Barnwood Arboretum & Nature Reserve


Flowerbed in Barnwood Park

 

Changes to the flower bed in Barnwood Park

Several years ago Gloucester City Council teamed up with the Bee Guardian Foundation to increase habitat for bees across the city. This involved creating “urban wildflower meadows” – swathes of pollen and nectar rich annual flowers – along roadside verges and in parks as well as planting many more trees attractive to pollinators. The Friends of Barnwood Arboretum took over the care of the newly created flower bed in Barnwood Park after the first year and have continued to re-seed and weed it each year.

In 2016 we came to the conclusion that we could extend the season for pollinators by using (mainly) perennial plants. We hope that it will also be attractive to park visitors for a longer period. Initially we were planning to base our choice of plants on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators plant list. This is a huge list and we were still struggling to work out where to start when two of the Friends came across an interesting flower bed in a park in Tunbridge Wells. This flower bed was part of an experiment by the University of Sussex aimed at putting recommendations of bee and insect friendly garden plants on a firmer scientific basis. We are very grateful to Professor F. Ratnieks of the University of Sussex, who told us the results of an earlier stage of the project and even invited us to take part in the current stage. (There are several very interesting talks by Professor Ratnieks about the project on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stMgzQ1_kVA).
We declined the invitation because the University of Sussex is focusing on summer flowering plants whereas our aim is to increase the length of time when pollen and nectar are available. However, Professor Ratniek’s research helped us with the significant task of reducing the potential list of plants to just over 20 varieties. It was encouraging to discover that many of the Friends were already growing some of the recommended plants in our own gardens.

We have now planted up the flower bed thanks to donations of plants from individual Friends. (When removing the old annual flowers we inadvertently disturbed a family of wood mice sheltering amongst the flower stems. Fortunately we were able to help them reach the shelter of the hedge.) The plants are grouped in blocks of the same variety as this is more efficient for pollinators and will hopefully look better. We aim to record what is in flower each week throughout the year and would be delighted to recruit regular visitors to the park to help with this. (If you would like to volunteer please email us atgl4arboretum@aol.com). The flower bed is surrounded by species crocus which have been flowering successfully in the early spring for 4 or 5 years and are a useful source of early nectar.

We do not expect that we have got everything right at this stage. Some of the plants we have used may be invasive and others may not like the conditions so we shall review and make changes as necessary. Like most flower beds this will be an ongoing project as well as a useful experiment for those of us who want to improve habitat for pollinators in our own gardens.

Update on the flowerbed June 2018

The flowerbed is developing but we have lost a few plants and there are some gaps. We allowed the annual poppies to flower because they were stunning and attracted a lot of bees. When we finally removed them earlier this month we realised that the lavenders had been overwhelmed and consequently not grown much. The michaelmas daisies are obviously very happy where they are - perhaps a little too happy for the good of some of their neighbours! We have some replacement plants to fill the gaps but the ground is so dry that it would not be sensible to plant them at present. We have no water supply apart from Wotton Brook which is itself very low. We will review the situation in July.

In the meantime the perennial wallflower "Bowles Mauve" and the catmint are providing a constant supply of nectar and pollen for the bees and the campanula glomerata has been much admired. The viburnum tinus is being eaten but we hope a predatory insect or the birds will help. The rudbekia and purple loosestrife are about to flower.

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