Monday, 26 March 2012

The wonders of willow and my plans for guerilla gardening

One of my regular dog walks takes me along a farm track that runs between two wheat fields for about 3/4 of a mile before reaching a fairly intensively managed hay meadow nestled between buildings and a small wooded area. 
white dead nettle

As Spud, Lola, Rosie and I traversed the wheat field at the weekend I was amazed to hear a subtle buzzing off to my left; it was a sunny day but I still didn't expect to meet a bumble bee in the middle of such a pollen-free monoculture.  I kept a close eye on the narrow grass verge after that and spotted a few dead-nettles and some speedwell but nothing that I imagined would attract such a big fat bee, until that was, I had crossed the hay meadow and rounded the wood.
All of a sudden I was hit by a wall of sound, a bustling choir of humming, droning,whirring wings, bees of all shapes, sizes and designs feasting on a willow tree.

willow in full flower
Now I have never thought of the willow as a wild flower, but mine eyes have been opened.  When few other plants are blooming, this little tree is a valuable source of nectar for insects just out of hibernation; and when the willow finishes, there will be may blossom, brambles, dog roses and a whole field of cultivated peas to nourish them. 
After the peas have finished flowering though, I suspect there might be a bit of a lull in the pollen supply for these busy buzzy creatures.  The hay meadow is kept well fed so as to maximise yield, weeds will have been eliminated from the surrounding crops, and most of the land that cannot be ploughed has turned to scrub.  Solution........I must turn guerilla and start sowing wild flower seeds wherever there is a chance the plants will survive. 





My mission, in my own small way, will be to bring wild flowers back to survive side by side with intensive farming.  I have 4 main challenges; lack of rainfall (can't change that and sadly it rules out any thoughts on using Meadowmat), the farmer, my husband, does not believe in flower power (fine, if he doesn't help me, I won't cook his tea or wash his clothes), there is a thriving community of rabbits who may well consume the fruits of my labour and ditto for the roe deer.
At EcoBuild, I finally got to have a good chat with Nick Mann of Habitat Aid who sold me a packet of "Meadow Anywhere" wild flower seeds.  These are my secret weapons.  Wish me luck.
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