Category: Wildlife

#wegrowtogether: a guide to companion planting

There’s a lot of wisdom out there amongst professional and amateur gardeners. Much folklore and science knowledge handed down from generation to generation. 

In the post second world war  ‘nuke everything with a chemical’ era, a lot of native knowledge about what grew well with what, was lost and indeed strongly poo-poohed as ‘magic’ and superstition.

Thankfully since then, largely due to the Organic Gardening lobby, a more rational approach and some good scientific studies have been instrumental in making the practice of ‘companion planting’ an accepted practice amongst mainstream gardeners.

In our veg. and herb garden (the Batty Langley), we tend to mix some pre-18th century practices with some modern wisdom. We don’t use chemicals and plant calendula, nasturtiums, borage, comfrey etc plants amongst the vegetables to encourage beneficial insects.

On the Schools plot we have also experimented with ‘Three Sisters’ planting. This is a techniques used primarily by native north american peoples and combines three main agricultural crops winter squash, maize (corn), and climbing beans.

“The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to        climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other  plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a “living mulch”, creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and all eight essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)

There is quite a lot of information out there on the web but we thought we would share a guide made by one of our helpful commercial partners, FirstTunnels.

Click here to be taken to their very comprehensive site

https://www.firsttunnels.co.uk/page/Companion-Planting-Guide

 

 

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Sunday Saunters…special weekend openings for winter wanderings

Sometimes all you want on Sunday afternoon at this time of year is a bit of fresh air and a stretching of the legs.

No kitting up for a long walk in the hills, just a stroll around a green and peaceful place…

This winter we are having a series of special weekend openings at the Gardens with this need in mind. There are five ‘Sunday Saunters’ between the end of January and the beginning of the season in April.

Late Winter and early Spring is also just a fascinating time in our Gardens.. the snowdrops, aconites and hellebores begin to emerge. As the days get longer the birds (and the box hedges!) get more active. Soon our drifts of daffodils begin to shoot up. When we are lucky enough to have some sunshine the low raking light illuminates the walkways and creates intriguing silhouettes.

We like to share these transient treasures, so Sunday opening offers a chance for our busy visitors to have a couple of hours of healthy pootering outdoors.

Of course it’s still a bit parky, so we have opened our 18th century Greenhouse (sometimes known as the Orangery) for people to find shelter and get a cup of warming chocolate.

On some of the days we will also strike up the firepit and indulge in toasted marshmallows and have some simple family crafts too.

 

Here are the dates. Do check back to the events calendar on this site or on Facebook just to make sure.

Sundays, 11am – 3pm

£4 adults, £1 children. Free for Members

 28th January Snowdrops+ RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and family craft
 4th February Snowdrops
18th February
  4th March Daffs + Elite Tents Wedding Fair on site  (free entry)
18th March Good for Daffs

 

 

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The Strawberry Tree

  The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is a easy tree or shrub to identify, having both flowers and fruit present at the same time. The strawberry (or I think more like lychee) like fruit take up to a year to ripen, so as last year’s fruits turn red, the flowers that will form next year’s fruit start to appear. The fruit is said to be edible, although not very tasty, which may be hinted at in it’s Latin name ‘unedo‘; coming from unum edo ‘I eat one’ – meaning after you have eaten one you wouldn’t want another one? Having not yet tried one I couldn’t say! Which is good news for the birds, leaving plenty of fruit for them to feast on during the colder months.

A member of the Ericaceae family of plants, most commonly known as heather, the flowers bear a strong resemblance to those of heathers, with bell-like downward facing flowers in small clusters.

You may have also seen this plant in a well known Morris & Co. design, used in fabrics and wallpapers where you can clearly see the red fruits and white flowers.

Have a wander down to the Lower Wilderness to have a closer look at these interesting plants..

