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Ballyrobert Gardens in Climate Change Mode by Peggy Masterson

It is nearly 30 years since Maurice and his wife Joy commenced the development of Ballyrobert Gardens as a naturalistic garden and during that time the garden has developed as one of the best of its kind. It was chosen by Nationwide BBC TV as an exemplar naturalistic garden for a live Breakfast Time Programme feature in connection with the launch of Rita Reynold’s book, Dare to be Wild.

The garden is a lesson of best practice of what gardeners need to do to mitigate climate change.
I asked Maurice to let me know what were the key features that have enabled this to happen in the context of climate change.

“We fortunately, like many other gardeners, were very early believers in what was happening to our climate because the changes in our garden and the natural environment reflected unusual events and occurrences. It was self-evident that all was not well in the natural environment and we were very concerned.
Your question Peggy was really good and very applicable at such a key time for our climate and I hope the following summary is helpful:-

1. Everything in this garden is green i.e. lots of vegetation and a wide range of plants both native and introduced.
2. We have sought to create natural habitats with the absolute minimum of inorganic materials. All our pruning’s etc are allowed to naturally breakdown. e.g. the drains and ditches are filled with dead branches. Dead wood in all its forms is very valuable to us.
3. We have practiced no dig/cultivation in the garden from the beginning and we allow as much natural plant litter as possible to remain in borders. We tell our visitors we have the national collection of lichens!
4. The garden in 30 years has never been fertilised and this also applies to our 10 acres of Dexter grazed land/wilding area.
5. We only grow plants that survive and grow without insecticides and fungicides. Our focus is on high performance plants which grow without lots of assistance.
6. Native type hedges are key in this place and truly native thorn is the number one plant in the garden. With the exception of a small picket fence, there is not a wooden fence about the place but we do have open natural stone walls.
7. Borders are not drained, despite having very heavy soil, but rather we have chosen plants that like the conditions.
8. We never water the garden, including lawns.
9. The vast bulk of our plants are permanent and hardy.
10. Our pencil tree stumps summarise what we are about in a learning and practice sense. Hope you like them.

We are firm believers in the need to adopt natural solutions to climate change problems. As the Secretary General of the United Nations recently said, “It’s About Making Peace with Nature.”

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