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Wildflowers Abundant in the Heart of the City

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Posted: Thursday 13th July 2017 by WildBlog

by Naomi Fuller, Communications Manager

With the soothing sound of bees busily delving from flower to flower as I walked the paths, and flower borders abundant with traditional wildflowers, I could have been strolling through a country lane deep in an English village. But the M32 roared with traffic nearby, road-rollers trundled to and fro smoothing the new Metrobus lane ready for tarmac, and Bristol city centre lay a couple of miles to the south. I was at Feed Bristol’s Wildflower Nursery this week– part of Avon Wildlife Trust’s flagship community-food growing project in Stapleton, where the displays of wildflowers looked at their best bathed in July sunshine. 

From bare earth on a six-acre site five years ago, Feed Bristol has grown into a project offering community groups, volunteers and staff working in corporate companies the chance to do hands-on wildlife friendly food growing and nature conservation work. Spending time at the project offers people the chance to develop practical skills, feel the health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature, and at the same time is providing a thriving habitat for wildlife including newts, toads, pollinating insects, and a host of bird, mammal and invertebrate life. 

At the heart of Feed Bristol is the wildflower nursery and at this time of year with summer flowers blooming, it comes into its own. Matt Cracknell is Feed Bristol’s project manager who, with his team and many volunteers, has built up a flourishing stock of more than 200 different species of native wildflowers all grown from locally-sourced seed.

“We go out and collect small amounts of seed from Avon Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves,” he explains. “Then with the help of our community groups we grow them on and sell them to the public for their gardens, as well as providing bulk supplies for other organisations wanting to create larger wildlife gardens. We spend a lot of time studying the seeds and picking them at the right point.”

Some of the species like Bugle with deep blue flower spikes and Betony with its reddish-purple flowers – are notoriously difficult plants to propagate, and Matt and his team sometimes nurture trays of these seeds for three years before they spring to life. This careful tending means that an array of attractive, native wildflower plants well-adapted to local soils are available to buy ready for planting. And Matt and his team are keen to encourage all gardeners whatever level their knowledge or experience to make space for wildflower planting.

There are real benefits to planting a wildflower area including attracting pollinators” says Matt. “In no time your garden will be humming with insects. It’s about creating natural spaces right across our city. We’ve done the first part of the growing for you.”

As I left behind the tall spires of evening primrose and the frothy cascades of yarrow flowers swaying in the summer breeze, I felt nourished by the sights, sounds and textures of this full mid-summer display. Despite being encircled by urban noise and infrastructure – the nursery and the whole of the Feed Bristol site shows a way for wildlife, nature and people to flourish together in cities.

Feed Bristol’s Wildflower Nursery is open six days a week from Monday to Saturday. As well as helping you choose wildflower plants, the team are happy to give advice on creating a wildflower space in gardens of all sizes. Feed Bristol is on the junction of Frenchay Park Rd and Stoke Lane in Stapleton, BS16 1HB – www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/feedbristol¬†

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