Tuesday 4 December 2018

Clearing Spaces November / December - Bird Boxes Complete!

Curious Basil!

 thinks he might help out

Aftere feeding the hens and ducks, 
and going for a health walk with Sue

 The group continued decorating the bird boxes

we started earlier in the project

we were inspired by Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake!

Thursday 18 October 2018

Clearing Spaces - The Hidden Pond

Before tackling the Hidden Pond Area

there were some trees to plant

and eggs to collect

Green Patch cats Rosemary

and Basil

The pond had become very

overgrown with reeds and weeds

We began moving the silted tyres

and hope to replant them later on

It is heard to know quite where to begin but we have had some wonderful plans and advice from  Ann Leonard who is used to dealing with huge pond projects through her role as Office Manager at AES Europe and who is a long time participant, supporter and friend of Back To Books. Ann came to visit the site during the planning stages of the project in August and has given us three options to look at.

Green Patch Pond
Option 1
  1. Judiciously prune trees to achieve dappled shade.
  2. Cut back or remove shrub.
  3. Clear out reeds from pond – leave to one side so that pond dwellers can find their way to safety.
  4. Remove tyres.
  5. Reassess the situation. It may be the path of least resistance to trim back the liner to 8 inches from the edge of the pond, install marginal plants round the perimeter and plant up some baskets to put on the shelves.
  6. Allow the pond to fill naturally
Plant list 1 - Marginal
Water forget-me-nots – Mysotis scorpioides (easy from seed)
Molly blobs - Caltha palustris
Brooklime - Veronica beccabunga (easy from seed)
Creeping Jenny – Lysimachia nummularia
Purple loosestrife - Lythrum salicaria
Ox eye daisy - Leucanthemum vulgare - (easy from seed)
Marsh woundwort - Stachys palustris

Baskets filled with a loamy compost , planted and a layer of gravel to prevent soil floating out. Suggest planting a tall plant from below with a couple of menthe aquatic strands.

Flag iris (yellow)
Purple iris
Orontium aquaticum

Option 2
As option 1 to point 4.
5. As there is excess liner it would be possible to excavate a shallow trench under it to add a channel to make a space for bog plants. The channel must be deep enough to contain soil and plants and leave a significant border of liner to “tuck” under the turf round the pond . It is not necessary to surround the entire pond with bog plants, a narrower cut could be made and marginal plants from the option 1 list planted.

Planting would be as Option one plant list for baskets and marginal plants
Option 2 bog plants
Astilbe – red, white and pink shades available
Houttuynia cordata
Hostas – species for damp shade
Geum Rivale
Mentha aquatic

Aquatic plant seeds – it is possible to grow aquatic plants from seed – Forget-me-nots, Brooklime, and Butumos are easy – but Butumos takes several years to flower… could be grown on in baskets over a period of years to replace plants at a later date. Other seeds are available – it may be an interesting project to “grow your own” for volunteers.
Mysotis scorpioides

Option 3
1 Prune trees and remove/cut back shrub/
2 Clear pond entirely including liner
3 Measure fibre glass liner and ensure it will fit in the hole. Excavate where necessary. Aim to have the edges very slightly below the level of the surrounding land, definitely not higher, to allow water runoff from the local area to fill the pond.
4) Line the bottom of the hole with sand. Check depth again. Ensure the pond bottom is absolutely level.
5) Brace the dipped side of the fibre glass shell with wood or bricks to ensure that the level is perfect.
6) Backfill with whatever is available. Hardcore or crushed aggregate could go at the bottom, sand then whatever soil is available.
7) The new area surrounding the pond will need to be graded (made to slope) downwards into the pond.

Plants for baskets as previous options.
As the fibreglass shell has a very narrow lip it would be very easy to achieve some interesting planting effects. Enthusiastic creeping plants like Brooklime and Creeping Jenny would be ideal to offer an open aspect opposite tall plants like Purple Loosestrife.

Further thoughts.
  1. In the medium term once the pond is stable it will need to be maintained, plants cut back in February etc. Overgrowth will need to be curtailed – plants can be divided up and planted elsewhere.
  2. The presence of newts make me think it would be a good idea to create a newt hotel for hibernation. Pile of sticks 60cm high and 100cm long covered loosely with turf.
  3. The area to the left of the pond next to the fence nearest the other pond rather lends itself to a willow hut with some tree trunk sttols for a story telling area.
  4. The ponds need aeration a solar powered floating pump would be useful for both.
  5. The iris basket in the square pond needs hauling out and the rhizome sawing up to create new plants.
  6. Don’t put tap water in the ponds… it has a massive amount of nutrients which will encourage algae to grow.

It seems daunting but we will get there!

Thursday 11 October 2018

Clearing Spaces - Bird Boxes

October is a time for seed collection and preparation 

Happily there was still warmth and light enough

for the group to work on painting

bird boxes for the Hidden Pond Garden 

and the Wellbeing Garden

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Clearing Spaces - Chelsea Physic Garden

To get our new Clearing Spaces Project off to an inspiring start we took a party of volunteers and project participants to Chelsea Physic Garden in London. Where we were able to learn more about medicinal herbs, their use, history and what we might like to include in our new Medicinal Herb Spiral.

Since 1673 Chelsea Physic Garden has occupied four acres of land on the edge of the Thames. First established by the Apothecaries in order to grow medicinal plants, this extraordinary garden in London has had wide reaching impact around the world.

Enjoying a break in the glorious sunshine

As of October 2017, the garden included 5,000 plants, in areas such as:
  • The Garden of Medicinal Plants
  • The Pharmaceutical Garden, with plants arranged according to the ailment they are used to treat
  • The Garden of World Medicine, with medicinal plants arranged by the culture which uses them
  • The Garden of Edible and Useful Plants
  • The World Woodland Garden

When the Garden was first established by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1673, its role was to provide a place where they could grow all of the plants which young apothecaries could learn to identify key medicinal plants.  This area is an area where apothecaries would have grown medicinal plants in the 17th and 18th centuries. We of course no longer train apothecaries at the Garden, but we are still visited by medical students wishing to learn about the history of plant-based medicine.  

Our wonderful guides gave two groups an enjoyable, informative tour of the gardens, paying particular attention to medicinal herbs


The plants are displayed here in a series of themed rooms.
World Medicine Collection
Beds dedicated to medicine throughout every region of the world, some of the plants traditionally used by healers, shamans, witch doctors and herbalists over the last 5,000 years. 
Dioscorides Bed
Displays some of the plants first listed by the first-century Greek pharmacologist, physician and botanist Dioscorides (c.40-c.90AD) in his book of medicinal plants. 
Officinalis Beds
Early pharmacies were known as officinas and this bed displays the type of plants that would have been sold.

Traditional Medicine of the British Isles
A range of plants grown by the Apothecaries in the Garden between the 17th and 19th centuries are grown here.
Pharmaceutical Plants
Plants form the basis of around a quarter of all modern western medicines. Here each bed represents a different medicinal discipline, including Oncology and Dermatology. There are around 60 plants, all of which are vital to modern medicine. 
Herbal Remedies
Displays numerous herbal remedies. Herbal remedies prepared directly from plants are relied on by over 80% of the world's population despite having little scientific evidence.

Some of the group helped choose seed we will grow during the project

and one of our group donated this beautiful rose

Although our time in the garden was relatively short everyone came away feeling refreshed and inspired.