Slugs, Butterflies & Rewilding

I like wildlife. Many of my prints are inspired by butterflies, birds and natural landscapes. So, rather than trek up to Dartmoor I have tried to encourage wildlife to our garden in suburbia.

It’s been challenging, the soil is solid clay and we have an army of ravenous slugs akin to a slimy plague of locusts that munch their way through the classics, like marigolds, tomatoes & runner beans. Every creature has its place, so I try to avoid slug pellets and also herbicides.  

So to our surprise, by keeping a few wild patches and not using too many chemicals, we see hedgehogs, slow worms and frogs in the garden. We have a hedgehog house in the garden too, but so far no takers.

The City Council’s rewilding of roundabouts has inspired me to try to grow wild flowers in a small rubbly patch under the tree in the garden. I used the lovely dark rich compost from the bin, sowed the seeds and waited! Hmm, well lots of little seedlings appeared, very exciting, but they proved to be tomato and pumpkin plants! Seeds from Halloween pumpkin carving in the compost and also random tomato seeds. Only a couple of straggly wild flowers made it!

I have also allowed the garden to be ravaged by raspberries. They are easy to grow, they produce wonderful fruit and the nocturnal slimy munchers don’t like ‘em much. ‘Autumn Bliss’ produces fruit well into the autumn.

But the main point for me is try to attract butterflies and other pollinators to the garden. There is one particularly muddly patch of marjoram, nasturtium, buddleia and broad-leaved willow herb (a so-called weed), that the butterflies like to hang out in. Nectar rich flowers encourage pollinators to visit the garden and butterflies will lay eggs on their caterpillar’s food-plant.

Over the last few days we have had a large skipper butterfly lying in wait for a mate on the buddleia leaves, zooming up in the air to follow anything that flies by, including sparrows!

So I don’t ‘weed’ the garden any more, I leave a patch of long grass on the lawn and have a lovely patch of nettles next to my self-seeding nasturtiums. I have also conceded the fight with the slimy ones and don’t spend a wasted fortune on plants they find delectable.

So it turns out I have a cottage type garden, a wild patch in suburbia which is a far cry from the beautiful Japanese Zen gardens I have been admiring in Dr James Fox's marvellous programmes on BBC4, 'The Art of Japanese Life'.

Articles I liked on the subject

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Print, Drink Tea or Worry about the Environment

Or all three…. So, I’m a printmaker and a stay at home mum. Both jobs are wonderful but switching heads can be challenging (aka nightmare, a term used during my less calm moments) and the mum bit mostly comes first. Here’s a typical day…

School run, could be scooter, bike or car. I have been known to scooter Aleks’ scooter back but was ticked off by a very elderly gentleman, who waved his stick and shouted ‘You’re too old for that!’

Ignored that.

Housework, washing in/out and very reluctant ironing. Which is more ecologically friendly ironing or tumbling?

Walk, bus or car to the print workshop, where I can use the amazing relief or intaglio presses. Good arty company there. Paper, ink and the other printmaking goodies are all available to buy.

Warming up, this takes far too long and usually involves a cuppa, a chat with fellow printmakers, a faff and fuss about measurements/paper/press adjustment.

Printing, so after about an hour I am usually quite inky, but my mind is totally focussed on the colour mixing, the detail and the best bit, revealing the print after it has been through the press.

Lunch at home, with an eye on the garden for butterflies. I have just signed up to be a garden butterfly recorder with Butterfly Conservation.

‘Headspace’ meditation, fab online app to guide you through daily meditations. BRILLIANT.

School run, with a quick go on Duolingo whilst I’m waiting. I’m learning Spanish! Should be Serbian, as we are going to spend 8 months there from November 2017. The Spanish is an avoidance tactic, Serbian is very difficult. Turns out I am not much better at Spanish!

Taking Aleks to Footie, I try to run when he’s training. I mean I try to GO running. I can run like a lot of people, but the drinking tea option shouts very loudly.



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