Developments in the Tangled Bank
Reading Time 1 minute and 50 seconds
Date 23 May 2023
The Meanwhile Garden is coming on well, and over the past month or so we’ve been working out how to test some design features or growing methods that can be used to improve urban landscapes. In the centre of the area is a sunken swale or rain garden – these features are sometimes used in urban areas to catch and hold excess surface water, slowing the flow down and reducing the chances of flooding. The soil underneath our swale is very patchy – pure sand in some places, heavy clay in others – so we’ve been trying to select a tough group of plants which will cope with these challenging conditions. First up are plants that we’ve been able to lift and divide from the garden and nursery here, which will be augmented with a few special plants from another nursery, and then finally we’ll be filling in any gaps with a Scotia seed mix.
The rubble heaps have been designed to be as challenging for plants as we could make them – a really free draining substrate with lots of air pockets, almost no organic content and a very alkaline pH from the mortar and concrete. It mimics an abandoned building site, and we really had to struggle with all of our horticultural instincts to create this! These areas will be sown with a very varied mixture of species, both native and non-native, and we’ll be setting up quadrats here so that we can test the effect of nitrogen-fixing species (such as kidney vetch and sainfoin) on the establishment and growth of the other species.
Finally, in the sand dunes, Moira and Marijke have been working really hard to continue establishing dune vegetation – lifting and dividing marram grass to bulk up the thinner areas and sowing native grass species onto the flatter areas. We’ve also got some more local provenance plug plants to add this summer, to increase the species diversity. The blue fleabane ( Eringeron acer ) that we planted last year set seed, so we’ll be watching carefully for seedlings this year to see if it is getting established without our help. The long-term goal is to create plant communities which are sustainable and functioning without lots of management – because this is when the area will be most useful for setting up experiments and testing research questions.
1 - Marijke Winton planting in the Meanwhile Garden
2 - Erigeron acer flowering in the sand dunes
3 - Newly planted divisions of marram grass
4 - The rubble heaps are a very inhospitable place for plants, but still some have surprised us