“This morning we watched a green woodpecker tapping away on one of the Himalayan Cherries in the main avenue. Yesterday morning a large, healthy-looking hedgehog was ambling its way across the greenhouse lawn.”
In his latest blog Head Gardener Gary introduces the wild side of Highdown Gardens…
Welcome back to Head Gardener Gary’s weekly blog looking at all the ongoings at the unique Highdown Gardens.
Now that the school holidays are over, a certain calm has descended over the gardens. I can feel it in the atmosphere, and I see it in the wildlife that has begun to reassert its presence.
We start at 7:30am each morning and the time before the gardens open allow a privileged view into the life of its inhabitants.
This morning we watched a green woodpecker tapping away on one of the Himalayan Cherries in the main avenue. Yesterday morning a large, healthy-looking hedgehog was ambling its way across the greenhouse lawn. Many visitors may have spotted one of our two resident pheasants, which unusually have been here all year.
In our recent online consultation, 27% of respondents indicated they visit Highdown for the wildlife, so clearly the opportunity to potentially see these animals on Worthing’s doorstep is important for many people. I’d be interested to know if you have ever spotted anything surprising at Highdown: it’s useful for us to keep a note of sightings.
As well as animals and birds, insect life is important to the biodynamics of the garden given we don’t use chemicals and rely on natural forms of pest control.
You may not be aware that since 2009 we have had an expert monitoring moths in an annual survey. Using a light trap, moths are captured overnight, and are identified before being released back into the gardens.
The Highdown Species list total now stands at an incredible 190 species; one new species was added to the list this year: the Small China Mark. But here’s a picture of the beautiful Light Emerald (below), pictured on Nicotiana, the tobacco plant, at the gardens this summer.
Yesterday I gave a tour of the garden to a lovely group of house guides from Parham. This is a service I offer at Highdown for those interested in learning more about the history of the plants grown here. The tour takes about 75 minutes, costs £2.50 per person (minimum £25 per tour) and highlights what’s looking particularly good at that moment.
It’s a lovely way to share the passion for Highdown we have as a team, and I enjoy the reaction from visitors when the penny drops as to the uniqueness of this lovely place: its location and terrain, and its history.
It’s also another way in which I try to generate some revenue to help pay for the maintenance of our planting displays. Thanks to your donations this year, we’re well into the planting of some new bulb displays.
In the coming months, look out for autumn crocuses and cyclamen along the cherry tree walk, and next spring a new display of the species tulip Tulipa humilis in the Chalk Pit should have a great impact.
Visit highdowngardens.co.uk for more information.
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