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Plant strategy changes in East Devon

Thursday, May 27th, 2021 8:09am

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter

Fewer seasonal flowers; more permanent displays

East Devon District Council is changing the way it manages its green spaces, in a bid to be more environmentally friendly.

Flowering and wildlife-attracting plants that return year on year are going to be planted across East Devon’s parks and green spaces. The plans also involve a reduction in seasonal bedding displays to include more permanent planting designs.

It all comes as part of the council’s mission to take steps to reduce its carbon footprint, use resources more sustainably and increase biodiversity.

Cllr Denise Bickley, East Devon District Council’s assistant portfolio holder climate action and emergencies said: “This is a win on so many levels – helping biodiversity, reducing plastic waste and transport pollution, allowing soil quality to improve, reducing inadvertent damage to peatbogs just for starters – and we can all benefit from learning from the gardening skills it takes to enable a healthy native, perennial display. I look forward to seeing these displays mature and thrive.”

Explaining why they have changed their approach, the council have said that there are number of reasons, which are that:

  • Permanent planting will help to create mini ecosystems and habitat for bugs, bees and birds to flourish.
  • Plants will be selected to provide nectar, essential to our pollinators to thrive and survive. Think of a café for bees and butterflies.
  • Plants will be selected on their drought tolerance and suitability to the endemic environment but also their wonderful flowers, form, texture or scent.
  • Planting can be divided and recycled in future seasons – less plastic pots and trays.
  • Reduced cultivation of the beds allows earth worms and mycorrhizal fungi to flourish – big buddies of plant life.

And on why they are reducing its traditional bedding displays, they said:

  • Bedding plants are intensively produced and provide a monoculture environment which doesn’t allow wildlife to flourish.
  • They don’t attract enough pollinators essential to biodiversity.
  • They are single use and are thrown away at the end of their short life. There is a seismic shift to move away from single use products for good reason.
  • They require intensive watering which is an unnecessary waste of natural resources.
  • The constant digging over of the beds disturbs the natural soil culture

An East Devon District Council spokesman added: “East Devon is not alone in its approach, much of the horticultural industry is moving this way. You only have to look at the Chelsea Flower Show to see the interest and vibrancy being created through perennial planting schemes.

“Due to a cold and dry spring, the change does mean some of East Devon’s newly planted beds are looking less full but as the weather warms up they will flourish and we will supplement with further splashes of colour and bulbs.

“Planting younger, smaller species gives the best chance of establishing a full healthy plant later in life so please bear with us and watch these spaces grow.”

They added: “Our mission is to provide more sustainable planting that gives year round interest and colour but lessens the impact on our planet. This action is a small but important part of our work to help meet our climate change action plan as part of signing up to the Devon Climate Emergency.

“We really hope everybody gets on board and supports a greener East Devon. We understand this won’t be to everyone’s taste, however we have had a real buzz around this; on site whilst we have been planting out the interest from the public has been really high.

“Many people now seem to understand the need to think about sustainability, the way we look after our planet and the importance of providing habitat as well as year round interest in our beds, many of which were often bare in the autumn/winter months.

“This is a new venture for us, and we would urge the public to hold their judgement until the beds are fully established. We will continuously review the success, adding colour and interest.”


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