We are so lucky at St John's to have such a wide range of habitat spaces within our grounds, and all of these areas are beneficial to an equally wide range of consumers!
For our Flower Team we have a range of well-established shrubs that are used in displays. For example, both yew and ivy are an all-year staple - try cutting them down and you might have a fight on your hands! Yew is often used to give texture, and trailing ivy is perfect for creating soft lines in a pedestal display. You may have also seen our variegated Pittosporum (growing by the Lady Chapel), with its beautifully curled leaf margins, outlined in cream, peeping in and out of the flowers to give light to a dark display.
For our church users, regular and new, we have a mixture of planting at the front of the church bringing joy to the eye - daffodils, tulips and grape hyacinths in the borders and dotted on the lawn, which are just beginning to flower; geraniums, roses and lilies in the summer; and the bright orange berries of pyracantha in the winter. The roses behind the bench provide a heavenly space of scent and colour and are a perfect backdrop for any bride or groom waiting for their wedding.
For wildlife we have areas of untouched undergrowth which support a variety of invertebrates such as woodlice, spiders, beetles, slugs, snails, worms. Our ivy provides a much-needed feeding stop-off for hoverflies, wasps and bees in the late summer and a safe space for birds to build their nests in spring. Last year a group of children from Hook Infants School did a survey of the grounds, looking for insects and small creatures. Out of all our areas, the corner of the ground on the right as you leave the car park was found to hold to widest diversity of minibeasts. Who would have thought that? What to us looks like a messy corner is a haven for our wildlife.
Our gardens are lovely, and we all appreciate it, but there is more that can be done. More shrubs that we can grow for the Flower Team, more flowering plants that can be appreciated by everyone who walks through the church grounds and more areas that can host an even greater diversity of wildlife.
This was my starting point when I started to become a regular at St John’s: let’s make our garden spaces a better place for all. We held our first Spring Garden Meeting in February – we looked at the shrubs used by the Flower Team and brainstormed other plants we’d like to have; we took a walk round the grounds to see where the shrubs were growing and looked at places where we could encourage wildlife. We were also joined by Pete West, from Hook Infants School who shared his knowledge and experience and were inspired to join in with some of the school projects - providing corridors for hedgehogs and creating Bee Lines for our pollinators.
What we realised from just one meeting was how positive and excited everyone was about working on our gardens. Lovely comments have passed backwards and forwards since then, and a weekly gardening group even evolved from the meeting just two days later. More than that, it brought the community of the church to work together.
PS these pictures were all taken in February - and lovely to see so many flowers over the winter!
We've been working on improving our landscaping over the last few months. We have a lovely wild flower area by the entrance to church. We have areas of grass which are being mowed, and areas which are growing a bit longer with flowers. When you walk through the areas at the back of church you see flowers, butterflies and other polinators. We are surveying on a regular basis, and have taken part in the Big Butterfly Hunt for 2023. We have an album of photographs - which were taken in the garden over the year, we also have more information about some of the flowers and our #wilder initiatives here
Our wild flower area over the summer:
After almost a year of the team working in the garden, we are seeing an increase in diversity of our wild plants. Over the next month, we will be planting some plants to be used by the flower arrangers in future years, we will be planting some bulbs, some of which were kind donations - thanks to Hook in Bloom & Leanna Millward (Hook Village Wildlife Gardners on Facebook).
These pictures were all taken in October. The hydrangea have looked fabulous this year, we've also been drying some to use for flower arrangments!
So what’s next?
This is a huge project that needs to be managed properly and needs a team of people to work together to maintain the gardens. It needs inspiration, positivity, time, planning, research, probably some back ache and definitely some tea and biscuits. It is a project that could take us many years into the future, and yet it also includes small tasks that are easily achievable this year.
Please, please do get in touch with either myself, Richard Morley or Anna if you are interested in getting involved. Some tasks will need regular commitment and others need help on an ad hoc basis. We also need plants too, so we will be looking for donations and also creative ways of raising funds.
The Weekly Gardening Club runs every Wednesday, from 10am and is open to all – if you would like to help out you may want to join our Church Garden Whatsapp group. If you are not available on a Wednesday, or do not want to commit, please join our Whatsapp group and pop in when you can! We are posting regular updates & photos.