 

 

 

 

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Cyclamen hederifolium

If you take a walk along the top of the Upper Wilderness to the far end and gaze underneath the large Yew tree, you will see the tiny but perfectly formed Cyclamen hederifolium coming into flower. A mixture of pink and white, the tiny flowers appear before the foliage, which as its name suggests is ivy-shaped (‘hederifolium’ coming from the Latin ‘Hedera’ for ivy, ‘folium’ refering to the leave shape). The common name ‘ivy-leaved cyclamen’ is self-explanatory, but its other common name ‘sowbread’ intrigued me. A bit of research concluded that it comes from the fact that ‘The root resembled a loaf and pigs were believed to enjoy eating it’.1  

Cyclamen coils

This plant originates in the Mediterranean, and was introduced into Britain around 1596, so would have been available in the early 18th century when the gardens were at their peak.

After the flowers have been pollinated, the stem coils around to take the seed heads closer to the ground, forming interesting little corkscrews underneath the flowers that you can see if you look closely. The reason they do this is not clear, but a possible theory is that ants may distribute the seeds further from the parent plant. All in all, a very interesting plant that is worth a closer look!

1. Campbell-Culver, M. 2001. Origins of plants: the people and the plants that shaped Britain. London: Headline Book Publishing.

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Unplug and Play – all summer

Five weeks of good value summer fun at the Gardens

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12- 3.30… it’s Unplug and Play

Crafts, gardening and outdoor exploration. Children and families can enjoy outdoor play and/or craft activities under gentle supervision.

The mud kitchen, maze, dipping pond and some gardening activities available for families to explore any day during summer.  Every week will have a different activity based on something in the Gardens.

Week one 25th, 26th, 27th July    Get up and do

Recycled streamers, making chatterboxes and all things on the move: waving, bending, climbing, crawling flying, rolling , fluttering , creeping.

 Week two, 2nd & 3rd August  Wildlife disguises

Collages from leaves, green man masquerade masks, find the dancers in the trees.

(because of the Dogs Don’t do Ballet performance on Tues 1st – there will be no craft activities. Tickets for the performance £10)

Week three, 8th, 9th 10th August  Make an impression..

Clay hedgehogs, leaf and bark rubbings, flowers and leaf pressed nature medallions

Week four, 15th, 16th 17th August  Festival style! The recycled way.

Make your own flags and bunting from plastic bags, paper and other household things.

NB Thursday 17th is big Family Fun Day 11-3.30

Week five, 22nd 23rd, 24th August  Teddies, picnics, making a picture

Sit and relax with teddy, make a den, explore the wildlife and create some art around the site

 

There’s 10 acres of formal gardens, lawns, holly maze and wilder areas, so lots of places to explore, play and run around whatever is going on.

  • Café and small shop onsite. No need to book.
  • Cost: £2 per person (free for under 5s)
  • £8 for a family day ticket (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults)
  • £20 for a family week ticket (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults)
  • Free for Family Activity Annual Pass holders (up to 5 people, maximum of 2 adults, including named cardholder) Pass cost £40 and will runs for 12 months.

Contact: 0121 749 4100   Email: admin@cbhgt.org.uk

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New-bees … we’ve got a new queen

We have 4 hives on site. Two are owned by Norman and are well established in the Gardens. They have been joined by two new ones, owned and looked after by Malcolm.

They’ve been a bit feisty settling in and Malcolm realised they were missing their queen…”where did you go to my lovely?”

Today Malcolm fetched two fresh Buckfast Queens and they’ve now been installed… and Malcolm even dressed , from top to to toe, in white for the occasion.

Welcome to the Gardens queenies both.

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Invasion of the Giant Flowers … half term activities

Did you shrink or did the flowers just grow?

Wander amongst our beautiful towering plants over 4 metres tall – they’re crocheted!

This May half term join in the festival atmosphere with our Alice in Wonderland sized installation… All week from Bank Holiday Monday (29th May) through to Friday (June 2nd) we’ll also running family friendly activities around our flower theme.

  • Add a pompom flower to our woolly field and make some pom pom bees to fly amongst them.
  • Help us build giant bug hotel and learn how to make your own mini-beastie hotel at home.

    http://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/thingstodo/inaweekend/bug-mansion.aspx
    credit: Sue Tatman & RHShome.
  • And why not construct a giant birds nest for the little ones to snuggle up in.
  • Little green fingers can also help us plant up our Jack and the Giant Beanstalk runner bean tunnel… plant now and come back to play in the tunnel over summer.

