Wild about Gardens: Kent Wildlife Trust October 31, 2016 22:17

Last Thursday afternoon I spent an inspiring few hours at the Kent Wildlife Trust 'Wild about Gardens' Celebration Event, coinciding with Wild about Gardens Week

Egged on by my Dad ("Go on, enter your garden... You'll enjoy it. And you'll learn something") I dubiously entered our garden into the award scheme earlier this year. The award programme encourages and promotes the creation of wildlife friendly gardens in and around the county, with a team of volunteers kindly visiting every entrant. 

In June, a lovely 'advisor' (or judge) came over to our house and took a look around our garden and last week, I was rather thrilled to accept a Silver Gilt Award for our little patch. 

And of course, it turns out that Dad was right. The whole experience was really enjoyable, but particularly the Celebration last Thursday.

Primary schools, community allotments, village meadows and private gardens were among the 150 entrants receiving awards last week. Some of my favourites included the Taxi Driver from Sevenoaks who received a special, 'ambassador' award for his work in taking over the town's less salubrious raised beds and transforming them into flower filled havens for wildlife. Then there was the softly spoken gentleman from Sittinbourne who wasn't quite sure who owned the land near his newly built house, part of a modern housing development in the centre of town, but decided to get cracking anyway. The result is a beautiful communal garden, enjoyed by the feathery and furry as well as us larger mammals. 

Three gold winning gardens that you can visit include the wonderful Salutation Garden in Sandwich, Abbey Physic Community Garden in Faversham and the Rare Breeds Environmental Garden near Ashford. All extremely deserving winners, firm favourites with me and well worth a visit if you've not been before.

Rounding up proceedings was the irrepressible Tom Hart Dyke from Lullingstone Castle. Having visited Lullingstone Castle earlier this year, it was a real treat to hear first hand about the development of the World Garden and the positive impact the vast range of native and non-native plants and flowers have had on the local bugs and beasties. 

wild about gardens: Denys & FieldingWhile the overwhelming sentiment was one of celebration, there were one or two sobering stats and facts shared throughout the course of the afternoon, including a particularly alarming one... Apparently we have just 100 more harvests left in this country. Can you imagine this beautiful autumn we are enjoying without a harvest? I can't. And yet it is possible that our grandchildren will miss out during their lifetime.

This alone is why initiatives such as Wild about Gardens are so important. Kent Wildlife Trust struck the perfect balance last week - Positive about the development of every garden, no matter how large or small, no matter how accomplished or inexperienced. Realistic about the demand for housing and the impact that is having on an already very busy county, but supportive and inclusive of every living thing. Joyful in its appreciation of the efforts every entrant had made to create a garden fit for the wild.

A long with my award I also came home with a report on my garden and areas that I can develop and improve - a prize in itself. How often do you get this kind of feedback on your garden!? For free?! I also have a notepad full of inspiring ideas to steal and try out in my own little patch. These include:

  • Introduction of water in the 'veg' patch. I combine fruit, veg and flowers in the front veggie garden because I love the mix of things growing together and the benefits that companion planting create. But I hadn't considered adding a little pond to the front garden. I didn't think I'd have room. All that changed whenl I spotted a tub pond in one or two of the gardens photographed and shared last week. Great idea and my new gang of frogs hopping around the veg beds will love it. 
  • More 'dead wood': I love having small piles of wood around the place for bugs and beasties. They also look really great in the winter months as I get a lot of mushrooms and fungus growing on them. But there is always room for more and I can add a few others, dotted around like sculpture around the place. 
  • Make the most of the margins: If truth be told, I have neglected the 'kids bit' at the end of the garden. This is basically a grass area (it would be a lie to call it a 'lawn'!) where the boys can run around, bounce on the obligatory trampoline and kick a football about without much moaning from me. But I've been lazy. While I don't want to stop their fun, there is enough room for my family and other animals. So there are plans afoot for bare root fruit trees, trained as cordons up against the fence. And I reckon I could add a few more flowers around and about the parameters in order to avoid incoming assaults from footballs and frisbees. Watch this space...

For me, the Wild about Gardens Celebration was a brilliant, life affirming, inspiring afternoon. Wild about Gardens? Yes. 'Fraid so. Totally smitten.