Hedera Vetch: wildlife gardener

29 Dec

Everyone has a story. Take a photo journey around Hedera Vetch’s tiny shared N5 garden to gain an understanding of life in Islington from the wildlife’s point of view. This post also has a request to stop a magnificent ash tree being felled on a slither of land off Elwood Street – objections to the council need to be submitted by 1 January 2015 (although realistically you’ve probably got until 8 January 2015). Interview by Nicola Baird

Hedera Vetch

Hedera Vetch

Hedera Vetch is a pseudonym for an illustrator who has lived in Islington since 1977, and shared an N5 garden since 2001.

While Hedera (which means ivy in Latin, but you knew that didn’t you?) was a volunteer at Gillespie Park – doing nature conservation tasks each Thursday – she learnt how to make her garden more wildlife friendly.

“For tips on local gardening success I was told to look at the book Veg Street and the blog posts on Out of My Shed [written by local garden and neighbourhood catalyst Naomi Schillinger]. I used Out of My Shed as my inspiration,” says Hedera, “but it’s all about growing food. You cannot plan on any food for humans growing in our garden as the wildlife sees it as food for them!”


Sleeping fox and cub. Photo by XX

Sleeping fox and cub. Photo by ASW

The ash tree, May 2011.

The ash tree, May 2011.

Hedera Vetch: “The vixen and her cub won’t be so cosy now as this land off Elwood Street has again been flattened and there is a proposal to fell the fantastic ash tree nearby. If that ash tree could tell stories I’m sure it could go back to before they built the Arsenal West and East stands.”

“We all got together as neighbours to defeat the previous proposals to squeeze six mews houses on here. If you want to help us please send your objections to the council’s Development Management Service, Planning and Development, PO Box 333, 222 Upper Street, London N1 1YA or e: planning@islington.gov.uk using reference P2014/4757/TRE

To stop the beautiful ash tree above being felled you need to contact Islington planning before 1 january 2015.

To stop the beautiful ash tree above being felled you need to contact Islington planning before 1 January 2015.

Hedera Vetch: “I want people to get hedge woundwort. It needs no special treatment. It keeps seeding itself and the bees love it. It can be quite small and still flower, or get to 3ft. It looks sort of like a magenta orchid if you get up close.”

Sparrows visit the suetball.

Sparrows visit the suetball.

Hedera Vetch: “The photo is taken through the verbena bonariensis. I was so pleased to get sparrows – there were none when I moved here. I buy suet balls at Sainsbury’s, Liverpool Road (a bus ride away) or at Hornsey Pet & Garden Shop, 19 Park Road, N8 in Crouch End (I like the murals nearby). The pet shop also sells suet rolls, cylinders that fit into the suet ball feeders. These seem to discourage the squirrels – they’ll demolish a ball with their claws if they can, just to capture a sunflower seed, but that’s not possible with the suet rolls.”

Earthwork with alkanet

Earthwork with alkanet

Hedera Vetch: “The earthwork is a raised bed – a few rows of reused old Victorian bricks round a mound of soil. It’s about 5ft wide, based on a wall I I saw at Camley Street. I wanted it higher at the back as the sun only shines on one side of the garden. But spring happens so quickly and frogs moved in straight away using the the bricks and the alkanet for their hunting. It’s a privilege to have them, and I now keep this a frog-friendly area.”

View from crazy paving in June with foxgloves, herb Robert, hedge woundwort and hardy pink wagrave SPELLILNG

View from crazy paving in June with foxgloves, herb Robert, hedge woundwort and hardy geranium wargrave pink

Hedera Vetch: “Hardy geranium wargrave pink is a bit of a thug. It flings its seeds everywhere, and eveyr seedling seems to come up. The bees used to love it but it’s lost its allure for them – perhaps it has hybridised? This picture is taken from a frog’s eye view. If you are doing a garden and think you’ve got a tiny little space think again – it’s a huge space for a tiny creature. I’m planning videos for my website from a bee’s eye view and a child’s eye view. To focus on what small creatures see the best position is to lie on the ground, like a wildlife photographer!”

Three spires of purple loosestrife.

Three spires of purple loosestrife.

Hedera Vetch: “Purple loosestrife is so exciting – it’s a big dramatic garden flower that cheers people up and the bumblebees like it. It’s lovely next to the meadowsweet which is preferred by honey bees. I wish I knew who had hives nearby.”

Earthwork in spring with cocoa shell.

Earthwork in spring with cocoa shell.

Hedera Vetch: “This was early days for the wildlife garden. I got the cocoa shell from the internet. It has a fantastic smell when the sun shines on it. The squirrels must think so too, the night I left the new bag out they bit three holes in the bottom. I listen to Gardeners’ Question Time and their latest no dig ideas and think of the worms. There’s a worm cartoon on our website, with the ones in the cocoa shell look zippy and thoset in the garden clay all pallid and bloated.” See www.highburywildlifegarden.com/uk

Hedera Vetch: “This is Tiggy, who was once the neighbourhood’s top cat. He battled other cats who tried coming into our garden and chased them away from the birds. He died in October 2011. It’s difficult: cats are so beautiful but they are killing machines. I’m trying to feed the birds so I try to make the garden cat free. Some people put up nets, but then the birds get stuck. We have a homemade trellis with thorny pyracantha which is supposed to be good at keeping out intruders. We had squirrels and wood pigeons sitting on the bird houses we put up. Imagine being a little parent bird bringing food to your babies or being a baby bird waiting for mum or dad. Even if it means you no harm you how would you feel knowing there’s a giant sitting on the roof of your house? So I cut off bits of pyracantha and attached them to the roof of the bird houses, but the squirrels took them away in their jaws! Don’t they notice the thorns?”

Starling enjoying a coconut treat.

Starling enjoying a coconut treat.

Hedera Vetch: “I buy these coconut shell treats from the website of the RSPB – they come in boxes of 10 or 20. You can get also sometimes get them, a few at a time, at Sainsbury’s.

Fern bed in spring with meadowsweet

Fern bed in spring with meadowsweet

Hedera Vetch: “One of the friends who shares our garden loves the fern. It’s the first plant to be seen from the house and does make the garden look like a woodland glade It’s in a shady area but with its neighbours of meadowsweet and purple loosestrife it likes the shade. All are easy to grow: you just put them in, keep the soil moist, tie them back to stop them leaning into each other and leave them alone.”

Comma butterfly photographed in June 2014.

Comma butterfly photographed in June 2014.

Hedera Vetch: “The commas must come across to us from Gillespie Park. When I saw how good this picture of the butterfly was and how tatty the garden chair looked by comparison I used the art package to “clean” the stains. It felt like I was working for the News of the World.

Go to the website to see videos, photos and cartoons from www.highburywildlifegarden.com/uk

Over to you

If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or like my Facebook page (again see menu on the right) @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola


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