‘Bringing Nature Closer to Home’ is the tagline of the Wildlife Gardening Forum, which held its tenth anniversary meeting yesterday at the Natural History Museum in London.

Several of us from Tooting and TTT attended – along with 80 other gardeners, enterprises, government agencies, charities and community groups. It’s always a stimulating day (available to all; the Forum has 800+ members now).
Anyone can use the Forum’s rich resources at www.wlgf.org/
Forum meetings are held twice a year and give us a valuable chance to hear practical ideas from across the UK, learn about brand new research and discuss key topics with experts and practitioners – in sessions or over coffee.

I’ve found there has always been learning to bring home to Tooting from these Forum meetings. 

Plus practical things to do – here is a citizen science survey that will let us contribute to earthworm research (ie ‘soil ecosytem services’).

Some highlights of the day:
‘Gardening is very personal’

  • Gardening is very personal. We do it for many reasons, and age demographics and our perceptions of child safety mean that the importance of having nature right on our doorstep is more significant than ever (Chris Baines, author, broadcaster and gardener )

Why do people garden?

  • To offer scope for: making a place we like, creative decisions, relaxation, socialising, children’s play, growing food, spirituality, hobbies, storage, showing status
  • And front gardens and back gardens are viewed very differently by their owners. (both Lee Dixon, PhD research)

How has our recognition of the value of gardens to wildlife (and vice versa) developed?

  • At horticulture college in 1966-69 I spent three years being taught to kill everything that moved (Chris Baines)
  • In the old days gardeners arranged plants entirely for the benefit of people. We used to ask how to get rid of it? Now we ask how can we invite wildlife in?
  • We may not understand all about garden biodiversity. But if we build wildlife-friendly gardens, then wildlife will find it’. (both James Alexander-Sinclair, garden designer and RHS judge)

How can communities get involved?

  • Gardeners and groups in rural settings or cities are already involved: for example feeding birds and growing pollinator-friendly plants, and observing nature in and around their gardens.
  • Buglife outlined Urban Buzz. It’s a national project for 8 cities which will be launched next week, aiming to get 800 pollinator plant hotspots buzzing over the next few years, with thousands of people joining in as guides, volunteers and participants.
  • We heard about Plants for Bugs – new Royal Horticultural Society research on whether native or non-native plants (typically mixed in our gardens) are more beneficial for insects. Info here.

    Development at the Natural History Museum
    WLGF co-ordinator Steve Head offered a passionate plea to the Natural History Museum to reconsider aspects of their recent proposal to resolve how to get ever-growing numbers of visitors into the museum.
    Steve suggested that the proposed new route that would obliterate the Museum’s twenty-year-old Wildlife Garden could be improved, and that this oasis of inner-London biodiversity could be preserved. (Background details to NHM proposal online here).

    We’ll share the full report of the day when available. 
    The next Forum meeting is in 6 months – all are welcome.