Badgers make a meal of town’s bid for bloom glory

PARK wildlife is making a meal out of Morpeth’s bloom bid, but local gardeners are rising to the challenge.

Work is now getting into full swing in Carlisle Park to make sure it is at its best for both Northumbria and Britain in Bloom competitions as the green jewel in Morpeth’s crown.

But the local wildlife is not making life easy for the park staff, with badgers gobbling up the fruits of their labour before the judges arrive.

Green Spaces Officer Emma Evans, who manages the park, said: “The badgers do like the bulbs. When we have been planting them in the autumn, they have been eating some so we’re not quite sure how many will come up.

“We haven’t figured out how to stop them yet. One suggestion we have read about is to put mesh over the bulbs and under the soil, but that would need to be very robust and would make it harder for us to plant. Another idea is to put human hair and natural fibres from clothing around the edges of the beds because the smell puts them off, but we haven’t tried that yet.

“We’re not letting it stop us though. We’re still doing all the bedding and bulbs and preparing for the Bloom events. It might just be that the badgers have got the better of us with the bulbs, but we won’t know that until they come up.

“It would be daft to spend a lot of money on bulbs if they are all being eaten so we might have to review what we are planting in future and maybe change from bulbs to things like candelabra primula.

“The other problem is that the badgers dig the grass up, but our gardeners just have to put that back each day.”

Badgers are not the only culprits however, and last year’s Northumbria in Bloom entry was nearly ruined by rabbits.

Some last-minute planting by staff saved the day, and they hope to have learned some valuable lessons for this year’s competition.

“We have to be careful about our summer bedding plants, and even all-year-round bedding plants, because of the rabbits,” said Mrs Evans.

“Quite a lot of the plants we have put in in the past they have just eaten so they don’t grow past a tiny stem.

“We have discovered that the rabbits don’t like dahlia or begonia or geranium so we will have a limited variety of plants like that.

“If there is a new plant we want to try we will now plant it in a small section, with spares held back, just to see if the rabbits eat it. Eventually they will eat everything, but because of the size of the park and the woodland there should be plenty of things they like to be going on with.”

However, despite the problems, Mrs Evans is more than happy for the animals to share the park.

“We have got this beautiful park on the edge of woodland and I would rather have that with all the wildlife we have got than to be in an industrial area with no wildlife. It just makes it a bit more of a challenge for us,” she said.

The theme of this year’s planting will be red, white and blue in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Pupils at Morpeth First School have adopted a half-moon shaped bed, which will feature more sustainable planting than annual bedding plants, while Morpeth Lions Club will be planting 40 trees on the bank in the William Turner Garden to celebrate the group’s 40th anniversary this year.

The trees, chosen for their mention in Turner’s Herball, include juniper, almond, strawberry, hazel and yew.