The local council back in my home town in picturesque rural Northamptonshire in England’s East Midlands has a plan. They want to “enhance the appearance of the town”. Sounds splendid, doesn’t it. Who could complain abut that? Not so fast.
The council’s own little magazine reports: “The project will start with the town boundaries to improve the various approaches to the town. Flower beds will be created and the areas improved in such a way that will attract wildlife as well as making the entrances to the town have much more impact.”
No. Not “flower beds”. No no no. See the steam coming out of my ears?
I know, coming from a garden writer that may surprise you. But the main approach to the town, from the east, is shown in the picture. Not a “flower bed”, but there’s already a lovely display of native ox-eye daisies. They follow the native spring cowslips. And there’s even a rare campion in there somewhere. Orchids will surely arrive eventually, they did at another site in the town. What’s wrong with that?
This wildflower planting was created when the new bypass was built in the 1980s and was inspired by Dame Miriam Rothschild a pioneer of planting native wild flowers in gardens, public places and roadsides. She was born and lived all her life just two miles away and also established a business growing seed of native flowers and developed new techniques for restoring the richness of meadows which had been reduced to grass monocultures by the use of weedkillers.
We have an internationally recognised local pioneer of natural roadside planting whose example the town has already followed. And the best they came up with is flower beds?! Perhaps the council would prefer something like this? (right, click to enlarge - thanks to Gardeners Tips for the image)Years ago, Pamela Schwerdt who for over thirty years was joint head gardener at Sissinghurst Castle, perhaps England’s greatest garden, took me aside to persuade me to write about the increasing popularity of planting beds of big yellow daffodils at the approaches to villages and country towns. “They just look wrong,” she told me. She was cross, and she was right to be. I’ve sounded off about such thoughtless planting in national newspapers and magazines repeatedly over the years and here on this blog last year.
And now flower beds are planned for the approaches to my own town. No. Not only do we have the inspiration of Miriam Rothschild to guide us, but we need just look out of our car windows as we drive through the local lanes and see the richness of wildflowers, both colourful and unusual, to be inspired again. And let’s not forget that the maintenance involved is minimal. We just need to remember the miserable weed-infested flower beds that greet us as we approach another local town for the point to be rammed home even more surely.
So: no flower beds, no big and blowsy ‘Carlton’ daffodils, no petunias or mega-marigolds like yellow dishmops despoiling the entrances to the town.
OK, I feel better now.