weasel and Stoat, both seen this month, including a Stoat in one of the glasshouses after a stray rabbit.
July proved a varied month weather wise, starting off unsettled with 20mm of rain in the first five days. There followed a glorious 18 day spell with virtually no rain and very warm conditions, 12 days comfortably exceeding 20 degrees. Finally, rain returned with 50mm (2 inches) in the last five days. Second brood Poplar Hawk moths appeared mid month, as did a mint condition Northern Eggar which is only rarely caught at Treborth, as well as only the second record of the Blackneck Moth. Nymphalid butterflies were very scarce throughout the month but during the second half Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Common Blue, Small Skipper and Purple Hairstreak were all recorded, albeit in small numbers.
By the third week of July there was evidence of a return migration of wading birds through the Strait (Whimbrel, Greenshank and Redshank) whilst on the islands in the Swellies, no sign of Little Egrets breeding this summer but persistent interest in Gorad by Common Terns. This celebrated island used to be home to over 100 pairs of terns and their strident calls were a feature of the breeding season. However a change in use of the island lead to their recent abandonment of the site. Whether or not these individuals were re-assessing the suitability of the island for nesting remains unclear.
In the Garden young of many bird species were evident in July, including record numbers of Bullfinch and a good showing of Long Tailed Tits. Sparrowhawk and Buzzard bred successfully, but the Peregrines on the Britannia Bridge sadly failed to raise any offspring, reason unknown. Enchanter’s-nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) threads its path through the shadiest wooded area, and by mid July the extent of its ramblings becomes clear – wherever dampness and base richness allow it thrives and secures the woodland floor, providing perhaps the final flowering flourish the forest will enjoy for this year, save for the accompanying sweet pervading scent of honeysuckle, and the elegant plumes of tufted hair grass.
From their wooded cells these plants overlook the waters of the Strait where invertebrate life proliferates the summer long – with resident anemones and travelling jellyfish of several species these turbulent waters seem far too cruel a place to permit such delicate exuberance. The final days of July see the Mackerel follow the teeming jumping shoals of whitebait - down through the great kelps, up through the rings of bright water their dripping fronds offer to the setting sun.
WINNING GARDENS IN THE “SNOWDONIA WILDLIFE GARDEN COMPETITION 2005” The Snowdonial Wildlife Gardening Competition is held annually to promote the creation of wildlife friendly gardens, and is open to residents in Gwynedd, Conwy, and now Anglesey. There are four main categories:
For further details please contact Anna Williams, Wildlife Gardening Project Officer, National Park Office, Penrhyndeudreath, Gwynedd, LL48 6LF. Telephone: 01766 772507, email: email@example.com or pick up a leaflet from nurseries, or Treborth Botanic Garden. Several members of the Friends have taken part to date, including Sarah Edgar and Gerry Downing, joint winners in the Private Garden category in 2005. Congratulations to them, and to all the outstanding winners described below.
Private Garden Category:
In the Private Garden Category the judges chose to reward no less than 12 entries ranging from a living room sized gem to garden estates encompassing wildlife rich woodland and verdant riversides. Seven of these were “Highly Commended” and a further five reached Awards. The very high standard of competition this year is reflected in the fact that the judges found it impossible to distinguish between three outstanding gardens, all in the Caernarfon area and accordingly these received a gold award and shared first prize.
Shared 1st Prize - Private Garden Category
Mr. and Mrs. Black, Gwernoer Farm, Nantlle, Gwynedd
Mr. and Mrs. Black’s exceptional efforts over 20 years near Nantlle have created a most individual garden from scratch, which now includes an extensive rockery, pool, pond, varied grasslands, rich shrubberies and the most delightful woodland landscape bejeweled with choice shrubs many propagated by the green fingered couple. What makes their achievement even more notable is the fact that much of their garden lies on an abandoned copper mine with many attendant soil toxicity problems plus a steep rocky hill side access to which the Blacks pioneered with the help of a golf buggy cleverly converted to their needs with all terrain tyres, convenient carrying points for tools, plants and even a panad! Every activity within this garden is in concert with nature and the results for the birds alone are remarkable - both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers breed and Dipper and Grey Wagtail use the dramatic rocky pool created next to the renovated farm house.
Shared 1st Prize - Private Garden Category
Sarah Edgar and Gerry Downing, Tan Felin Wen, Pontrug
Sarah Edgar and Gerry Downing’s 6 acre riverside garden at Pontrug combines light touch management of some existing natural areas such as river banks and islets, controlling invasive alien species such as Himalayan Balsam and returning water flow to the completely choked mill leat as well as restoring gravel beds as spawning grounds for sea trout and salmon. They have extended a natural bog in both size and species composition and introduced a wide range of wildlife plants throughout their garden in a most attractive manner. Their policy is organic and this extends to a productive vegetable garden too.
