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Garden Wildlife Week: Bayleaf Garden

BAYLEAF GARDEN (created in 1989) researched and designed by Sylvia Landsberg and originally developed by Bob Holman.

A recreation of a late medieval garden, laid out in blocks of beds. Each plot, together with the access path, measures 2 x 1 perches (16 ½ x 33 feet), 16 ½ feet is the statutory rod, pole or perch. This is a measurement a yeoman farmer would have been accustomed to.

The vegetables and herbs have been selected mainly from two medieval lists: a poem The Feate of Gardening, by Master Jon Gardener, written before 1400; and a list found in a cookery book the Fromond List, of about 1525-30. Edible weeds such as Fat Hen, Chickweed, Sow Thistle and Cresses formed part of the daily pottage and were grown between the sown crops. Apart from providing food, the weeds also provide a living mulch, which helps to keep the soil moist, thus reducing the need to water, yet prevents leaching of nutrients in heavy rain. Any plants left uneaten by humans or tethered animals can be dug in as a green manure. In addition, it provides cover for nocturnal slug-eating beetles and the larval stages of useful insects such as ladybirds and hoverflies, which both devour aphids.

Finally, the floral carpet is not only attractive to look at, but provides nectar for the adult stages of many insects including bees, butterflies, hover flies, and the ichneumon fly (a parasite in the cabbage white butterfly cycle). So with the use of animal manure, friendly insects for the biological control of pests, and employing a ground-covering ‘mulch’ and green manure, it was a wholly organic method of gardening.

What wildlife do you see in your garden? Head over to our social media pages and let us know!