Join our Saturday morning gardening club this summer

Native deciduous and evergreen shrubs.

Some small improvements to Whitfield Gardens. Newly planted: Oak, English (Quercus robur), Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Hawthorn, common (Crataegus monogyna), Maple, field (Acer campestre), Hazel (Corylus avellana), Cherry, wild (Prunus avium), Dog rose (Rosa canina), Holly (Ilex aquifolium).

Volunteers from the Friends group will be getting together for an hour each Saturday morning starting this month to clean, trim and water Whitfield Gardens on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Tottenham Street. Continue reading

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Some colour and some scented wildlife-friendly additions to Whitfield Gardens

a tray of scented wildflower plugs.

Ten species of native wildflowers: tansy, evening primrose, sweet cicely, lemon balm, hyssop, English bluebell, lady’s bedstraw, meadowsweet, lawn camomile, and anise hyssop.

Our Saturday morning gardening club has been busy over the last two Saturdays cleaning and planting in Whitfield Gardens.

Our main aim has been to plant native shrubs and wildflowers but we’ve also added a few cheap and cheerful plants to give the gardens a bit of instant colour.

We’ve added ten different types of scented native wildflower “plugs”: tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), lawn camomile (Anthemis nobilis), and anise hyssop (Agastache anethiodora).

These smell nice, give an attractive display when they bloom, and also boost the biodiversity of the garden.

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Viola and marigold brighten up a busy corner area of Whitfield Gardens.

On some sunny corners we’ve planted some viola and marigold. We’ve no idea what species or sub-species these are but they brighten up the gardens. They are pretty close to some well-trodden patches so we’ll see how long they’ll survive. Whitfield Gardens gets thousands of people passing through every day as it is very near Goodge Street tube station and next to a bus stop.

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Why are there piles of leaves and clippings left on the ground in Whitfield Gardens?

Garden waste on ground.

Future investment. Garden waste makes good compost.

“Why are there piles of dead leaves and bits of plants left on the ground? It makes the park look untidy. Can’t you take them away?”

This is a question someone asked us recently, and there is a simple answer.

Removing the fallen leaves and cuttings from garden maintenance requires someone to bag them them up and take them away, usually in a truck and then they are disposed of elsewhere. Obviously this is bad for the environment but it is also a waste of time and money and it also starves the gardens of valuable nutrients that should be returned to the soil.

Leaving the dead leaves and cuttings in piles and allowing them to decompose has both less of a negative environmental impact and allows nature to do its job of continuing the lifecycle. Woody pieces left in piles are also valuable as they attract insects that are eaten by birds.

It may not look tidy, but leaving piles of dead vegetation to decompose is cheaper, less environmentally harmful and is better for the soil.

The only thing that should be removed from the public open space is the rubbish that people leave there.

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Saturday morning clean up and wildflower planting in Whitfield Gardens

Volunteers from the Friends group spent an hour cleaning and planting in one part of Whitfield Gardens this Saturday morning.

Hedges and shrubs in front of mural.

A difficult to get at area at the foot of the Fitzrovia Mural was given a spring clean ahead of planting native wildflowers to help pollinators, and to give a colourful display this summer.

The volunteers did a “community clean up” and worked with Camden Council’s contractors Veolia and idverde. On a rainy morning the Friends cleared a bin bag full of rubbish at the foot of the Fitzrovia Mural.

We used rakes and shovels to clear away some difficult to get at rubbish. It’s not a perfect job — we’d need a vacuum cleaner for all the fag butts — but it looks better than it did before.

The Friends also tried out Camden Council’s Clean Camden app to get dumped objects removed. We had mixed results as two contractors are responsible for Whitfield Gardens and so some reports had to be passed on and the rubbish removed later.

After the clean up the Friends planted wildflowers: Corn Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis), Corn Cockle (Agrostemma githago), Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), Corn Marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum), and Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas). These support bees, butterflies and other pollinators and are recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) as “Perfect for Pollinators”. They will give attractive display from late May through to October.

If you want to join our regular clean up and planting days, please contact us and we’ll keep you informed.

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Oaks and hornbeams make a return in Whitfield Gardens and Crabtree Fields

Top of an oak sapling.

An oak (Quercus robur) sapling planted in Whitfield Gardens.

“By the time London was first colonised by people, it would have been covered by oak and hornbeam woodland,” says the London Wildlife Trust. Yet there are no oaks or hornbeams in Fitzrovia’s public open spaces… until this month.

Now the Friends have planted saplings of English oak and hornbeam along with other native trees as shrubs and mixed hedges to increase biodiversity in Whitfield Gardens and Crabtree Fields, reversing the trend for planting ornamental and imported species.

Top of a hornbeam sapling.

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) sapling growing in Whitfield Gardens.

The project is part of a London-wide scheme to make London the first National Park City, an idea now taken up by the Mayor of London and supported by many local councillors including those in Camden’s Bloomsbury ward.

Native trees are far more valuable to wildlife than non-native species like the London plane, the most common tree planted in open spaces and along streets. The value of this hybrid of the oriental plane and the American plane (Platanus x hispanica) apart from its sheer beauty is its ability to remove pollution, and the mature trees provide an important canopy to create shade in London’s often stifling summers.

But the key to creating wildlife-friendly parks is to plant a variety of native species of trees, shrubs and wildflowers, something the friends group have been doing a lot of recently.

Trees and shrubs planted: Oak, English (Quercus robur), Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Hawthorn, common (Crataegus monogyna), Maple, field (Acer campestre), Hazel (Corylus avellana), Cherry, wild (Prunus avium), Dog rose (Rosa canina), Holly (Ilex aquifolium).

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Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Whitfield Gardens

Grey squirrel in garden.

A grey squirrel exploring Whitfield Gardens.

Spotted around 8am this morning in Whitfield Gardens was this grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Maybe not seen before in Whitfield Gardens but many have been spotted in Fitzroy Square to the north. Continue reading

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Native hedge planting in Whitfield Gardens and Crabtree Fields

This month volunteers from the Friends group have been planting native hedges in Whitfield Gardens and Crabtree Fields to replace missing or damaged shrubs.

Wild sherry sapling sprouting.

A wild cherry planted in early April is showing signs of spring growth already.

In early April we planted around 50 bare root saplings: mostly blackthorn, with a mix of hawthorn, hazel, field maple, wild cherry and dog rose in two areas of Whitfield Gardens and one section in Crabtree Fields. Around the base of each hedge we sowed native wildflower seeds as part the Grow Wild projectContinue reading

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