Estimated reading time:7 minutes, 17 seconds
Everyone has a story. Take a photo journey around Hedera Vetchâ€™s tiny shared N5 garden to gain an understanding of life in Islington from the wildlifeâ€™s point of view. This post also has a request to stop a magnificent ash tree being felled on a slither of land off Elwood StreetÂ â€“ objections to the council need to be submitted by 1 January 2015 (although realistically you’ve probably got until 8 January 2015).Â Interview byÂ Nicola Baird
Hedera Vetch is a pseudonym for an illustrator who has lived in Islington since 1977, and shared an N5 garden since 2001.
While Hedera (which means ivy in Latin, but you knew that didnâ€™t you?) was a volunteer at Gillespie Park – doing nature conservation tasks each Thursday – she learntÂ how to make her garden more wildlife friendly.
â€śFor tips on local gardening success IÂ was told to look at the bookÂ Veg Street and the blog posts on Out of My Shed [written by local garden and neighbourhood catalyst Naomi Schillinger]. I used Out of My Shed as my inspiration,â€ť says Hedera, â€śbut itâ€™s all about growing food. You cannot plan onÂ any food for humans growing in our garden as the wildlife sees it as food for them!â€ť
Hedera Vetch: â€śThe vixen and her cub wonâ€™t be so cosy now as this land off Elwood Street has again been flattened and there is a proposal to fell the fantastic ash tree nearby. If that ash tree could tell stories Iâ€™m sure it could go back to before they built the Arsenal West and East stands.â€ť
â€śWe all got together as neighbours to defeat the previous proposals to squeeze six mews houses on here. If you want to help us please send your objections to the councilâ€™s Development Management Service, Planning and Development, PO Box 333, 222 Upper Street, London N1 1YA or e: email@example.com using reference P2014/4757/TRE
Hedera Vetch: â€śI want people to get hedge woundwort. It needs no special treatment. It keeps seeding itself and the bees love it. It can be quite small and still flower, or get to 3ft. It looks sort of like a magenta orchid if you get up close.â€ť
Hedera Vetch:Â “The photo is taken through the verbena bonariensis. I was so pleased to get sparrows â€“ there were none when I moved here. I buy suet balls at Sainsbury’s, Liverpool Road (a bus ride away) orÂ at Hornsey Pet & Garden Shop, 19 Park Road, N8 in Crouch End (I like the murals nearby). The pet shop also sells suet rolls, cylinders that fit into the suet ball feeders. These seem toÂ discourage the squirrelsÂ â€“ theyâ€™ll demolish a ball with their claws if they can, just to capture a sunflower seed, but that’s not possible with the suet rolls.”
Hedera Vetch: “The earthwork is a raised bed – a few rows of reused old Victorian bricks round a mound of soil. Itâ€™s about 5ft wide, based on a wall I I saw at Camley Street. I wanted it higher at the back as the sun only shines on one side of the garden. But spring happens so quickly and frogs moved in straight awayÂ usingÂ the the bricks and the alkanet for their hunting. It’s a privilege to have them, and I now keep this a frog-friendly area.”
Hedera Vetch: “Hardy geranium wargrave pink is a bit of a thug. It flings its seeds everywhere, and eveyr seedling seems to come up. The bees used to love it but itâ€™s lost its allure for them â€“ perhaps it has hybridised? This picture is taken from a frogâ€™s eye view. If you are doing a garden and think youâ€™ve got a tiny little space think again â€“ itâ€™s a huge space for a tiny creature. Iâ€™m planning videos for my websiteÂ from a beeâ€™s eye view and a childâ€™s eye view. To focus on what smallÂ creatures see the best position is to lie on the ground, like a wildlifeÂ photographer!”
Hedera Vetch: “Purple loosestrife is so exciting â€“ itâ€™s a big dramatic garden flower that cheers people up and the bumblebees like it. Itâ€™s lovely next toÂ the meadowsweet which is preferred by honey bees. I wish I knew who had hives nearby.”
Hedera Vetch: “This was early days for the wildlife garden. I got the cocoa shell from the internet. It has a fantastic smell when the sun shines on it. The squirrels must think so too, the night I left the new bag out they bit three holes in the bottom. I listen to Gardenersâ€™ Question Time and their latest no dig ideas and think of the worms. There’s a wormÂ cartoon on our website, withÂ the ones in the cocoa shell look zippyÂ and thoset in the garden clay allÂ pallid and bloated.” See www.highburywildlifegarden.com/uk
Hedera Vetch: “This is Tiggy, who was once the neighbourhood’s top cat. He battled other cats who tried coming into our garden and chased them away from the birds. He died in October 2011. Itâ€™s difficult: cats are so beautiful but they are killing machines. Iâ€™m trying to feed the birds so I try to make the garden cat free. Some people put up nets, but then the birds get stuck. We have a homemadeÂ trellis with thorny pyracantha which is supposed to be good at keeping out intruders. We hadÂ squirrels and wood pigeons sitting on the bird houses we put up. Imagine being a little parent bird bringing food toÂ your babies or being a baby bird waiting for mum or dad. Even if it means you no harm youÂ how would you feelÂ knowing thereâ€™s a giant sitting on the roof ofÂ your house? SoÂ I cut off bits of pyracantha and attached them to the roof of the bird houses, but the squirrels took them away in their jaws! Don’t they notice the thorns?”
Hedera Vetch: “I buy these coconut shell treatsÂ from the website of the RSPB – they come in boxes of 10 or 20. You can get alsoÂ sometimes get them, a few at a time, at Sainsburyâ€™s.
Hedera Vetch:Â “One of the friendsÂ who shares ourÂ garden loves the fern. It’s the first plant to be seen from the house and does make the garden look like a woodland gladeÂ Itâ€™s in a shady area but with its neighbours ofÂ meadowsweet and purple loosestrife it likes the shade. All are easy to grow: you just put them in, keep the soil moist, tie them back to stop them leaning into each other and leave them alone.”
Hedera Vetch: “The commas must come across to us from Gillespie Park. When I saw how good this picture of the butterfly was and how tatty the garden chair looked by comparison I used the art package to “clean” the stains. It felt like I was working for the News of the World.
Go to the website to see videos, photos and cartoons fromÂ www.highburywildlifegarden.com/uk
Over to you
If youâ€™d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.
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This blog is inspired byÂ Spitalfields LifeÂ written by the Gentle Author.