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Ready Steady Grow 2021 entries - Welcoming Nature

Welcoming Nature

Transform your garden or window pots and boxes to welcome all that nature has to offer. Create a garden or growing space with colourful flowers to attract bees, birds and butterflies. Most of us would like more wildlife to visit our gardens, and making your outdoor space attractive to birds, mammals and insects needn't involve a lot of work, but can be very therapeutic and good for the environment.

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1. Sandy (Rose Manor, Telford)

Sandy lives at Rose Manor, has e Multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. Sandy has planted a raised bed in the communal garden, in loving memory of her uncles. Gardening has helped with her grief, and mental health, especially during lock down. Sandy said: “It's full of butterflies and bees and it's my little bit of happy in what is a crazy world. I have to have support sometimes from other residents and staff when my Ms is bad. With a little outdoor space, even with a disability, anything is possible, and the benefits are amazing. My flower bed makes me happy and smile.

2. The Maples, Barnstaple

A vast range of wildlife frequent the garden at the Maples, from hedgehogs, birds, ducks, butterflies, bumblebees and residents have got creative and worked hard to entice even more wildlife to their garden by creating a wildflower bed to encourage insects and even more birds.  Preparing the garden has helped with residents’ wellbeing and has provided a relaxing and therapeutic activity. They said: “ It has been overwhelming seeing wildlife come and go, bringing a sense of pride and warmth knowing that we are providing a natural habitat, which is organic as we do not use slug pellets.”

3. Willow House, Woking

Residents at Willow House mental health service have given much needed TLC to their garden. Their hard work has included building a decking area made from wood which was donated or sourced for free. Creating the decking area and improving the garden has really helped with resident’s mental health particularly though the lockdown and the garden has brought them together. Their new-found teamwork is still ongoing and they have received funding for compost, plants and tools to create a new planted area.

4. Highly Commended - Clover Court, Lowestoft

Residents at the disability service have created an accessible garden, full of colour, flowers and vegetables. The flowers are helping to attract birds, bees and insects to the garden as well as an occasional visit from Lowestoft’s famous Kittywakes. As well as the benefits to wildlife, resident social life has improved thanks to a new weekly gardening club to maintain the garden by planting, dead heading flowers, watering and harvesting. They said: “We are having so much fun at our new gardening club and our garden now looks fabulous - especially with our new hanging baskets”

5. Highly Commended - Station Road, Darlington

Although they only have a small paved front garden, clients have a new found interest in nature which has benefitted their mental health and physical well-being. It was a team effort sourcing materials, donations, getting ideas and growing most produce from seed.

They said: “We have tested our DIY skills and have tried to be eco-friendly by up-cycling. We’ve enjoyed being resourceful and creating a wonderful place to relax, welcome friends and be at one with nature. Like the bees that visit our garden we are buzzing with the many compliments from passers by. It makes us so proud of what we have achieved so far together and look forward to our garden being in full bloom and cooking with our tasty produce when ready.

6. Shannon (Southend Young Parent Services)

Shannon entered the competition to have something positive to focus on and to support her mental health. The front garden is very quiet so bird feeders and an insect hotel were put up to attract squirrels, birds and insects.

Shannon said: “I take my son outside to look at the bird feeders and insect hotel every day and he looks forward to this. This competition has helped me start to teach my son about nature and teach him new words. It is exciting for me and my son to refill the feeders so we can see how much has been eaten.

7. Sycamore Court, Leicester

Time in the garden has provided a source of comfort, enjoyment and relief through difficult times. Residents have painted bricks, done clay modelling, painted fences and planted a wild flower garden alongside a new memorial to a late resident. Sunflowers, petunias, lobelia, poppies and lavender now attract insects and bees, and they are growing lots of herbs, vegetables, berries and currants.  

They said: “We have used old shoes, recycled troughs and palettes to make planters and have attracted lots of insects, bees, butterflies, birds and foxes. A robin visits regularly and we have thoroughly enjoyed transforming the garden. Thanks to 'Friends of Sycamore Court' who have purchased essential items.

8. Alexander (Matthew Court, Diss)

Gardening has inspired Alexander to enjoy the smaller things in life - watching things to grow and nurturing what's there already. The wildlife enjoy this garden: sparrows have nested nearby because of the planting and some logs attract bugs and other wildlife to the garden.

