Interview with a Pollinator Friendly Gardener
Anyone walking down the Selskar Road might notice a front garden that’s both vibrant with colour and buzzing with bees. The garden belongs to Cathal Copeland and Sustainable Skerries talked to him to find out why and how he made it.
Sustainable Skerries: First of all, tell us a bit about yourself.
Cathal: I was a teacher in Blackrock College and was their Green Schools Coordinator. I’m semi retired now and do three days a week. I think it’s really important to teach kids about biodiversity and in fact they love it when you do. Once you get them interested in that all the other Green tenets follow on. For my part I’ve always been into ecology, particularly birds, but of course all things, birds, insects, plants are inextricably interlinked anyway. If you help one you help the other.
SS: And the house? I believe you had it built yourself. Tell us about that.
C: That’s right; we had it built a couple of years ago. The problem was that it necessitated taking down some trees. We tried to avoid it but it couldn’t be done. I felt bad about that and decided to put something back, so to speak. Thus the garden. It doesn’t just attract bees; we get birds as well, so I feel better about that.
(As we talked a pair of nesting blue tits were flitting in and out of the birdbox on the garden fence).
SS: When you built your beds did you add to or amend the soil in any way?
C: No. Most of the fill came from the site, plus I had to buy some bags of topsoil. But no compost or other enrichment.
SS: You describe yourself as an amateur gardener, did you feel the need to consult a professional in any way?
C: No, not really, despite this being the first time I’d built a garden from scratch. Anything I’d done before was what you might call heritage gardening: where I’d simply carried on an existing garden that someone else had started. I did have a friend help me with shrub selection for the back, but I pretty much knew what I wanted for the rockery out front.
SS: So how did you know which were the best pollinator plants?
C: To be honest I simply went to the garden centre, looked at the labels and bought the ones that said “pollinator friendly” on them.
SS: And wildflower seeds? Did you try any?
C: I certainly did, and I was gobsmacked by how they grew. About this high and smothered in flowers. [He holds out a hand and indicates a metre]. My problem this year will be finding space for a repeat sowing. The perennials have filled out and there’s not much room. I prefer to garden as naturally as possible and let nature take its course but I’m afraid that in this case I’ll have to interfere.
SS: So how old is the garden exactly?
C: We finished laying it out in February last year and planted it soon after, so I guess you could say 12 months.
SS: We walk by here fairly often and have noticed it has retained colour all through the winter. Was this deliberate?
C: Yes. I tried to go for a spread of plants that would extend as early into the Spring and as late into Winter as possible. This not only pleases me, it benefits the insects and thus the birds.
SS: Thank you.