Shrub Hub update
Work began (in thought, anyway) on the garden last summer when we decided to see if we could make our current outdoor space into a wildlife-friendly, educational, safe haven for visitors, residents and of course the local wildlife – including provision for two beehives taking residence at one end of the garden. The Cotswold Gardening School were approached to see if their students would be able to create designs for the garden as part of their projects, and we came up with some ideas on how to raise money for the garden and attract as many visitors as possible. By the end of last year we had eight designs to choose from: the one we chose was one that suited our brief best and since then we have been working closely with the designer to make the plan fit completely with what we had in mind.
We started fundraising, using online crowdfunding and other sources to raise money for the garden. Young Gloucestershire’s Princes Trust team spent a couple of weeks with us in May. They planted wildflower seeds and also renovated our picnic tables and some “heritage pillars” from a demolished outbuilding (we hope to use these as part of a volunteers’ shelter). Eventually everything started to take shape. The flower and herb borders for the formal area of the garden (nearest the new Dunrossil Centre) were marked out and then dug over in the space of a few weeks by some tireless volunteers, both from within our own staff and local people who wanted to help – this all took place during our heatwave so was hot and tiring work.
The plants arrived in the morning of the 30th July just as it started pouring with rain! However, our team of volunteers from the Cotswold Gardening School and the local area – and a member of staff – donned their raincoats and set to work planting out all the flowers, herbs and shrubs. Within a day, our formal area had been transformed from a large expanse of grass to a beautifully presented garden with a variety of wildlife-friendly, colourful and wonderfully scented plants.
One of the borders the day after planting and the volunteers at the end of planting day.
The next step was to make sure all the plants could establish themselves and grow by watering them daily. This was done on a rota system for about six weeks until the weather helped enough that they didn’t need to be watered. Again, it was achieved partly with volunteers from within the staff in their own time and partly with outside help.
We had a bit of a surprise on the weekend of the 10th/11th August, when our first colony of bees arrived in the garden rather sooner than intended. Unfortunately they were having some problems at the apiary they were being kept in (they were being bullied by another colony!), so rather than bring them home in October or March as intended, suddenly the Bee Team had to transport them quickly on the evening of 10th August.
Sadly, this initial problem and the move made them weak and within a month our first colony had been lost – they just couldn’t defend themselves against the new threat which this time came from hungry wasps. We aren’t too disheartened – in the spring we hope to start raising two new colonies in the garden.
Sunday 8th September saw our garden party, where the garden was taken over by an interactive performance and generally enjoyed by visitors. It was a great chance to show what we have done and further plans for the garden.
On 13th September, about 20 staff from Gloucester City Homes came and did some work in the garden for their Community Impact Day. During this day they planted some further borders in the “wild” area of the garden, built and filled two huge raised beds for community planting, and built a fence and gate to screen the bees off. They did a fantastic job and we are so grateful to them and their expertise.
At the end of September, plants at the front of the Heritage Hub (near the new entrance) were purchased and planted, again by volunteers. This was generously funded by the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives and this front border now looks amazing. This area will be added to using plants from staff and volunteers, including (hopefully!) a cutting from the hydrangea saved from outside the old Gloucestershire Family History office when their building was demolished last year.
So – what’s next for the garden?
At the time of writing, we still have a few things to do in the garden. We are going to dig a pond which will be an attractive addition to the space for different forms of wildlife. We are also going to put some hoggin in some of it to make it more wheelchair and pushchair friendly.
It’s been a great project that is still definitely work in progress. Further updates to follow!