Wells Voice Article March 2023

Lionel Rothschild, banker and horticulturist, once wrote, 'No garden, however small, should contain less than two acres of rough woodland'. That puts most of us in our place as we do what we can in our relatively small suburban gardens. We can guess what Rothschild means by small and rough.  An old gardening book on my shelf entitled The Small Garden defines a small garden as being about one and a quarter acres. How the author would approach the word rough can only be imagined. Judging by the illustrations; sharply neat edges to the flower borders, plants not daring to spill over the bowling green lawns and never a daisy in sight, neatness and control are in order.

Roughness nowadays is exactly what is needed. Those immaculate lawns and beds were not achieved without clobbering every living creature in sight and out of it. And it's the small creatures which suffer first. Some we never knew existed until the right conditions arrived to suit them.

I once came across this oil beetle trundling across a patch of rough grass in the garden. Apparently when hatched the larva clambers to the top of a flower stalk and awaits a visiting solitary bee on to which it attaches itself, hitching a lift to the bees’ nest where it feeds on the available nectar, bees' eggs and pollen. Once the larva pupates, it leaves the nest and trundles off to find a mate. All this was happening under my nose. That year I discovered nearly a score of oil beetles and never one since. It's all very mysterious which just adds to the appeal of gardening. We need more beetles and insects of all varieties.

One person who is thoroughly committed to all forms of wildlife is the hugely enthusiastic naturalist, Chris Sperring. We are fortunate to welcome Chris once more to the Gardening Club. His subject will be Wilding, a word we hear much about. Chris is a no nonsense speaker and if you have not heard him, then please take this opportunity to do so. If you have heard him, you will probably wish to hear him again. He is Conservation Officer for the Hawk & Owl Trust, broadcaster and TV presenter. Details as follows:-   Chris Sperring MBE, a talk on “Wilding in the garden” on Thursday 9th March 2023 in the Wells Town Hall at 7.30 pm. Visitors £3, Members £1, Under 16 free; everyone is welcome. Refreshments.