Encouraging Biodiversity

In our care for the gardens of St Mary’s Convent over the past year, we have taken the following steps to promote increased biodiversity:

  • Planted mixed native hedging including hawthorn, dog rose, wild maple, beech, privet and blackthorn. These varieties are beneficial to improving biodiversity, in insect attraction and cover for nesting birds, as well as a food source in the autumn/winter seasons.
  • Planted 7 new young trees of varying species which will absorb more Co2 than some of our older more mature trees.
  • Made and installed 20 bird boxes, varying in shape and size to encourage many different species of birds, from swifts, tits, blackbirds, robins and owls.
  • Made and installed 12 different types of insect habitat, once again trying to encourage various types of insect and invertebrates.
  • Created various insect watering stations dotted around the gardens for the wildlife to use during dry spells.
  • We also made the conscious decision to keep the stumps of old rotten trees to allow for insect housing.
  • Some time ago, we made the decision to stop using chemical herbicides, insect sprays and slug pellets; a practice which we will continue to follow.

Whilst striving to maintain the gardens of St Mary’s Convent in peak health, both in terms of practicality and aesthetics, we keep at the forefront of our minds the overall objective to increase biodiversity and minimise our impact on the environment.

Wildflowers

Five lawns are left unmown each year. This wilding has enabled the establishment of some wonderful varieties of wildflowers and grass types. 

In the summer of 2023, we counted more than 30 wild orchids growing in our meadow lawns, we hope to have even more in 2024. Our population of cowslips had increased tenfold from 2022 to 2023, and we hope to see more again in 2024. To increase the spread of these wildflowers, we are using donor seed heads from other lawns within the gardens enabling varieties to reach areas they wouldn’t necessarily be able to naturally.

These native species encourage a vast range of insects and birds to the gardens as well as improving the diversity of our plants.

Looking to the Future

To identify what has worked and where we can improve, we will continue to survey the varieties of wildflowers and grasses that are growing throughout the Convent comparing back to an historic biodiversity survey carried out in 2014. We intend to begin surveying bat and bird species in 2024, and will continue to introduce new habitat areas for native species such as reptiles, hedgehogs and owls.

We will continue to plant more young trees and native hedging when replacing old decaying hedges, ensuring we choose varieties that are beneficial to wildlife and the surrounding environment.

We already use many rechargeable battery powered rather than petrol powered machinery, and will continue to invest in battery powered machinery as items need replacing.

The work to improve biodiversity in the gardens of St Mary’s Convent is wholeheartedly supported by the Sisters and driven by the enthusiasm and dedication of the Gardening Team. We look forward to updating you on our progress over the coming seasons.