Photo Essay – Winter and Summer in our Eco-garden

December 2020

Forest Edge is an eco-garden, in that we attempt to optimise the wildlife, whilst still delivering a beautiful garden AND a play area for the grandchildren.

We cannot do everything in the area we have, so there are limits. We have had herds of fallow deer (30+) in the garden – that has been stopped with a fence. Potential lawn meadow is a play and picnic area, and a swing cuts a swathe through our spring meadow when the grandchildren are in circulation. Yet, many will see our plot as a weed patch! For where stripped lawn might appear we have waving grasses in flower and pink orchids.

In the end we all make choices. Annette and I are content with relaxed formal flower and shrub borders, and the free-flowing wild zones. We consider we have the best of both gardening styles. What do you think?

In summer the area beneath the walnuts goes through multiple phases ending with bulbous buttercups in flower. Their seeds are heavy and do not spread into the borders nearby.
Christmas Day 2020

While the yellow impact has gone in winter, we have the stems of the dogwood (Cornus) and the green of the conifer to catch the eye. The lawn looks as if it is just grass – yet grass is only a minor percentage of the composition.

The flowery lawn is also a playground for children and butterflies. Its growth varies from only 10cm to perhaps 20cm, with pathways cut through it.
Main lawn in December.

The main lawn is now cut and the millions of leaves deposited in huge bags to compost – next autumn to be added to the borders to add nutrients and enhance the soil’s structure. The flowery borders are (this year) cut down for the winter, yet are often left until spring before cutting. Exuberant growth will ensure they look good by summer.

The swing is still there!

For a short time this bed (above) contained only local wild herbaceous plants. It was was lovely the first year, however the local plants loved our soil and climate far too much. They became enormous and looked more like weeds than traditional garden plants. Perhaps it is better to grow natives which only marginally like the soil and conditions. We now have a mixture of natives and exotics – to give winter and all-year interest.

To make an impact as an eco-gardener you must also show you can garden. No person will enjoy just a weed patch on its own. My advice is to have the two – semi-formal and eco-zones.

Wild orchids, and multiple other local species, will move into your garden, given a chance – less mowing and tidiness! This military x monkey orchid (Above) cross was introduced by seed … but a 10 years wait for flowering.

Rare dormice live in this hedge.
Betony, a local native.

Above, part of the Summer / Hay Meadow is full of pyramidal orchids – all growing there by their own choice. But, that area now looks just like our winter lawn – cut grass. This reduces competition for short-grassland species, which can then thrive. The cutting mirrors the effect of grazing.

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