Sustainable Gardening

I have been a gardener and resident in Littleport for about 25 years. Initially my only interest was in trying to grow food for our family, every plant had to earn its space, so any money I had bought edible plants and trees. This has proved to be a really good investment for wildlife and us. The 25 year old cherry tree had so many cherries last year that we lost count after sixteen kilos and the eighteen year old grape vine provided about 15 kilos of fruit. A mixed hedgerow across the back of our garden planted about 20 years ago now provides us with hazel nuts and sloes in the autumn as well as lots of lovely places for birds to nest. I cut it every year so that we can enjoy the wonderful sunsets as our garden faces west.

The rest of the garden was a bit of a wilderness, partly because we only had a hand push mower, and because I didn’t find time to care for grass areas. We did learn a lot through this, we discovered ten varieties of grass that grew, their different colours and shapes, and how letting them grow long encouraged all sorts of wildlife. Birds, mice and hedgehogs, butterflies and moths, even a giant hawk moth one year. I think this was where my interest in sustainable gardening started.

“The jasmine is now 15 years old, and every year has about four nests in.”
The garden is now tidier, but there are still areas where wildlife is never disturbed. The jasmine is now 15 years old, and every year has about four nests in. It is more like an apartment block in the spring with robin, wren, blackbird, sparrow and long tailed tits all nesting about 2 metres from the back door.

butterflyThis Tortoiseshell butterfly is feeding on Flowering Cherry ‘Kojo-no-mai’ – These beautiful butterflies lay their eggs on nettles, so if you want to see them keep somewhere you don’t weed nettles out!

Ten years ago I took on an allotment, on the Station Road site. As well as growing fruit and vegetables there I grow willow to make sculptures and garden structures. I share the space with a lot of wildlife, including a very busy woodpecker – he or she is after the grubs of the long-horned beetle that lays its eggs in my willow! Last year for the first time I saw a young muntjack deer pass through the willow copse, I knew they were around because they nibble the bark of the willow.
I like to see the wildlife in spite of some damage; it demonstrates we are living in a world not only inhabited by humans. I hope the long-term plans for Littleport will include the space for us to continue sharing it; it will be dull place indeed if we only see people.

Every year brings a new challenge and I am learning all the time from our allotment neighbours. We started to keep bees a few years ago, and last year we acquired a green-house that I am hoping will make our home-grown produce season even longer and varied.

I make work for exhibitions and work as a community artist in the UK and abroad. I run workshops regularly at WWT Welney and with WI and Gardening clubs as well as schools, community and youth groups. If you want to know more about what I do go to Info about workshops on

Leave a Comment