Putting down roots

©Tony Morrison©Tony Morrison

A popular open garden trail across Aldersbrook over the summer has prompted the founding of the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society, which held its first meeting last month. Judith McCann reports.

The success of Aldersbrook Open Gardens in June this year was a clear indication there are many keen gardeners in the area. And so it was that over 55 people turned up at the Aldersbrook Bowls Club last month to hear Susannah Knox from Wild Wanstead give a talk at the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society's inaugural meeting.

Susannah highlighted how the unique position of Aldersbrook, surrounded by Wanstead Flats,Wanstead Park and the City of London Cemetery, offers a home to a uniquely wide variety of wildlife, from newts and toads to grass snakes and hedgehogs, all of which we can tempt into our gardens, whether they are neat and manicured or wild and overgrown.

It was exciting to hear that several of the audience have hedgehogs in their gardens, particularly as Susannah explained that research from the Royal Horticultural Society confirms that none of the popular home remedies to deter slugs, such as copper wire, egg shells or grit, actually work, but that wildlife such as toads and hedgehogs will make a tasty meal of slugs every evening.

Susannah encouraged us all to think of how we can use our garden space, whether big or small, to support biodiversity with water, long grass, nesting boxes, trees, leaf mounds and log piles. Planting front gardens was also suggested as a way to diminish the increasing growth of grey concrete.

Susannah went on to answer questions from the audience including: "Is there anything positive about squirrels?" Answer: probably not, other than as an example of a tenacious and cunning species! Susannah suggested suspending a bird feeder from fishing line as a way of deterring squirrels from eating the bird seed.

In response to: "What can I do to stop being bitten by insects in my garden on a summer's evening?" Susannah suggested accepting the bites and celebrating successfully encouraging a thriving insect life into the garden. Many of the audience were then sent home with wild flower seeds to plant in their gardens, in tree pits or any other open space.

At the end of the evening, Jane Karavasili provided a list of jobs for October, including mulching, planting bulbs, collecting seeds, taking cuttings and shaping shrubs.

Our next meeting is on 13 November, when George Lockwood, a passionate organic gardener who trained at Capel Manor, will be talking about soil and bulbs from January to May. Come along and bring pen and paper to write down all his tips.

Aldersbrook Horticultural Society meetings are held at Aldersbrook Bowls Club on the second Tuesday of every month from 7.30pm (annual membership: £35; visitors: £5. Visit wavidi.co/ahs

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