This first episode was about the countryside: the loss of hedgerows as fields have been made bigger for prairie-style farming; the loss of wildflowers in the fields because of the use of herbicides and pesticides. This is such a Catch 22 situation. People must be fed and you get more crops if you use chemicals. But chemicals kill the wildflowers which attract the pollinating insects and without them there wouldn’t be any crops. A sterile countryside is not what we want. It was fascinating to see one farming family's home movie of an earlier generation blowing up hedges; yes really, with gelignite. Reminded me of my parents puffing DDT around. The current generation has different ideas. I really like the idea of putting in hedges and especially ribbon margins of wildflowers at the edge of fields; this seems the best of both worlds. The hedge which separates my garden from the meadow is the traditional kind, mainly hazel, bramble and wild rose. This is no credit to me, it’s just that previous occupants of the cottage haven’t interfered with it and nor shall I. It’s always full of birds and no doubt plenty of bugs, too.
Sarah’s other ‘mission’ was to persuade some villagers to have a less tidy environment by reducing mowing and re-introducing wild flowers to public spaces. While I thought this a good idea and the results lovely, I’m not sure I would like some stranger coming round telling me what I ought to do. What am I saying? I can’t stand being told what I should do in my own garden. I’ve long argued that I plant what I like and wildlife needs no extra encouragement but is all too willing to take over. Sticky Wicket, shown in the programme, is a really lovely garden in Dorset (I believe it’s no longer open to the public, sadly). It was extremely instructional, though. I certainly wouldn’t be putting up little notices pointing out to people that Verbena bonariensis and Sedums attract pollinating insects. I grow these plants because I like them; then I’m pleased to see the bees and butterflies.
Sarah mentioned botanising with her father and I do recommend this book
to people who like reading about gardening*. Not only is it interesting about plants, it gives a glimpse into the privileged world of a gardener able to go plant hunting abroad and be on plant-swapping terms with the likes of Margery Fish and Christopher Lloyd.
Just a thought: is it essential for female ecologists to have ratty hair? (I don’t mean Sarah.) Next week’s programme will include looking at Britain in Bloom which will interest me strangely, so it’s a date.
*A Botanist’s Garden by John Raven. Collins 1971.