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Begonias set to be Swansea’s most popular bloom this spring

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With spring well and truly here and the gardening season in full swing, research from garden centre retailer, Dobbies, has found that a massive 92% of Swansea locals are looking forward to doing more gardening this spring.

The research, from Independent Media News, looked into this year’s gardening trends, attitudes towards gardening, garden centres themselves and some of the misconceptions about the UK’s favourite pastime.

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Dobbies’ Swansea store has had a great start to the season and looking at customer trends from last year and this year to-date, General Manager, Matthew Coombes, predicts Begonias will be the most popular plant for Swansea gardeners this spring.

Begonia are a great way to bring some colour to your inside or outside space. Often used as houseplants or in a shaded summer bed in the garden, these easy-care plants need little maintenance and can thrive in a partially shaded or filtered sunlight spot.

Begonias will bloom in the garden continuously from summer right the way through until frost, and then you’re best taking them inside the house as they are not perennial plants.

Research from Dobbies shows that almost 1/3 of Swansea residents are investing in plants they can use both indoor and outdoors, and Begonia is the perfect plant to do that. There are many ways you can display your Begonias, and we often see customers add these to their hanging baskets, window boxes or borders for a pack of colour.

Dobbies’ Horticultural Director, Marcus Eyles, encourages Swansea residents to Spring it on this year by sharing his top tips on Begonias and why they are so popular in Wales: “Begonias are a great addition to any garden or house, no matter the size or shape of your borders or room.

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“We recommend planting Begonias in the garden during May when the frost is long gone to maximise their flowering potential and suggest mulching well with peat-free compost to encourage strong growth.

“These hardy blooms thrive in a shaded spot and can go a while without watering so don’t worry if you miss a feed.”

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Gardening

Burst of wildflower colour returns to Swansea this summer thanks to council scheme

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City communities are enjoying a blaze of colour this summer thanks to the council’s popular wildflower planting scheme.

Over the past few years the council has attracted pollinating insects to its roadside verges, roundabouts, parks and rough ground by allowing the grass to grow long in selected locations, which allows wildflowers to bloom, and by seeding formal beds with a colourful mix of flowers.

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And now it’s going one step further by introducing native wildflowers at a dozen locations around the city which will continue to bloom year after year.

Seeds specially selected from the National Botanic Garden of Wales’ beautiful wildflower meadows in Carmarthenshire have been planted this autumn and winter ready for this summer and for years to come.

The initiative is on top of the annual flower planting season which has kicked off at around 190 places around Swansea that are due to rise in a blaze of colour over the coming weeks.

The move are part of the council’s commitment to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss by promoting plant and insect life which includes new ways of cutting grass that is promoting pollinators and environmentally-healthy parks and verges.

Andrew Stevens, Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure, said the council is at the forefront of trying out new ways to promote wildflowers and biodiversity across city communities.

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He said: “We’re working alongside our nature conservation team and other organisations to create new havens for insects and native wildflowers because that’s what people have been asking us to do.”

“People really love the bright and cheerful wildflower initiative, but some want to see more native varieties introduced. While they aren’t as colourful as other types of wildflowers, native species largely look after themselves.”

“They’re low maintenance, re-grow year after year and support native insect-life as well. That’s why we’re experimenting at locations including on Carmarthen Road, Oystermouth Road, Swansea Enterprise Zone, the Vetch as well as in more rural locations like Pennard.”

“We’re getting our seeds from the national botanical gardens because then we know they’re Welsh seeds grown in Wales.”

The wildflower projects build on the success of the council’s ‘cut and collect’ grass cutting programme in parks, roadside verges and elsewhere that also promotes biodiversity in our communities.

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Cllr Stevens said: “Our new approach to grass cutting is in addition to what we’re already doing and is the best of both worlds because it encourages the maintenance of species-rich vegetation in parks and verges. It also slows down rainwater, helping with flood defence and capturing pollutants from the air.

“But the best thing about it is that we cut the grass twice in the season at specific times so that flowers can complete their lifecycles and naturally distribute seed ready for the next time.

“This cutting less and cutting later approach to grassy areas replenish the seed bank, restores floral diversity, and provides pollinator habitat across the county.”

The Welsh Government has supported the scheme with grant funding for specialist cutting equipment and new machinery. It cuts and collects grass while at the same time carefully removing other dead vegetation to allow air and rain to get to the soil so that seeds have room to germinate.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Free kids workshops come to Dobbies’ Swansea garden centre this summer

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Leading UK garden centre, Dobbies is set to host a series of workshops this summer in Swansea for its Little Seedlings Club.

Magnificent Microgreens will take place on Sunday 3 July, and back for 2022 is Dobbies’ Summer Holiday Club sessions, perfect for keeping the little ones busy during the school break.

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Dobbies’ Little Seedlings Club is a free children’s gardening club for children aged 4-10 in Swansea which explores the exciting ways children can connect to plants, wildlife and the environment, nurturing their minds with fun-filled activities.

The Magnificent Microgreens workshop will take a deep dive into the science behind the nutritious leafy greens, showcasing all the health benefits of eating these superfoods and how attendees can easily grow their own at home no matter the space by making their very own windowsill planter to take home and grow.         

The not your average garden centre will also be demonstrating all the ways in which chefs use microgreens in the kitchen to help encourage kids to eat their greens. 

