Riverside Naturally adopted two neglected beds along the river path parallel to Riverside Drive.
Riverside Naturally identified these are areas where we could improve and enhance for people and for nature.
This is a long term project and we hope in a few years to see the true effect and benefits of our plans for these spaces.
Over the three years we have been looking after these gardens we have watched them evolve and grow.
Read on for more information about our Story Garden and here for Alice's Woodland Wonderland.
The Story So Far
Our approach to this space was slightly different to Alice's Woodland Wonderland. Initially we decided that we didn't have the capacity to take on this space with our other projects starting at the same time. and had planned to tackle it later on.
Our timeline was moved up when some of the old and diseased trees were removed by Stirling Council and we needed to start work to regenerate this space. Of the two woodland gardens in our care this was the least established and the one that needed the most work to enhance. The felling of the trees and the chopping back of the dogwood meant that the change in scenery was very stark.
We realised quickly that enhancing the soil needed to be our top priority as with the other woodland space it was in in very poor condition, badly compacted and needs some care and nurturing. In addition, despite planting hundreds of plants in varying species, very little would grow - most likely due to the years of pesticides used, contaminating the soil. You can find out what we planted here.
A lot of the work undertaken in this garden, due to COVID restrictions, has had to be done individually or in very small groups, which, although made it more difficult didn't do anything to dampen our enthusiasm or effort.
Many discussions were held regarding the future direction of this garden and inspiration came from a few sources. One of our trustees has spotted a Stumpery in a country park and loved the aesthetic and purpose of such an installation. In addition in 2022 Visit Scotland celebrates a Year of Stories and we felt it was a perfect opportunity to guide our planting choices and community engagement and the idea of a willow structure seems a great fit.
The planting in the story garden evolves as the garden grows and takes on a more 'cottage garden' feel. Many of the plants have been donated by neighbours and comes with it's own story and connection to Riverside.
The Southern Woodland garden hasn't fared too well over the years - the use of pesticides to combat weeds has left the ground devoid of nutrients and has become an inhospitable place for new planting,
In addition the rhododendrons block out sunlight which smothers most plants and means planting around them has been unsuccessful. Their leaves are also toxic to many birds and they repel wild life, including earthworms.
In an effort enrich the soil and enhance the area we are shortly going to be installing a Stumpery. This garden feature is similar to a rockery but uses wood instead. The first stumpery was built in the late 1800 and was popular throughout Victorian Britain.
What is a Stumpery?
A stumpery is a garden feature made using logs, stumps and other wood that suits your choice of aesthetic. Oak, Sweet Chestnut and Beech are good options as they decompose slowly, however any type of wood will work and using different sizes of wood is recommended.
Stumperies thrive in the shade, or part shade and are good under trees or hedges. You can enhance them with complimentary planting.
Why are Stumpery a good addition to your garden?
They are often put in areas of little interest, are low maintenance and become havens for a variety of animals. A Stumpery is a good way to make old, unusual or impractical parts of trees into a productive habitat and an interesting feature.
The Stumpery can attract birds, mini-beasts, insects, small mammals like hedgehogs or shrews and toads. They are a good way to showcase plant and animal life that is often considered less desirable and attractive in a traditional garden.
What plants are typically added to a Stumpery?
Ferns, hostas, moss and lichens are traditionally planted in a Stumpery. Other woodland plants such as foxglove, native blue bells, wood and Japanese anemones, dwarf narcissi, snowdrops, cowslip, primrose, scalia and campanulas.
A variety of sizes and whether they are evergreen, winter green or deciduous are important when considering your planting scheme and the overall aesthetic of your Stumpery,
The idea to build a willow structure started as an idle musing and before we knew it on a very windy day, in the aftermath of Storm Arwen a group of plucky volunteers, through trial and error, and a random sledge hammer were delighted to build our lovely little arbour.
It was a lot of fun and something completely different for us to attempt.
Our initial idea was to build a grass mound seat within the arbour, however through our discussion with Stirling Council we discovered that two of the beautiful cherry blossoms needed to be taken down and we would be welcome to use the wood.
Some of the trunks have been used to create seating and we hope to see you some day to share some stories.
As an important aside: The decision to take down the Cherry Blossom trees is made by Stirling Council. Many of these trees are reaching the end of their life span and are dying and/or diseased. An added factor is that these trees line a very popular path and Stirling Council will not risk these trees falling and hurting someone.. These trees will be replaced ,as they have done so in previous years and will continue to do into the future.
Our newest addition to the Story Garden is our Bee Bank.
Over 70% of bees live underground and make their nests by excavating tunnels in sandy soil. We are hoping that our newly built bee bank will attract some of these delightful pollinators. The Bee Bank is made of creating a mound of loose soil up to 60cm deep then capped with sand. You can make your own - BuglIfe has a great guide here.
We will be planting more flowers and providing drinking water to make the Story Garden a desirable residence for them. The bees need a quiet, sunny and undisturbed spot so we will be adding further protection by using chicken wire.