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. Just use the link here to provide details of the tree you'd like to adopt to Redbridge Council by 25 January 2020. Any spraying of weed killer on the base should then cease and you will be sent a label to indicate that the tree has been adopted. You will have to reapply every year to keep your treepit unsprayed. 

It's easy and cheap to plant from seed - and this will ensure the roots of the tree don't get damaged too. You could use a wildflower seed mix or other easy-to-grow pollinator-friendly annuals such as cosmos or honeywort (see below).   

How to plant wildflowers in a tree pit

  • Buy some seeds

  • Plant them in February or March (or in accordance with the instructions)

  • Wet the soil and loosen it up 

  • Sprinkle on the seed and lightly press it into the damp soil

  • Water if it's dry, especially when the seeds are beginning to grow (it's tough under a tree because only heavy rain gets through once the leaves are out)

See info on planting your treepit safely here.

Flowers you could try

  • Wildflower seed mix - annuals will give you a display this year, perenniels will start flowering the following year.

  • Eschscholzia (California poppy): Blue green ferny foliage and bright orange blooms all summer. Height 30cm (1ft).

  • Calendula officinalis (pot marigold): Slightly aromatic leaves and single or double daisy-like flowers in shades of orange or yellow flowers from summer to autumn. Height 45-60cm (18in-2ft).

  • Cosmos bipinnatus: Tall, bushy plants with large daisy-like flowers in whites and pinks. Height 60-120cm (2-4ft) so pick a shorter variety for tree pits.

  • Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plant): Masses of dainty cup-shaped yellow-centred white flowers from summer to autumn. Height 15cm (6in).

  • Matthiola incana (night-scented stocks): Highly perfumed pink or white flowers in spikes. Height 15-30cm (6in-1ft).

  • Echium vulgare 'Blue Bedder' AGM (viper's bugloss): Spikes of violet-blue flowers, magenta when fading. Height 30-45cm (1ft-18in).

  • Cerinthe major 'Pupurascens' (honeywort): With fleshy blue-green leaves and dark purple-blue flowers. Height 60cm (2ft).

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