Dobbies’ Summer Holiday Club sessions in Swansea will take place on 31 July and 21 August between 10:15-11:15 am. These interactive workshops will explore how children can create their very own summer sanctuary in the garden for plants and wildlife to flourish. Here attendees will take a closer look at the insects, birds and animals that call the garden home during the summer months, making bug hotels, learning interesting animal facts, and finding out all the ways we can make our garden into a wildlife haven.

Dobbies’ Partnership and Events Manager, Sarah Murray, explained: “Summer holidays are a great chance for the little ones to harvest a new passion for gardening, enjoy time with kids of a similar age and learn something new.

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“Our free Little Seedlings workshops are open to all, and this summer we’re showing our young gardeners that anything is possible in their green space if they have the right knowledge and tools.”

Advance booking is required for the free events to secure your space. For more information about how children can get involved in these workshops at Dobbies’ Swansea store, visit the Magnificent Microgreens and Summer Holiday Club pages on Dobbies website.

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Station planters bring colour and biodiversity to Swansea Railway Station

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Renowned Swansea artist Owen Griffiths has transformed the forecourt of Swansea Railway Station into a mini urban garden with a colourful set of planters and natural oak benches.

The project was initiated by South West Wales Connected Community Rail Partnership (SWWCo), which is based at the station.

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It came about after a Shared Vision meeting held by SWWCo and 4theRegion, a membership alliance working to bring about positive change in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. 4theRegion hosts SWWCo and is also based at Swansea Railway Station.

At the meeting, local businesses, organisations and members of the public discussed the need to enhance the station to create a sense of pride and welcome. The result was the station planters project.

The funding and permissions for the work came from the Transport for Wales Biodiversity Fund and Swansea Councils’ Local Places for Nature Funding, with a total of £38,000 being made available.

Planters at Swansea’s High Street train station

Owen Griffiths is well known for his community and garden projects in the area. These include Vetch Veg, in which the former Swansea football ground, the Vetch Field, was transformed into an urban garden; the GRAFT Courtyard Garden Project at the National Waterfront Museum; and most recently the Thinking Green exhibition and gardening project at the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea.

Griffiths was invited to create a more attractive arrival in Swansea for rail passengers and worked to build sustainability into every aspect of the work. With this in mind, he filled the planters with substrates from local, sustainable sources.

Cockle shells, oyster shells, sand, building rubble and limestone have been used in the place of topsoil, whose extraction and shipping can be damaging to the environment.

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Planters at Swansea’s Hugh Street train station

Griffiths worked closely with Owen Hayman, a horticultural designer currently training at RHS Wisley, and had guidance from John Little, a green Infrastructure and landscape designer based in Essex who has been leading and developing horticultural designs in different industrial substrates.

“We wanted to explore different ways of using waste materials,” said Owen. “It shows you what you can source locally, which connects to the local geology and be utilised in a biodiversity context.”

To accommodate the varied footfall at the station, the planters and benches are also mobile, meaning they can be rearranged depending on station traffic, or simply to create variety. Local artist Amy Marsden made the oak benches and Angharad Pearce Jones, a blacksmith from Ammanford, made the planters to Griffiths’ design.

“The design of the planters is based on shapes relating to the architecture around the area – they connect to brick detailing on pre- and post-war architecture in and around the square mile of the station, including the concrete relief on the old medical centre on Orchard Street,” said Griffiths.

Griffiths and his team of volunteers filled the 10 planters with plants that reflect the local ecology and encourage biodiversity; bee habitats have been built into them, along with wooden posts with holes for beetles and bugs. The plants include local coastal species, yuccas, pine trees, fig trees, wild strawberries and the same roses that grow at Three Cliffs Bay.

“The idea is that it connects to different kind of landscapes of Swansea and also demonstrates ways of working that don’t require masses of topsoil to be moved,” said Griffiths. “It shows what you can do with a fairly small budget to make a big visual impact and have quite a big impact in terms of biodiversity.”

Planters at Swansea’s High Street train station

Information boards will soon be added to tell visitors more about the scheme, which is set to have even more impact as the plants become established.

Zoe Antrobus, founder and managing director of 4theRegion, is delighted with the effect the scheme has already had.

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“In March 2021 SWWCo held a Shared Vision Meeting for Swansea Train Station and the surrounding area,” she said.

“The meeting attracted local people, businesses and organisations who shared with the group about what they loved about the area and what they’d love to see. We talked about creating a greater sense of place and pride of place, improving community wellbeing, and improving the arrival experience for visitors.

“The station planters project has certainly achieved that. It makes a huge difference to the approach to the station and it’s also spreading an important message about sustainability and bringing more biodiversity to the city centre.

“Lots of people have commented on how much they love the planters, and it’s great to see people sitting on the benches and enjoying the space.”

Planters at Swansea’s High Street train station

Hugh J Evans, Head of Community Rail added: “We’re delighted to have been able to help make this scheme happen.

“It’s enhanced the experience of arriving at Swansea Railway Station and Owen has put the project together with real thought and care, drawing in not only local plants but also references to the local area.

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“The materials used are sustainable and also local, and biodiversity is at the core of the project. It’s a pleasure to see the impact it’s already had on the area.”

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