We believe it is high time to rethink what beauty in a garden is. The more we tidy and neaten things up, the less biodiversity there is. We are great admires of Mary Reynolds, whom we wrote about in this post a few years back.
She is the founder of the brilliant ‘We are the Ark’ project which we are getting on board with on our piece of land. ARK stands for Acts of Restorative Kindness. You can read all about this wonderful, worldwide initiative on this website. It is all about creating spaces on the land where nature can be left alone to heal and recover. On our patch of land we let nature be as free as possible, but we also wish to grow food. It is an incredibly rewarding process to combine the two.
Most of our land is slowly turning into a food forest garden full of trees, shrubs, perennial vegetables, groundcovers and vines. We have added plants like black currants, mints and fruit trees and around these plants nature is allowed to roam freely.
Dandelions, nettles, cleavers and chickweed are all edible, beautiful and highly beneficial plants. They are allowed to stay with all of the other wildflowers that germinate naturally to bring beauty and diversity to the garden. Here are a couple of pictures from June last year:
In the last couple of years, moss, fungi, ferns and lichen have begun to colonise larger and larger areas. Installing our two ponds has given us an incredible amount of frogs and newts which combat what was once a large slug problem.
Teeming with tadpoles.
We are lucky to have old stone walls around two sides of our land and to date we have not touched them at all. When we moved in they were largely bare, hidden behind thick Leylandii hedges but as soon as we removed these virtual wildlife deserts the walls have become homes for all sorts of creatures. The native hazel, oak, holly and rowan saplings that were hidden behind the conifers are now growing vigorously, supporting many species of birds and insects.
Most of our trees were bought as small bare root saplings. We have replaced the spruce that was growing on the north part of the land with many native trees and a few other species incorporated for their fruiting capabilities. We are fighting the urge to remove all the brambles as they are very beneficial plants that support a wide range of creatures. We only remove them when access to the compost heaps and certain plants becomes difficult.
Our land is nothing like a conventional garden but people come here on our open days and say how they feel completely at peace because of how beautiful and lush it all is. We do have lots of flowering perennials and medicinal herbs which punctuate the land with flashes of colour. We have gotten many of them from dividing established plants in friend’s gardens and it is a far better solution than buying them new. New plants are often treated with pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals that have a devastating effect on wildlife.
July last year.
This is our main circle at the end of March. We decided to keep this space open as the rest of the land is transforming into a wild food forest and we wanted to have an open area for relaxing, daydreaming and gatherings with friends and family. Although it is flat and we cut it regularly, we encourage moss, lawn daisies, clover, plantain and any other wild plants that take root. This makes it far more beneficial than an ordinary lawn. It will be the perfect spot for working on the signs for our ARK.
We are astounded by the amount of wildlife that has found a haven on our land so far and every year it gets better and better. Nature is weaving its lifegiving web across the land once more, covering it in a magical cloak. We are so grateful to be a part of it.