Wildflowers under street trees

Wild Wanstead is helping to extend the number of street trees across the neighborhood which are planted at their base to support pollinating insects. New research has found that these little mini-meadows act as stepping-stone habitats between more important green spaces like parks and gardens. There are some fantastic examples around Wanstead, and in 2019 volunteers planted a number of whole roads with wildflowers using a specially formulated seed mix provided by native plant specialist, Habitat Aid. This contains a number of tough wildflower species, that should bloom through the season and support a wide range of pollinating insects - Lady's Bedstraw, Musk Mallow, Ox-eye Daisy, Cornflower, Wild Carrot, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Wild Red Clover, Corn Marigold and Poppy.

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If you live on a street with trees, why not adopt a tree base or two near you and create a little oasis in the tarmac for London's struggling pollinators? They can be really successful, even if there isn’t much soil. All you need to do is email cleansing.services@redbridge.gov.uk by 1st December to tell them the exact location of the tree or trees you’re adopting, then from the following year any spraying of weed killer on the base should cease. That spring, you'll be able to add some dry-tolerant, insect-friendly vegetation (nothing too big that will impede the footpath or road). There are loads of options – wildflowers, spring bulbs and primroses, small evergreen shrubs like hebes, lavender and thyme, or perennials such as Russian sage, verbena and geraniums. See Star Plants for inspiration.

Staying safe when gardening on the street

Redbridge Council wants to ensure everyone involved in community gardening initiatives (including planting flowers under street trees) stays safe, so they have developed some risk assessment information. If you’ve adopted any tree pits, please read it through. Although it’s written more from the perspective of people adopting whole flowerbeds, there’s lots of good advice that applies to looking after a tree pit near your house too. For example:

  • Ensure you always wear protective gloves

  • Look out for any glass or debris and carefully dispose of it

  • Always wash your hands immediately after gardening

  • Children should be closely supervised and only allowed to use tools when guided by a responsible adult. Make sure they don’t eat any plants!

  • Garden in the light and wear high visibility clothing near traffic

  • Don’t leave any equipment or anything else lying around that might be a trip hazard or cause an accident

  • Don’t use any canes or sticks (that could poke out an eye)

  • Don’t plant toxic or invasive plants, or big bushy things that might become a pavement hazard

  • Be careful not to damage any tree roots

  • If the tree in your treepit is damaged or unstable, let the council know (and don’t garden under it)

Redbridge Community Gardening Risk Assessment Form (with potential hazards and how to avoid them listed)

Redbridge Community Gardening Health & Safety Checklist