In common with everyone around the world, things changed for us in 2020.
As a voluntary “Friends” group, we felt it would not be safe to hold official gardening sessions during the pandemic but some of our regular gardeners used some of their exercise time to keep our park looking lovely for others and to benefit their own health, for which we thank them so much.
We cut hedges, weeded & seeded the meadow and flower beds, planted lavender, swept leaves, spread mushroom manure, picked up the endless litter and watered during the hot summer. For more detail, please read on.
We are extremely grateful to Ray, who took over the role of chair on 1 January 2020, replacing Astrid de Cosson, whom we would like to thank for her massive contribution to FQPG in her time as chair, with Simon Walton and Alison Low Madigan supporting him on the committee.
A total of 451 volunteer hours were recorded in 2020 which is a considerable increase on previous years. These hours reflect time spent gardening by individuals using their allowed exercise time, especially for regular watering during the summer. They do not include time spent on other activities such as administration, procurement of materials and organisation.
Our planting schemes are designed to be largely self-sustaining and sustainable, with the aim of maximising the impact while taking account of our limited financial resources and the small number of volunteers we have.
FQPG activities and achievements within the gardens in 2020 have included:
This area is in many years at the heart of our gardening work. However, this year, it was much used by local people during the spring and summer, making it more difficult for gardeners to work safely with appropriate physical distancing. As a result, less work was carried out in the Wildlife Area than would normally be the case. In 2020, we:
- Planted foxgloves (pre-lockdown).
- Planted alliums – generously donated by HCGA (pre-lockdown).
- Planted a crab apple tree (pre-lockdown).
- Planted willow whips for the willow dome (pre-lockdown) – these were sadly later pulled up and the willow dome was destroyed.
- Sowed packets of shop-bought wildflower seeds in the wildflower meadow in the late winter for flowering in summer 2020 (pre-lockdown).
- Sowed wildflower seeds harvested from other parts of the garden in the wildflower meadow in the autumn for flowering in summer 2021.
- Maintained the compost and leaf mulch heaps –using the results to enrich the soil in other parts of the garden.
- Dismantled the bug hotel following persistent damage (see Section 7: Challenges below).
Triangular Rose Bed
This is the most mature of the flower beds gardened by the FQPG volunteers, with a mix of rose bushes and a border of low-level bedding plants and perennials. During 2020, we:
- Spread mushroom manure at the start of the year (pre-lockdown).
- Planted new lavender shrubs to fill gaps in the borders.
- Grew marigolds from seed.
- Maintained the rose bushes, including regular deadheading and pruning.
- Dug, weeded, watered and hunted for bindweed a lot!
- Identified gaps in the bed and rose bushes that are coming to the end of their natural life span and will need replacing.
Circular Shrub Bed
This bed was worked on by the FQPG volunteers in 2019 for the first time in many years. We were delighted that the planting of a mix of bulbs in autumn 2019 resulted in an abundance of irises, croci, daffodils and tulips in spring 2020, followed by other plants grown from seeds planted in 2019. In 2020, we:
- Planted seeds for a mixture of annuals and perennials, including marigolds, calendula, nasturtium, poppies, clary sage, etc.
- Bought and planted a small number of shop-bought bedding plants.
- Also weeded and watered a lot.
- Repaired damage to the bed when plants were crushed/uprooted.
- Planting a mixture of annuals and perennials, including marigolds, pansies, calendula, poppies, clary sage, petunias and a range of other bedding plants, supported by watering and weeding
- Planting bulbs (croci, daffodils and tulips) for flowering in spring 2020 and beyond.
Railings bed (along the play area close to Fourth Avenue entrance)
This bed is narrow and shallow which makes it hard for growing many plants. In 2020, we:
- Planted allium bulbs and sunflowers early in the year for blooming in 2020 – generously donated by HCGA (pre-lockdown).
- Enriched the bed with compost from our compost heap.
- Planted daffodil, crocus and iris bulbs in the autumn for first blooming in spring 2021.
A big thank you to Claire Hickey for first planting the bulbs and then replanting them each week after they were dug up by squirrels!
Benches bed (along the main path from Third Avenue entrance to Fourth Avenue entrance)
This is a highly-visible bed, which used to have a number of attractive shrubs. These were cut back a few years ago to give greater visibility through to the Wildlife Area, after which, the area became overgrown with weeds. In 2020, we decided to develop it and we:
- Dug over the ground area and cleared it of weeds.
- Enriched the soil with compost.
- Planted daffodil, tulip and iris bulbs, for first blooming in spring 2021.
- Planted wallflower plants – generously donated by Nigel Snuggs – for first flowering in spring 2021.
- Providing general gardening and maintenance support in other parts of the garden, including leaf sweeping and litter picking.
- Pruning the hedge alongside the Wildlife Area.
Other community gardening
Members of the FQPG also contributed other community gardening projects in the area, including planting and watering plants at the QPG Hub.
As in previous years, FQPG took part in the annual RSPB Bird Watch weekend. We are very grateful to Andrew Peel from RSPB who joined us for a couple of hours on 27 January 2020 and helped us identify and count a wide variety of birds that flew over and landed in the garden. During the one- hour period recorded for the RSPB Bird Watch, we spotted 14 different species, including pigeons, seagulls, robins, blackbirds, sparrows and a goldfinch.
As in previous years, we had intended to take an active role in the QPCC summer and winter festivals, which are held in the gardens and where we normally run stalls and organise nature activities for children. However, as a result of the coronavirus, smaller controlled events replaced the festivals this year and we were unable to play a significant role.
As in previous years, we have been indebted to the generosity of many supporters, including our partner organisations listed above.
In 2020, we would like to give particular thanks to Simon Walton and Nigel Snuggs, who have made an outstanding contribution to Queen’s Park Gardens, bringing huge benefits to the many local people who have made use of the gardens during the year. Their dedication and hard work have been an inspiration and a much-appreciated support for the individual volunteers who chose on a personal level to continue gardening in the park, ensuring that gardening was undertaken safely and in line with government guidelines throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Without them, the gardens would have become neglected and overgrown with weeds, while other plants would have died off from lack of watering.
Feedback from park users
One of the greatest pleasures we enjoy when we are gardening is the chance to meet other garden users. During the pandemic, the gardens were extremely well used, in particular during the spring and summer lockdown, when so many other leisure and exercise facilities were closed. Many people stopped and, maintaining a safe distance, thanked the volunteer gardeners, expressing their appreciation of their work to make the garden a more pleasant and safer place to be. One person even gave us some cakes to share!
If you would like to join our mailing list for info about when we might start public gardening sessions again, please use our contact form.
A full report from our AGM is here.
Ulla’s Thursday morning gardening session have continued as soon as restrictions were lifted enough to allow. More details here.
Friends of Queen’s Park Gardens