The Wild Gardener: Advice on why you shouldn't cut grass
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Wildlife cameraman and filmmaker Colin Stafford-Johnson embarked on a personal project in his new series, The Wild Gardener on BBC Two. He returned home to his old childhood garden in Wicklow in Ireland to turn it into a wildlife haven. The acre plot was unused for 40 years but with a lot of hard work, Colin planned to turn it into a home for the island’s native species.
Colin planted wild flowers, dug out ponds, sowed seeds and planted woodland to create the best possible conditions for local wildlife.
During the first episode, Colin showed viewers what he achieved between February and September while carefully logging any new wildlife sightings.
Colin’s father, Barney Johnson, who was the first TV gardener in Ireland, is mentioned throughout with clips from his gardening programmes from the 1970s being shown.
Another inspiration for Colin’s project was gardener William Robinson.
He said: “One hundred and fifty years ago, a radical thinker turned the world of formal gardening on its head and changed gardening forever on these islands.
“His name was William Robinson.”
Colin visited Gravetye Manor in Sussex where William lived from 1838 to his death in 1935.
The gardening expert is the author of The Wild Garden.
Colin continued: “He was the original wild gardener and I’m on a pilgrimage to his home-place and one of the finest examples of his work.
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“He was an Irishman as it happens…
“He really rebelled against those really formal gardens.
“The Versailles-type gardens, I suppose.
“He was very much influenced by the natural world, and he loved woodlands and hedgerows.
“But he sort of constructed gardens which were sort of really full of life and densely planted where plants would have competed against each other in the fairly natural setting.
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“Robinson made a strong case against closely mowed lawns that easily could have been written today.
“Never shy about voicing his opinion, he called extensive mowing, ‘ridiculous work and a costly mistake.’”
Colin said there’s a garden near where he lived that was influenced and very much designed in the same style as William Robinson
Colin described the meadows at William’s home as “alive” and full of life.
“He really appreciated meadows and in its time, to incorporate a meadow into your landscaping was just not the done thing,” Colin added.
He described William’s perspective as a “naturalised” and “more positive” way of gardening.
Across the valley from the meadows and wildflowers of William’s home lies a “typical field”.
Colin added: “Contrasting it, there’s a hum and a buzz about this place. Whereas over there, there’s nothing.
“There are no flowers so there are no pollinators and so you get these sort of green deserts.”
The Wild Gardener is available to stream on BBC iPlayer
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