Shared 1st Prize - Private Garden Category
Jennifer Osborne, Foxbrush, Y Felinheli/Port Dinorwic
Finally Jennifer Osborne’s garden in Port Dinorwic/Y Felinheli came through devastating floods last autumn to scoop joint first prize, demonstrating extraordinary powers of recovery by both garden plants and a truly expert plants woman. The combination of colour and variety in Jennifer’s garden is an unforgettable assault on the senses and the natural style which she so cleverly cultivates is worthy of an award at any major horticultural show you might care to name. Welded to all that is a strong wildlife friendly philosophy in the way Jennifer gardens, and the care she takes to accommodate all creatures that seek a refuge, and a lovelier refuge it is hard to imagine.
2nd Prize - Private Garden Category
Michael Hodges and Sara Lewis, Plas Gwyn, Trefriw, Conwy
On the steep slopes of Trefriw we found Michael Hodges and Sara Lewis’s garden. A garden to be enjoyed by people and wildlife alike. Colours abound in the nectar rich terraces, and Michael and Sara have created two excellent, ecologically well balanced ponds which again are well planted with a mixture of floating plants and colourful emerging plants such as water forget-me-not. A haven for dragonflies and damselflies and newts and frogs also manage to breed in the ponds. Walking through the garden we came across a number of well placed seats from where the wildlife and views can be quietly enjoyed. A meadow, and a woodland with log piles providing habitat for smaller creatures such as insects and woodlice added further interest. Not surprisingly they have a wide range of birds visiting the garden for food and shelter. The judges were very impressed with this aesthetically appealing wildlife friendly garden in the Conwy valley.
3rd Prize - Private Garden Category
Paul Lewis and Ruth Cresswell, Parc Cottage, Ysbyty Ifan, Gwynedd
Ruth Cresswell and Paul Lewis gained third prize for their remarkable successful efforts to transform a small corner of upland Ysbyty Ifan into a wildlife haven complete with rock garden, pond, nectar rich borders and a spinney. They mix native and overseas plants in an eye catching way and wildlife is drawn to their garden in surprising abundance.
1st Prize - School Garden Category
Ysgol San Sior is a very deserving winner of this year’s school category. The school has a long record of improving their grounds to attract wildlife while providing a stimulating, beautiful and relaxing environment for the children. This year’s additions include a meadow on a steep slope, a well planted shady border, and a seagull nest on the roof which was observed by installing a small camera. The pond is well established by now, and there are huge numbers of newts and water creatures who have made it their home. On our guided tour, the enthusiastic school children were eager to show us the colourful flower tubs in the nursery yard. These were cleverly made from car tyres turned “inside-out”, brightly painted and filled with colourful plants such as pansies and lavenders.
Nature studies form an integral part of the school activities. It is impressive and refreshing to see a school use their garden in such a cross-curricular way. The garden has been adorned with a mosaic telling the story of the Red and the White Dragon fighting at Dinas Emrys. The children use the Internet to carry out studies and experiments with other schools around the world. The school has also installed a camera in a bird box, and this year linked it to their own web-site so that the children and anybody else could carry on observing their little blue tit hatchlings from home.
2nd Prize - School Garden Category
Ysgol y Garreg, Llanfrothen, Gwynedd. Headmaster Mr. I. Davies
The garden project at Ysgol y Garreg in Llanfrothen started last summer when Gwynedd Council came and helped clear an overgrown area which was inaccessible to the children. A narrow path was put in and the children started their gardening by planting bulbs, including bluebells, crocuses and small daffodils in the autumn. They wanted a meadow and after careful weeding, sowed a meadow mix and an annual corn field mix also in the autumn. The judges were impressed with the colourful display of poppies, corn marigold, daisies and corn cockle and commented that “this is the most colourful meadow we’ve seen so far this year”. The proud children were keen to show further activities which included a rockery, a butterfly border, and a well planted herb garden. The ground was covered with wood chippings which is sensible, and attractive mulch which keeps the moisture in, while reducing the need for weeding. A native hedge was planted in early February and the garden is now a popular place for birds, and one couple has occupied the bird box this year.
3rd Prize - School Garden Category
Ysgol Tudweiliog, Tudweiliog, Gwynedd. Head mistress Einir Davies
On the west coast of the Lleyn peninsula, a haven for people and wildlife is being created by the school children of Ysgol Tudweiliog. They have enjoyed a spring full of outside activities with the help of Dafydd Davies Huws and dedicated teachers. The garden is exposed to the south westerly gales sweeping in from the sea, and as a first approach the children have made a wind break by weaving live willow around stout hazel poles. This shelter, together with an Escallonia hedge, is giving them the opportunity to use the area as an outdoor class room while giving other plants a chance to survive. The children have also made a larger willow dome which is beautiful in itself and of course a lot of fun to the kids. Shelter is the main theme of the wildlife garden, and quiet corners have been created to enable the children to work here, sketching and drawing. The garden also includes a pond from where a boy netted a large diving beetle for us to admire. A bird hide has also been built in the past. This year the children made a hedgehog home while visiting National Trust in Craflwyn and we hope it will have visitors there hibernating this winter.
1st Prize – Business Garden Category
Bob and Ann Cole, Bryn Elltyd Guesthouse, Tanygrisiau, Blaenau Ffestniog.
