Bees, Butterflies and Growing Things at Barnsdale

Inspiration from the late Geoff Hamilton

bee food echinops

Echinops smothered in bees

Last week we visited Barnsdale in Rutland, the home of the late Geoff Hamilton and his famous TV gardens. His son Nick has continued in his father’s footsteps, so I was at last able to see for real what I’d only seen on the small screen.

Way ahead of his time, Geoff’s ethos was always to work with wildlife, garden organically whenever possible and integrate food growing with beauty and practicality. Many of the gardens he built demonstrated these principles in many ways. Geoff always wanted people to be able to do what he could do, so there were plenty of ideas for those of us making our own kit, whether that be a pergola, a cold frame or a compost bin, a path edging or archway. Even my partner, a non-gardener, was inspired and impressed with the innovative ideas.

The family have continued to develop the site, adding more modern features that still retain the ethos, but bring current aesthetics into play. It’s paid off. The place was positively buzzing with bees, fluttering with butterflies and heaving with hoverflies. Dragonflies, to my delight, also made appearances.

I chatted to one of the staff working among the borders. He told me the balance achieved there is so good that even this summer, this year of monsoons, has yielded healthy vegetables relatively unmolested by slugs and snails, and I saw the veg for myself.  That HAS to be proof that given the chance, nature will balance itself out. He told me they have lots of blackbirds and thrushes that keep the pesky pests in check.

I made note of the flowers that were swarming with life so that I can ensure I’m growing the best possible nectar and pollen plants on my own plot. Echinops, geraniums and cosmos were I think the top three. Sedums also played a big part, and I came home with a new one called Sedum telephium ‘Matrona’, according to the label in Barnsdale’s nursery, an excellent bee and butterfly plant. It’s currently in bud, and I can’t wait to see what happens when the flowers open.

If you fancy a visit to Barnsdale, you can find all the details you need for prices, opening times and courses here.

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