We are building a richly diverse plant collection with an extended season of flowers and fruit to support insect, bird, and bat communities in our grounds.
The riverbank needs particular care and maintenance to provide a rich edge habitat and abundant insect life. Self-seeding trees have been removed from the river wall and meadow edge and damage caused by their roots has been repaired. Coir rolls are now moored along the hard edge of the river wall and are supporting the growth of native waterside plants.
We have modified our garden operations to be peat free. We use onsite bark chippings from necessary tree surgery for mulch, and compost is purchased from regionally recycled green waste. We no longer use chemical sprays for insect or weed control. We are moving towards chemical-free moss control through use of effective scarifying lawn mowers. These are battery operated and are quieter and less polluting than our older petrol machines (courtesy of the St Hilda’s Garden Fund).
Planting is now focused on perennials with reduced use of annuals, allowing healthy plant communities to knit together over time. Six new trees – four cherries, a magnolia, and an Indian rain tree (also from the Garden Fund) - have been planted in and around the entrance courtyard. During lockdown in the spring and summer of 2020, wildflower annual seed was used to fill Hall Garden's riverside border, so that insects at least could enjoy the summer in College. That border was fully developed the following year. Our fritillary meadow is mowed annually in late summer, with all mulch removed after seeds have fallen, in order to maintain meadow plant diversity.