An inspiring environmentally friendly guesthouse in Tanygrisiau won First Prize in the business category. Bob and Ann Cole have transformed what was a bleak and bracken covered piece of land into a green oasis with a large trout filled pond as its focal point. Guests are welcome to come out and sit and enjoy the huge variety of birds that come and feed on the home-made, attractive and unusual wooden “bird tables”. A path takes you round the lush garden with has a variety of trees, shrubs and colourful perennials. The pond is fed by a clear mountain stream which adds sound and movement to the place. The Cole’s have sowed a meadow, but not just on the ground, their outbuildings have a turf roof with an attractive mix of flowers growing here. Although strictly not part of the garden we would also like to mention their efforts of using the sun to heat up the water for their guests. Solar panels cover south facing gable walls, they blend in well and form part of this innovative and friendly guest house.
2nd Prize - Business Garden Category
John Braddock Convalescent Centre, Old Colwyn, Colwyn Bay, Conwy
The John Braddock Convalesecnt Centre in Colwyn Bay won 2nd prize in the business class. During the last 2 years the new head gardener Mr. T. Shears has thoughtfully managed this large garden to encourage native wild flowers, creating more shelter and natural food sources for birds. The result is a very pleasing environment with a mix between informal and formal parts of the garden which the clients can quietly enjoy. Home grown organic vegetables and fruit are on the menu. This entails a lot of hard work and innovative ideas by the gardeners. The judges were impressed with the meadow in the orchard which was species rich and included some fine examples of Common Spotted Orchids. This area used to be regularly mown so in the past the wild flowers could never be appreciated.
3rd Prize- Business Garden Category
Caban Cyf, Brynrefail, Gwynedd
A praise worthy enterprise in the old school buildings at Brynrefail, accommodating local businesses, has also put effort into their surrounding land. Planting has been carried out by gardeners Nick and Amanda who have carefully chosen suitable plants for the area. Herbs, figs and strawberries are grown along the concrete ramp whilst lavenders, box, yew and heathers have been chosen for the front garden. A natural meadow is encouraged in the wooded back garden where customers at the well reputed café can enjoy wooden sculptures and birdsong. Ambitions are high at this local enterprise and organic home grown vegetables are beginning to appear on the menu. A number of large raised beds have been built and together with bee hives and soft fruit the vegetable garden will be complete. Ted Sylvester, manager of Caban Cyf comments that he is very keen to see the whole community involved in the project and he has hopes of working with local schools, both primary and secondary.
1st Prize – Community Garden Category
Old Colwyn Environment Foundation
A number of gardens looked after by the Old Colwyn Environment Federation won First prize in the community category. This represents a real community effort with a huge number of people involved from children to old people and we were very impressed by the level of activity and energy generated. One of the members, Clifford Prout, has managed to raise substantial amounts of money to enable the various projects to take off.
Footpaths have been built to allow access to all enjoying the wildlife of The Fairy Glen. An uncommon, native tree; the black poplar can be seen at Min y Don Woodlands.
North Wales Butterfly Conservation Society has helped to create the most attractive butterfly borders in Tan y Coed and Wynn Gardens. The latter park has also got interesting and aesthetically pleasing wooden and slate sculptures which further enhances the enjoyment of this area to all. St. John’s Church is another amazing enterprise where the local community has helped in creating the most appealing garden full of colour and interest. The recent upsurge in weddings at this church proves the point and a visit to all these gardens is recommended.
2nd Prize – Community Garden Category
Eden Hall Blind Gardens, Penmaenmawr
A very interesting and unusual project wins the 2nd prize in the community category. This garden designed for the blind has been created as a joint venture between the local council and the BTCV- British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. A lot of hard work has gone into building the different shaped raised stone borders. These have been filled with a huge variety of tactile plants, many herbs with a strong smell or interesting to touch. Brass plaques with Braille writing of the name of the plant immediately by it have been put on the stone walls. A stream along the edge of this peaceful garden further adds interest to this attractive garden. Extensive interpretation material has been produced and more information is available from BTCV in Bangor.
3rd Prize – Community Garden Category
Cyfeillion Maes Chwarae Pentre Du, Betws-y-Coed
The local community has been busy making a fantastic play area for the children next to the school at Betws-y-Coed. Time consuming hard work resulted in funds being raised and together with the Forestry Commission and Rhyd-y-Creuau Field Study Centre work could begin. Raised beds of interesting shapes have been built and these were filled with a variety of plants. Children from the local school have helped with the planting of these and a large rockery, fruit trees as well as hedges. The judges were especially impressed with the attractive village herb garden which was well stocked with descriptive labels for each plant. Plants apart, the children can now enjoy a variety of wooden play equipment and a picnic on the rustic oak table. A huge amount of work has gone into this worthy project which we hope will inspire others to do the same for their community.
Final words by the judges
And increasingly our gardens are becoming refuges – as a tide of uniformity drowns the natural diversity of the countryside, we increasingly look to gardens as islands of bioluxuriance. These winning gardens amply demonstrate what paradises can be achieved, for wildlife and for us.
Anna Williams Nigel Brown