More wildflowers on our streets this summer
2020 should see more happy bees buzzing around the streets of Wanstead as a massive 80 new tree bases were adopted by residents to grow wildflowers. Adoptions were up by nearly a fifth, bringing the total number of cultivated tree bases (or tree pits as they are glamorously known) to 570 across Wanstead Village and Wanstead Park.
New research in February revealed a mass extinction of bumble bees is underway. Adopting a tree pit might seem a small thing to do in the face of such monumental declines in wildlife, but in places where there’s a lot of hard surfacing, they can provide a vital network of flowers for insects, as well as food for birds. It’s also a great way to make your street look beautiful and reduce the amount of harmful pesticides being wafted around by the council.
If you’re interested in helping re-wild Wanstead but missed the 2020 treepit deadline, why not plant a pot of annual wildflowers in your front garden instead?
If you’ve adopted a treepit and are wondering what to do with it…
What you could plant
There are loads of options to consider. Some streets have had great success with a simple wildflower seed mix. Make sure you go for annuals to ensure you get a floral display this year (perennial mixes that include plants like ox-eye daisy are great as well, but will take a year before they flower). Other lovely plants that generally spring up easily from seed include California poppy, pot marigold, cosmos, cornflowers, and honeywort. Wanstead's Community Gardener, Marian Temple, says tall plants can work brilliantly too as they can be easily tied in to the trunk of the tree with string as they grow. Think about plants like hollyhocks, sweet peas, nicotiana, and achillea.
How to do it
It's easy to plant seeds under a street tree. Just remove any weeds, wet the earth and loosen it up, sprinkle on the seed and lightly press it into the damp soil. Unless we get a cold snap, it might be best to plant them soonish to catch the early rains ie February or March. It's tough under a tree because only heavy downpours get through once the leaves are out, so keep your seedlings watered if it's dry.