As gardens become increasingly important strongholds for much of our native wildlife, a competition has been launched to find the most wildlife friendly gardens in Dorset. Following the success of its innovative Wildlife Friendly Garden Plaque scheme (with over 150 awarded so far), Dorset Wildlife Trust has joined forces with The Gardens Group to launch a county-wide competition to help recognise the important contribution gardeners are making to the conservation of the county's wildlife.
Joy Wallis, People and Wildlife Co-ordinator at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: "The countryside and other urban open spaces are often unwelcoming, sterile and do not have the range of micro-habitats many gardeners supply. We want to encourage gardeners across the county who are providing a haven for wildlife. The judges will be looking for gardens, however small, that welcome wildlife and so form a vital stepping stone between other suitable habitats."
The Wildlife Friendly Garden Competition is open to all Dorset gardens, from a small patio to a large garden which is more of an integral part of the countryside. Judging will be in different size categories and entries can be from individuals, community or school gardens, a group of neighbours or even a whole street. Gardens will need to provide a variety of sources of food such as nectar-rich flowers, seed and fruit planting with various sources of water, shelter and places to breed.
Mike Burks, MD of The Gardens Group, commented: "We are very pleased to be working with Dorset Wildlife Trust on this project to find the best wildlife friendly gardens in Dorset. Gardens can be full of perfect specimen roses, they can be full of leeks and lettuces but they can still be very comfortable homes for wildlife! One does not preclude the other and so we will hopefully find gardens where plants and wildlife are in perfect harmony!"
Entry to the competition is free. Forms are available from www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk, www.thegardeneronline.co.uk or from Castle Gardens, Sherborne, Poundbury Gardens, Dorchester and Dorset Wildlife Trust centres at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows and the Urban Wildlife Centre. Closing date is 10th May. For further information, please contact Joy Wallis at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.
Prizes, which include a wildlife friendly collection of plants, gardening vouchers and books, will be presented by renowned eco-gardener Clive Farrell at a wildlife friendly gardening event at Castle Gardens, Sherborne on 15th July.
Wildlife Friendly garden features could include:
• Wildlife Pond
• Bog or permanently wet area
• Bird bath
• Bird Box
• Wild flower meadow
• Long grass area
• Nectar rich flower border and bushes
• Mixed Native Hedge
• Mature native tree
• Log pile and/or substantial decaying tree stump
• Compost heap
• No-go area
• Climbing plants/trellises suitable for nesting and feeding
• Slug pellet free
Notes to Editor
For more information please contact Joy Wallis at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.
About Dorset Wildlife Trust
Dorset Wildlife Trust was founded in 1961 to protect the wildlife and natural habitats of the county and now has over 25,000 members and manages 45 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve.
The largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues. It leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
About The Gardens Group
The three Garden Centres that make up The Gardens Group are situated at; Castle Gardens in Sherborne, Brimsmore Gardens in Yeovil and Poundbury Gardens in Dorchester.
Castle Gardens is situated in the grounds of the kitchen gardens of Sherborne Castle. Mike and Louise Burks set up a garden centre on the site in 1987. When they arrived it was badly overgrown and derelict. The business soon developed on the basis of high quality plants and horticultural expertise backed up by excellent customer service.
In 1992 Brimsmore Gardens in Yeovil opened within the Fruit Farm alongside the Farm Shop. The site has developed over the years with the inclusion of the Apple Tree Restaurant and Farm Shop with a strong focus on local produce and homemade food.
A third garden centre opened in March 2006. Set in redundant Victorian farm buildings the site is in the centre of Poundbury, Dorchester - the village being created by HRH The Prince of Wales. The buildings have been carefully restored with minor adaptations to create a unique garden centre. Working with the Duchy of Cornwall many eco friendly features are being utilised including the collection of rainwater for irrigation, the use of waste packaging to heat the site and the inclusion of bat roosting boxes.
Prince Charles has been a regular visitor and has taken a keen interest in the project. A recent scheduled two-minute visit stretched to 20 minutes as the features of the new centre absorbed him.
From a team of 5 in 1987 the business now employs over 130 staff. The original ideals of high quality plants, expertise and customer service still hold true and are the backbone of the business.