HOW AND WHY?
Year 1 – Like most things in life, it just sort of happened. I remember buying 2 tomato plants from a garden centre and not getting much from them, so I said to my wife, “I reckon I could do better.” So, in a poky one bedroom place, with seedlings on every windowsill, the bug began to bite. By the end of the growing year we had given away countless amounts of tomatoes, courgettes, runner beans, aubergines, potatoes, all manner of things, all from a postage stamp size front garden. In fact, things got so out of hand that my wife and I became affectionately known as Tom and Barbara from the good life! Well, that was the veg, but when we moved to where we are now, I really got bit. This time it was flowers! At first I bought anything I liked, not knowing anything about soil type, sun/shade, hardiness, Etc. But, as the first year progressed, I began to take notice of the visiting insects and made notes of the plants they were visiting. Against the backdrop of all of this was a longing for garden birds, as next door to us had a lot of birds visit their garden and we loved the thought of watching them.
Year 2 – I still more or less bought what I liked, but I couldn’t help but buy any plants I saw bees on at the places I went to. I didn’t know it at the time, but my care for wildlife, which I have always loved watching, was creeping in. I also began to learn a bit about garden design through watching T.V. and became a little less erratic in my buying, with spotty, single patches of plants, making way for bigger groups of three. This in itself made a huge difference as I noticed more bees come in and the garden looked more harmonised. Meanwhile, on the bird front, as was typical for most of my life till I met my wife, I was struggling to attract the birds, though this time of the feathery kind at least! We put up feeders with Niger seed for the goldfinches, mixed seed and peanuts. It became obvious after throwing away copious amounts of mouldy seed, that feeders alone were not enough. If I wanted birds, I’d have to read up and learn. After all, what was it about next door that attracted far more birds?
Year 3 – By now there was no getting away from it, my focus was as much about wildlife as it was the plants and this was good, because it focused my buying into very specific plants and with my new found knowledge and love of garden design, things in the garden began to have a collective cohesion and feel to them. During this period, there were a lot of plant casualties, as much as I loved the plants I had, my care and want for nature was beginning to take priority and that meant most of what I bought simply had to go. Sure they looked nice and maybe in a big garden they’d be fine, but with space at a premium it was important to focus more on what nature wanted and to do all that I could to help them out, so that meant there was little room for fancy double petals where nectar and pollen are hide to get to, as well as any nectar sterile plants losing their place as well. In terms of the birds, not much improved, we researched and got a crab apple (malus ‘Red Sentinel’) and thought that would do the job, as we suspected that the biggest difference between our garden and next door was a lack of having a tree, but it didn’t help at this point, so yet more seed was thrown away. In fact, to tell you the truth, I pretty much gave up!!
Year 4 – Wow, what a lot you can learn in a short space of time when you’re passionate about something! My knowledge of plants, design and wildlife was really coming on and if there was one thing I learned, it was how important water is for wildlife. So, in went a small pond, and I do mean a ‘small’ pond. The border it went in backs onto a fence (we live in a terraced house) and is no wider than 1.2m, or 4 foot, so we didn’t have any choice, it had to be small. I would love to tell you that it was teeming with life, after all, all of the books and what I read on the internet told me wildlife would find its own way, but alas, like the birds till now, there wasn’t a lot to shout about. In fact, I don’t remember seeing one frog. We did of course have some things, but nothing to write home about. However, not all was bad, the birds we struggled to attract were finally beginning to visit. Whether it was the size of the tree now, not big, but bigger than when we first got it, or whether it was because the garden itself was more full and inviting, or even the inclusion of a pond, we don’t know, but whatever it was, they were in and we’d began to feel a real sense of achievement.
Year 5 – I wanted to start this business and was literally on the verge of starting, when my wifes car had an issue, I was still in the money back period of web hosting, so I cancelled my contract and just under £600 went her way to keep me in transport! At this point I figured given that it was already May and knowing our finances our so tight, there was no way I was going to get £600 to put into the business, so the months went by and with a seasonal business like this, it became apparent this was not the year!
So, what of the wildlife? I’m thrilled to say it was now thriving, we had all manner of birds, including the gold finches we’d been so desperate to see in our own garden, as well as green finches and much, much more. Heck, we even had a sparrow hawk, in Aldershot, on our fence! Bees were everywhere and in greater varieties (I need to learn more about identifying them) than ever before. Also worth mentioning is the pond. It was beginning to do really well, we even had damsel fly larvae, but then the pond liner seam came undone due to poor manufacturing, so that was that.
Year 6 (just starting) – Woo hoo! Well, the fact you’re reading this, on this website, means that business has started! I have to be honest, as good as it is to of finally started, I do swing wildly from believing we’ll do great things, to thinking that after the initial supportive purchases, we’ll not sell a thing. I guess all we can do is our best and hope and pray that our passion and enthusiasm translates into success, because really, this is more than a business, it’s our lives and we really, really, want to make a difference to wildlife, and this is a great channel to do that. To think that someone in a part of the country I’ve never been to is going to buy plants to benefit wildlife is a great thrill. That’s the whole point of this. By selling the very best in wildlife plants we can make a difference through other people and many more hands. In order to give our best and do our most, we have to find a way of making this work to a point where it becomes our full time business, as there’s no getting round it, you can do more if you can give more time and money into something, so this is the aim, and with your support, I believe, (at least when I’m not swinging into doubt) that we can make a great difference and get wildlife buzzing again. In terms of wildlife here, it’s too early to know how wildlife will do for us this year, but we’ve had a great start with the sparrow hawk visiting again, long tailed tits, gold crests, a red wing, foxes (they ate our chickens last year) and a squirrel, all, apart from the sparrow hawk, new to our list, oh, and as I type, we have got tadpoles, having put a new pond in while it was -6 degrees Celsius! So, I hope now you can see how this started and why we’re doing it, it’s been great looking back and realising just how far and how much I’ve learned and I hope that we as a business can lead others to a greater knowledge and passion for plants and wildlife. It’ll be nice to make a living from this, we all need money, but if we can begin to put into other things and give back, then really that would be great. We have got many ideas, it’s just seeing if we get there now. So thank you for reading and we look forwards to whatever may be! Together we’re better, so let’s create a buzz!