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Colour by Nature


Colour by Nature

A Chairde,

The winter wait for spring each year can be a long and dark experience, this year for some it has been even worse! Each autumn, horticultural people like myself plant flowering bulbs for flowering the following spring, as they give our gardens and public spaces such a brightening and cheery lift. This year their light, beauty and fabulous soft texture has reached many more people due to the Covid 19 pandemic and we are fortunate here in Parks Department, Galway City Council to have received such wonderful positive feedback - Thank You!

Fig 1. Flowering Bulb Planting atLough Atalia.

 



Fig. 2 Tulips, Narcissi, Hyacinths living together with Daisies, Dandelions & Lesser Celandine

More than ever I am struck by how important our Parks and Nature are to people, how it benefits people’s Mental Well Being and their Physical Health. Many of you (of course those not cocooning!) are walking more and running, (amazing!) in our Streets, Open Spaces and Parks. Please remember that, when times become more normal!

You will have seen some of our amazing flowering colour from our bulb plantings and no doubt from gardens too. Did you know though, that planting bulbs can also benefit biodiversity too?


For you Cocooners’, take some time to look at your flowering bulbs in your garden or in your neighbours. If you don’t have bulbs planted, or you believe you can’t plant them, well look at the pictures in this article, close your eyes and imagine yourself in a place where you are surrounded by them; imagine the sound of nature and then make a pact with yourself that you will buy some this autumn and plant them in your garden, window box or plant pot. It’s entirely possible and you can use those new online purchasing skills to get them delivered to your door.

When I began work in what was then Galway Corporation in 1999, we began planting bulbs around the City and later widened it to providing bulbs to residents through our Community Planting Initiative – Today there are literally 1000’s of Narcissi (Daffodils) bulbs flowering across the City from late January up to early May. Working together we have brightened our City, welcomed visitors and provided a space for Nature to nourish our Pollinators in spring when food is short supply.


In 2019, as part of our commitment as a partner in the All Ireland Pollinator Plan we began a new project, planting over 2500 metres squared of flowering bulbs at an average of 20 bulbs per square metre; that’s around 50,000 bulbs, new flowers, new sources for nature and this time we included plants that feed our Pollinators!


We are planning more projects so watch out for updates throughout this year!!


Fig. 3 Bee feeding on Muscari (Grape Hyacinth).


Ok it’s time for a bit of technical information for you seasoned and new gardeners out there:-

Why are we planting spring flowering perennial bulbs?


-Once they are planted, they will come back year after year once we give them plenty of time after they flower to generate energy to regenerate a new bulb underground;
-They provide wonderful colour from early spring up to early summer;
-Colour is very important in our Climate which can be dull and dark at times;
-Colour helps to encourage positive mental well-being;
-We want to encourage people to care for themselves and plant in their own gardens;
-Colourful Roadsides and Parks give a welcoming message to visitors to the City;
-Flowers attract pollinators by their colours; their buzzing can aid to improve people’s mood


How do they help pollinators?


-Some perennial flowering bulbs such as Muscari, Camassia and Narcissi are valuable sources of nectar which is an important food for bees and other pollinators;
-Bees, Wasps and many other insects are accidental pollinators, flowers are very clever – they attract the pollinators like bees to the nectar and at the same time stick the pollen to the bee’s body who carries it to another flower where it can fertilise to create new seeds and continue creating new plants;
-Planting bulbs in large densities in grassland allows natural wild flowers to grow and feed our pollinators;
-It helps to reduce the use of chemicals avoiding contact with pollinators and other beneficial insects;
-Did you know in some countries – because they have lost their pollinators, people have to be pollinators instead?


How do they help protect our Natural Environment?


-Planting bulbs in areas normally managed as amenity grassland reduces mowing rotas; reducing energy usage and pollutants;
-It protects soil health and structure, and reduces harmful emissions that contribute to climate change;
-Biodiversity of land improves when you intelligently plant to provide colour, provide food sources and allow a healthy balance of fungi, bacteria, plants and animals;
-They bring greater awareness of Nature to people.


How do you plant flowering bulbs?


-Look around your area and see what grows well in areas that are like yours;
-Decide on your budget, but don’t try and do it all in one season; the joy of planting is adding to and tweaking your planting each year;
-Always plant your bulb at a depth approximately the same height as your bulb;
-Always plant right side up!
-Get advice, chat with your friends on neighbours, join a gardening group/start one;
-Research books and on- line;
-Get involved with your local residents association or environmental group;
-Remember, you can plant in pots or window boxes if you don’t have a garden;


We have had queries on what we planted, but as there were 11 sites, as you can see below in the City Map – we will concentrate only 2 sites for now. But we will post all sites on our web site later. Send any images you have to our parks@galwaycity.ie  email address.



Figure 4 – Perennial Flowering Bulb Planting Locations 2019.

 



Figure 5 – Brothers of Charity Bed

The Brothers of Charity Bed, Dublin Road Planting Mix:


-Tulipa ‘Pink Impression’
-Tulipa ‘Van Eijk’
-Tulipa ‘Light & Dreamy’
-Narcissus ‘Minnow’
-Narcissus ‘Aiolos’
-Hyacinthus ‘Blue Jacket’
-Hyacinthus ‘Yellow Stone’
-Hyacinthus ‘Anne Marie’


Figure 6 Lough Atalia March – Crocus emerging.

Lough Atalia Planting Mix

-Crocus ‘Flower Record’
-Crocus ‘King of Striped’
-Crocus ‘Jeanne D’Arc’
-Crocus ‘Big Yellow’
-Muscari armeniacum
-Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete
-Narcissus ‘Jetfire’
-Tulipa ‘Scarlet Baby’

 

Slán for now

Stephen Walsh
Senior Executive Parks Superintendent
Galway City Council.