Alexander said: “I would definitely garden in the future - my garden this year has inspired others - I believe everyone benefits from gardening whether it’s one day a year or every day. I have a mixture of flowering plants like roses to miniature fruit trees and strawberries too!”

9. Queen Elizabeth Way, Colchester

All 18 residents have access to the garden, and the majority have windows that look out to it, so keeping it well maintained and welcoming is a high priority. The garden is now used for Key working, Floor Meetings and most importantly it became an enjoyable outdoor space during the pandemic so that nobody felt stuck inside.

They said: “We have given our 'Bugingham Hotel' a new lease of life with a makeover, and have added a bird bath as a water feature. With a little TLC we have managed to grow peas and also filled the sad looking baskets and boxes with fresh bright flowers.”

10. Old Johnson House, Swale

10 young people live at Old Johnson House and felt that the garden wasn’t being used to its full potential. The competition has inspired them to make the most of the outdoor space they have.

They said: “We thought not only would it cheer up our garden but it would give us all something to do during Covid. Everything we used came from donations.  Even if we don’t win we had fun doing it. Although the competition is over, we are not finished, we are going to continue to plant and grow and welcome nature to our garden.”

11. Colchester Homeless Supported Housing, Chinook

Residents discovered a shared passion for supporting and sustaining the local wildlife. They focussed on bringing colour to the communal garden and planting that would attract bees, butterflies and other insects. They added a birdbath, birdfeeder, birdbox and made a fenced area away from properties so that insects wouldn’t be disturbed. They have enjoyed using the outdoor furniture and added solar lights to enjoy the garden in the evenings.  

They said: “Working on the garden given us the chance to have relaxed and open conversations about loneliness during the pandemic. We will maintain our colourful garden and nothing will stop us from enjoying our outdoor space!”

12. Highly Commended - Tina (Shaftesbury Place, Cheltenham)

Tina's Garden started cleaning the garden in early spring and has been in the garden almost every day – it’s her heaven. She selected and planted gorgeous colourful plants that have attracted many insects and hung bird feeders to attract a great variety of birds. The most interesting planter is the Bicycle metal planter and Tina’s herb bed creating relaxing and pleasant smells.

Shaftesbury Place residents said: “ We enjoy spending time in the garden. We are very lucky to have Tina who keeps our garden so beautiful. Every year she surprises us with her creations.”

13. Southend Young People Homeless (Centurion House, Shoeburyness)

Residents entered as part of a 30-day Mental Health Challenge for Mental Health Awareness Week. Residents enjoy watching and listing to the birds and so wanted to do more to protect and attract them, particularly one Robin (aka Claude) who they made him a specialist deck chair for!  

They said: “We enjoyed researching which plants would attract bugs and bees and recycled as much as possible. We created bird feeders from old tea cups inspired by the idea of "Tea and Talk" sessions about mental health, made  a  butterfly and bird bath with sugar water, and made bug logs as well as the "The Grand Birdapest Hotel" to allow smaller birds to find shelter.

14. Normanhurst, Shoreham by Sea

The young residents at Normanhurst have focussed on growing their own vegetables as part of a food project. They have found the last year and various lockdowns very hard, especially not seeing friends, family or being at college or work. Planting the vegetable garden has helped them to overcome social isolation, anxiety and depression. It has given them purpose through this difficult time and they have exercised responsibilities.

They said: “It’s helped us to connect with nature, it’s been brilliant!”  

15. Grace (Rachel House, Banbury)

Grace was looking for a hobby that would have a positive effect on her mental wellbeing. She planted foxgloves alongside lavender to attract bees and create a fairy garden look. Sunflowers and bird boxes are also amongst the new additions.

Grace said: “My daughter is on the autistic spectrum and I wanted to do something with her and to open her mind to the outdoors, rather than watching TV or on the computer. We enjoy watching the birds from our window together. I hope to have my own place soon and would love one with a garden so that I can continue to enjoy my new-found hobby.”

16. Winner - Livingstone House, Harlow

Seeds were planted early in the year and residents gained an early sense of achievement seeing them grow into plants, produce flowers and fruit or vegetables. Excess crops have been donated to the local church as they were supportive during lockdown.

They said: “We have tried to re-use as many items as possible, including meat trays to stand pots in and give discarded furniture a new lease of life. We have grown plants that can provide cuttings so we can continue to improve the garden. We are now going to sit back and enjoy watching the flowers bloom and count the bees and butterflies!”