The giant flowers are here all week and weekend (Sunday to Saturday), the family activities are Monday to Friday.

Family Friendly sessions + entry to the Gardens £2 (for anyone over 5 years old)

Family Activities Annual Pass holders: FREE

NB Normal entry prices for non-family groups

 

Family Activities 12- 3pm Monday to Friday

Gardens open Saturday 27th – Sunday 4th

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Warwickshire wildlife trust out counting hedgehogs

Hedgehogs by torchlight

We’ve always valued our connection with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Hedgehog project. Officer Simon Thompson has always thought our mix of cultivaed grass and wilder areas have been an ideal habitat for these really threatened creatures.  With him and our younger visitors we have carried out a couple of population surveys in an around the Gardens and held the odd ‘hedgehog day’ or two.

This is Hedgehog Awareness Week (#hedgehogweek) and although we are not doing anything special this week, we are pleased to be hosting a special torchlight tour on 26th May (8.30pm to 10pm). Here are the details. Please book your place in advance via the link below (it takes you to the Wildlife Trust’s site)

Join Hedgehog Officers, Simon Thompson and Debbie Wright, for an evening outdoor event. They will be talking all things hedgehog, answering questions and leading a torchlight tour of 17th century gardens on the lookout for the enigmatic and elusive hedgehog.

Please be advised that this is an adults only event. Please wear clothing that is both warm and waterproof and wear appropriate footwear. Meet opposite St Mary and St Margaret’s Church, Chester Road, Castle Bromwich, B36 9BT..

To book your place and pay for the advanced ticket (£5) please click through to the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust website

here: warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/hedgehogtorchlighttour

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Family Friendly volunteering in the Gardens

Unplug and Play! Our school holiday programme  for families to get outside, together in a safe and creative place. Suddenly the Back Garden grew… to 10acres!

 Want to try out your work skills? Why not volunteer with us.

*We’re looking right now for volunteers for February half term, Easter and summer holidays  apply now to find out how you can make a difference*

We can help you grow and practice your creative, early years, youth work, woodland and gardening skills.

Storytime, crafts, learning to knit, mud kitchens, land art and wildlife activities, we’ve got them all.

You can have a great time helping young people grow – just few hours will make a difference.

We want young children and their grown-ups to find our Gardens a place to get outside, enjoy making and creating, run around and sometimes just be peaceful.

Can you help us support them?

Families can use the Gardens 7 days a week but on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during school holidays, from 12-3pm, we run extra sessions.

Ways you can help:

  • Perhaps help us run story time in the Maze?
  • Help us with simple craft activities – frogs from cardboard tubes, recycling milk cartons into wind catchers?
  • Be part of the giant recycled knit-knot tent made from strips of material and French knitting ‘ropes’.
  • Garden alongside our junior gardeners?

You don’t have to be an expert, we can show you how to do things.

As well as the sessions we need people to prepare and tidy up – put away the books and cushions, set out the croquet on the lawn, collect the doodles and pin them to the artline.. gather recycled materials ….

Let us know if you have some time- or know of others who’d like to help out. You don’t need to commit to the whole summer, just a few hours of your time can make a big difference.

Want to know more?

You can: Phone. 0121 749 4100, Email :admin@cbhgt.org.uk

Fill out a form here

Come along to one of our regular Volunteer Open sessions  (see event calendar – Fridays), 10am- 12,  3Download a copy of this information (pdf) here : Family Activities volunteering

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Kids plan to Takeover the Gardens

Yesterday 14 young people invaded the Gardens and started plotting to take over!

The young people, from nearby Braidwood School for the Deaf,  are part of a Birmingham wide programme run by the group Kids in Museums.  Takeover Birmingham is a pilot programme for 11 – 14 year olds, designed to ensure arts and culture are available to everyone no matter what their background.

The young people, accompanied by signers, took a tour round the gardens undeterred by the cold and damp. They decided that bugs and mini beasties were unseen helpers in the Gardens and will be devising their own interactive tour.

Here is some of their creative thinking:

 

The group have scheduled Friday 19th May as their Takeover Day….

Should we worry, should we be scared? No we’re looking forward to the next generation’s management of heritage.

Keep  a lookout for more information about the Takeover Day

 

 

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