How does your garden grow? Very well, thank you! Those of you who follow our blog will know the story of our raised plant beds outside the visitor centre. We built them from scratch (over quite a long period of time) and finally got to the planting stage back in early April. And what a difference three months makes - they look fantastic, even if we do say so ourselves! The 'wildlife friendly gardening' bed outside the office was planted with a variety of species suitable for gardens. The plants are all of great benefit to the bees, butterflies and other pollinator species that make Lakenheath Fen their home, as well as being pleasing to the eye and nose! As you can see below, it is bursting with colour and buzzing with associated life, compared to the inset picture which shows how it looked back in April.
Photo credit: Ali Blaney - the 'Wildlife friendly gardening' bed has come a long way
You can see some of the species that are thriving - the tall yellow Greek mullein on the left, with white campion in front of that and various poppies, plus a couple of sunflowers that were not planned for but are shooting up nonetheless. It definitely requires a closer look though as we have plenty of beautiful flowers in bloom, including large-flowered hemp-nettle, wild basil, evening primrose and the delicate pencilled cranesbill. You can also spot a water butt lurking in the background, one of two that we installed to help us with the watering of our raised plant beds. We would rather not resort to the tap if we can avoid it, however being located in one the driest spots in the country doesn't make it easy. This brings us on nicely to the Brecks bed...
Photo credit: Ali Blaney - the Brecks bed
These plants were of course chosen because this is the habitat that you would naturally find them in. Stealing the show at the moment are the five vipers bugloss plants, which feature to the left and in the background of the photo, complete with appreciative small tortoiseshell butterfly. In the foreground on the right is a fabulous plant called spiked speedwell (subspecies spicata), a real Breckland specialist.
The other two beds we have are the bog / fen bed and our pond. From where I am typing I can see the bog bed, with lovely marsh woundwort in flower, some pretty brookweed and yellow loosestrife too. The pond is a big draw, for us and our visitors - you can't help but wander over to peer into the depths. The water is quite clear and you can see the varied aquatic insect life zipping to and fro.
Photo credit: Ali Blaney - pond bed with bog and Brecks beds behind
As well as being attractive to the insect life at Lakenheath, our birds have also become accustomed to the beds. The jays like to bounce around the edges of the bog bed and when there is standing water in there it also becomes a great place for a quick bath. We've also spotted a female sparrowhawk perched calmly on the edge of the pond, much to the alarm of a nearby great spotted woodpecker, who wanted to get at the peanut feeder.
In other news, our bittern watch last week was rather quiet so I'm hoping Friday is going to be slightly busier. Volunteer John I was entertained yesterday by two stoats gambolling about near New Fen North viewpoint, John M spotted a common buzzard flying high above the visitor centre and eight black-tailed godwits were reported over the washland. Butterflies are proving popular with our visitors - we're getting the identification chart out many times to help them work out what they've seen. We've also been herding plenty of small tortoiseshell butterflies out of the visitor centre, along with a couple of cinnabar moth caterpillars who wriggle through the door. I've been making sure to herd these hungry caterpillars in the direction of the nearest ragwort plant, just in case they take a fancy to anything in our plant beds. Something has been having a nibble here and there already.....I've got my money on a couple of suspicious looking rabbits who've started 'hanging out' in the area!