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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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Gardening

Hospital’s flower power proves big success with patients

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A summer of sun and extra flower beds have blossomed into the perfect partnership for patients’ wellbeing at Singleton Hospital.

The recent prolonged sunny spells – the hottest recorded for Wales in 30 years – have provided ideal conditions for hundreds of begonias to bloom.

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This year, the health board has invested in additional raised beds around the hospital to increase the positive impact on the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors.

Betty Foley has worked at Singleton as a volunteer for over 15 years.

Seeing a large number of patients, staff and visitors during each shift, she has heard a lot of positive patient feedback for the flower features.

She said: “I deal with a large number of patients and visitors coming into Singleton and a lot of them have passed comment on how lovely the flowers look around the hospital.

“A lot arrive through the main reception and they’re welcomed by a really colourful bed of flowers, which can give you a bit of a boost when you’re going into hospital for treatment.

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“I’ve been told countless times recently by patients that they sit in front of the hospital where the benches are and the flowers take their mind off things.

“Small things like that can really make a big difference to your day.”

Christian Berndsen, gardening maintenance, and his team put the bedding plants in at the end of May.

He said: “We’ve used a lot of different types of begonias as they have a variety of bright colours that really catch the eye.

“The flowers have benefited from a great summer of sun.

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Nick Davies, and Christian Berndsen in front of one of the flower beds (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

“I’ve had a lot of comments while we’re around the hospital, which is nice. The intention was to give anyone who uses the hospital a nice, bright collection of flowers to look at around the site.

“Seeing bright flowers such as the begonias can give you a bit of a lift, so it’s been lovely to hear that patients love them as it shows it’s having a positive effect.”

Singleton has also benefited from a wooden sculpture of an oak dragonfly, which features on the Crush Hall roundabout which is situated between the main entrance and the maternity and child health building.

That has been funded by Biophilic Wales and designed by local sculptor Simon Hedger, and adds to a creative corner in the hospital grounds.

Nick Davies, Estates Officer at Singleton Hospital, added: “The flowers and sculpture certainly improves the appearance of the hospital. As we have a lot of patients, visitors and staff coming to this hospital we firmly believe that first impressions are very important.

“If you’re waiting for an appointment or are visiting family or a friend, it’s nice for people to see and offers a little lift. In addition, it’s a natural habitat for small wildlife such as bees and butterflies.

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“Christian and the gardening team have done a great job brightening up areas around the hospital, and we’re really pleased it’s impacted patients in a positive way.”

Lead image: Volunteer Betty Foley, Nick Davies, Estates Officer at Singleton Hospital and Christian Berndsen from gardening maintenance at the Crush Hall roundabout display. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Gardening

Rescue your summer garden with our hosepipe ban survival guide

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Can you keep plants alive during a hosepipe ban? Well, yes in fact you can.

We’ve teamed up with Sproutl’s Creative Director, Hollie Newton to share her top tips for gardening in a drought.

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It’s hot, there’s no rain and now hosepipe bans are being introduced around the country.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the garden as Hollie explains: “This year a scorched lawn is like a badge of honour and we should be wearing that with pride. We’re all doing our bit for the environment by not watering the lawn. The great thing about a lawn is that it will bounce back as soon as it starts raining again.”

Pick your battles

Gardening during drought is all about picking your battles. “Mature trees and shrubs will soldier on through a drought, but it is plants in pots that need a helping hand,” says Hollie.

“You might not be able to keep everything alive, so focus on your big and expensive plants and water these by hand with a watering can.”

Water plants by hand using a watering can

Save water

“Go 1950s style and save as much water from the kitchen as possible,” says Hollie. “You can use the water from boiled spuds – just let it cool down first. Likewise, the water from the washing up bowl is fair game too. As long as you’re just using normal dishwashing liquid, it will be fine to use on the garden. You can also use water from the bath tub, again, as long as you’re just using normal soap, it is fine to use on the garden.”

The only water you shouldn’t use on the garden is water that contains bleach, disinfectants or similar chemicals. You can use water from the kitchen or bathroom on all ornamental garden plants. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) advises not to use this water on edible crops.

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person pouring water on clear drinking glass
Reuse water from your kitchen in the garden

Re-think your garden

Longer term, Hollie suggests thinking about what sort of plants you grow. “Let’s face it, we’re going to be having more summers like this, with hot, dry weather, so us gardeners need to look for plants that don’t need much water. Plants from the Mediterranean are properly equipped to face this sort of weather, so things like palms, cacti, lavender, rosemary, santolina, ceanothus, cistus and artemisia – to name a few – are all good choices for gardens.”

There’s also a few tricks when it comes to establishing plants, as Hollie explains: “Instead of watering new plants little and often, give them a really good soaking less often. This encourages them to send their roots down deep to find water.”

And lastly Hollie adds: “Don’t cut down trees! It can be tempting to cut down trees when you move into a new place to give more space or sunlight, but trees are so good during a drought with providing much-needed shade – for us and our plants.”

green plant on brown soil
Rethink your garden – what sort of plants will grow in hot dryer weather?

More top tips for gardening in a drought

  • Group pots together and move them to shadier spots to reduce watering needs.
  • Install a water butt to collect rain water.
  • Focus on watering vegetables when in flower for a good harvest.
  • Keep on top of weeding, as weeds will compete with plants for water.
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Bridgend

New sensory garden helps Bridgend adults with dementia

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After two years of planning, fundraising and hard work, volunteers and staff at Bridgend Resource Centre have unveiled a new sensory garden to support local adults with dementia.

Based at the resource centre in Waterton, the garden was planned and landscaped by students from Bridgend College who worked closely on the design alongside advisors from Age UK, Age Connects and the Alzheimer’s Society.

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With brightly-coloured resign pathways winding through a mix of raised flower and herb beds, the garden has been specially planted with specific types of flowers and shrubs designed to help stimulate the senses.

Visitors to the garden can enjoy quiet, tranquil areas for reflection as well as a range of water features, shade sails and living walls covered in flowers and vegetation. Particular care has been taken to ensure that the garden remains accessible, and includes wheelchair-friendly bespoke furniture.

Bridgend Councillor Jane Gebbie, Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help said: “This fantastic new facility is helping adults with dementia as well as people with learning or physical disabilities, and is the result of more than two years’ worth of effort and hard work. Research shows that being outside and able to move about can reduce tension and anxiety for people with dementia, and this custom-built space is specifically designed to enable people to stroll freely and safely.

“To create the garden, staff and volunteers raised more than £16,000 through a variety of different ways, and donations were gratefully received from the families of users of the centre, G4S, Rockwool, Bridgend Rotary Club, Tesco and Asda. Local residents also helped by donating unwanted clothing, shoes and linen to a special recycling bank located opposite the nearby Lidl store at the Bridgend Retail Park.

“In addition to the work undertaken by Pencoed College, Age Concern, Age Connect and the Alzheimer’s Society, further support was received from the Carer’s Trust and B-Leaf, and the garden is the result of all of these efforts and more. It is already proving to be of great benefit, and I would like to congratulate and thank everyone who had a hand in helping to make it a reality.”

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(Lead image: Bridgend Council)

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