Park life – planting for bees

Chicory-succoryThink of a traditional civic park in the UK and regularly mown grass criss-crossed with paths and dotted with formal bedding schemes springs to mind. A vision surviving from our community minded forebears, the Victorians.

Wilding-the-parkBut in the 21st century planted civic spaces in many towns have moved away from this formal interpretation. Perhaps this is partly due to the labour intensive nature of seasonal bedding schemes and therefore the greater expense.

Nowadays we find hole areas of parks have become very informal with a move to include the introduction of more natural, conservation areas.  Plants are being chosen to support the indigenous wildlife and there’s even a hint of re-wilding some areas and a hands off approach to weeding.

Meadow wildflowers. Bee friendly clump of wild chicory, upright hedge-parsley, teasel and common thistle.

Of course, look closely and there is a fine balance between allowing nature to flourish yet not become entirely overrun with the more thuggish weeds. Weed or not, the bees are only too pleased for the odd flowering thistle and the butterflies such as Painted Ladies, Commas, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals all love a healthy patch of nettles. (Sadly, when I was in the park I only spotted a couple of Commas, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly good year for butterflies, possibly due to the recent heavy downpours.)
Busy-beeIt isn’t just the annual and biennial wild flowers that are important for bees, as in the autumn, when there are fewer blooms around, ivy flowers provide a very important source of nectar. And, this is where the large, venerable park trees supporting their heavy old cloaks of ivy are so important as only established, mature (arborescent) ivy flowers.

Large old tree clad in arborescent ivy in the woodland area of Holywells Park, Ipswich, Suffolk.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

13 thoughts on “Park life – planting for bees”

  1. Lovely photos of what seems to be a rather special park. Parks generally, despite tough times for Local Authorities, seem to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance. As with libraries, it seems to be volunteers to the fore.

    1. Thank you. 😊 It is a nice park, but I think it is all in the eye of the beholder as I feel so deprived of outside space at the moment I find everywhere I look in the park has something beautiful. Taking off the rose-tinted specs and there’s also swathes of horsetail, fast-food litter chucked about and rusting debris in the waterways, but who wants to see that! Yes, you are most certainly right about the volunteers, at Holywells it is mostly volunteers who have been involved in the bee and butterfly work.

  2. Looks beautiful. Our local churchyard is treated as a wildflower meadow in spring, but is reduced to tidiness later in the year – it has to be cut to maintain the spring display, but as you say, there is less for the insects later on.

      1. Interesting link – thanks. The meadow churchyard works very well, except tourists sometimes complain that the graves and premises are not being looked after – in spite of notices explaining!

  3. We are seeing this trend in my neck of the woods too, although I know we never had the same level of manicure in parks as you do; the gardening tradition is not the same and neither is the climate always so helpful, but there is an awful lot of mowed grass, that is for sure. I visited a wetlands area last weekend that I remember being mowed up until a few years ago. We saw so much life there. I hope this trend continues.

    1. Yes, I have always been struck by photographs of US houses with all the open, front lawns, but I guess that in reality there is much variation across such a huge country – well continent. And, all that physical space naturally leads to such a different scale of gardening to that which is possible in England. Hopefully, caring and planting for the local environment and the local climate conditions, working with nature instead of against nature will become more popular everywhere.

      1. A bland swath of grass is still the ideal yard, I guess, even in climates where that is difficult to maintain for water reasons or the like. I think people might like to do things differently, but so many people have a lot of land around their houses and what to do with it, well, it is easier to get the lawn care crew to mow it once a week and be done with it, in most cases.

      2. Over here there is a move to have ‘low maintenance’ gardens (grass lawns are too much bother) which work really well if originally designed by a professional, but so often end up simply as acres of hard paving or weed-infested gravel!

      3. Yes. There is really something kind of pathetic about an ambitious garden project that doesn’t get its maintenance, I always they think look embarrassed…

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