& Kings was the East Sussex garden of the late designer Ryl Nowell - birds,
she admits were not a high priority, but they came anyway!
the late 80's, when I was planning the Cabbages and Kings garden,
my mind was juggling with a host of problems but not, I have to
admit, the design of the garden to attract birds. 12 years on I
am amazed and delighted that the birds I rudely ignored turned the
other cheek and moved in. My quest to provide a series of richly
planted sheltered spaces for humans had unwittingly provided equally
appealing places for wildlife.
An area of outstanding
natural beauty, The High Weald boasts steep hills, abundant oak
woods, copious natural water in streams, ponds, springs and artificially
created hammer ponds. Modern farming struggles on the poor soils
and the forest is encroaching over the vacated open spaces. By enriching
the soil with several tons of farmyard manure and mulching each
season with mushroom compost, the garden teeming with organisms
has become a focus of interest for birdlife from miles around.
We are also
a focus of interest for visitors from all over the world and have
for several years hosted special design events for the RHS. The
garden has provided work for a team of garden designers who share
my philosophy namely that a garden is required to develop in tune
with the people who own and maintain it, the place in which it is
situated and in harmony with it's position in the landscape at large.
This approach is described as the three Ps on our web site (see
Perhaps it has
been the quest to link the garden with the landscape which has provided
the natural link with the birds. Native or closely related species
of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and grasses are positioned close
to the perimeter. We cherish the seed heads and frosted skeletal
forms of the decaying vegetation and leave pruning until early March
exposing the constructed bones of the garden neatly laid out for
our Easter opening. The berried plants we included for decorative
effect have attracted both photographers and birds.
This year a
mallard nested in a holly hedge inches away from secauteurs and
visitors trampling feet. From the holly it was a short hop to the
swimming pool and pleasurable time was spent moving the chlorinated
ducklings to a nearby hammer pond where they thrived.
The birds love
the natural water features in the garden, in particular a wall fountain
which is well off the beaten track, and an ornamental pond fringed
by giant rhubarb (Rheum palmatum atropurpurea) and irises (Iris
Sibirica Tropic Night). We have used a minimal spray policy for
many years, replacing slug susceptible plants and growing roses
which are naturally disease resistant such as the old shrub roses
Bonica and Buff Beauty, and climbers such as Phyllis Bide and Madam
are left in situ and large areas of longer grass are left unmown
to encourage wild flowers and grass seed. These areas are cut after
our July fair and then again late in the season.
season would be a good time to start our own Cabbages and Kings
bird count. People love writing in our visitors book and I am sure
we will get plenty of good advice about ways to improve our habitat.
If you come to the garden do please share your expertise. We look
forward to your visit.
Nowell was a leading garden designer and a gold medal winner
at the Millennium Chelsea Flower Show. She died in 2005. The Cabbages & Kings
garden in East Sussex is currently being restored.