Across the globe, plant and animal species are under threat. Of especial concern to mankind, pollinating insects, including honeybees, on which we depend for many of our food crops, are in crisis. Threats to wildlife include habitat loss, pollution and disease.

Although we are fortunate in Ireland, and especially in the Burren, in having relatively healthy populations of plants, bees, mammals, amphibians and insects, there are still threats to our unique landscapes. Bogs are under threat of over-exploitation, forestry and drainage for farmland, and in the Burren, hazel and whitethorn scrub is encroaching on delicate and unique orchid and wildflower meadows.

It often seems as if the problems are insurmountable and we as individuals are helpless to do anything about them. But as gardeners, we can make a real difference to local biodiversity. Even the smallest and most urban garden can become an oasis where birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects can find food, shelter and a place to rear young.

At Rockvale, we aim to develop the garden in harmony with our fellow residents in the animal world. In creating our home and growing our food, we provide a variety of habitats where wildlife can also make a home, find food and rear young. Each year, the number of plants and animals, some rare, has increased.

For instance, in 2012, the first year that we left an area of grass uncut, we found nine orchids. In 2013, there were seventeen, with two new species; in 2014 there were thirty-five, and in 2015 more than sixty and the number of species had increased to six. Frogs and newts breed in the pond and overwinter in the polytunnel, and in 2015 we found the first common toad in the flower border!

As creative gardeners, we also aim to make a garden which is beautiful and productive as well as rich in biodiversity. By caring for our soil with organic composts and fertilisers, we encourage healthy growth and a display of glorious flowers which are enriching not only for the garden’s wildlife, but for the bodies and souls of ourselves and our visitors.

You do not have to have half an acre of Burren landscape to achieve the same. We aim to demonstrate that gardening for biodiversity can also be attractive and tidy as well as providing a wealth of habitats and food sources for our most valuable wildlife. Our Gardening for Wildlife course will show you the variety of habitats that you can create, on whatever scale you wish, in your own garden.

For artists, you will find a rich source of inspiration in this lovely landscape and among our beautiful plantings.

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