Sunday, 14 May 2017

Trip to Graham Bell's

Yesterday we spent the day at Graham Bell's wonderful garden, where he and his wife, Nancy, gave us a tour. 40 of us went in the end, and had a great time. 

More details to follow, but in the meantime, have a look at Graham's work at

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Final Product: Guidelines

To view the overall outcomes of this project as written up for a university course, on outreach and engagement, click here.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

FoMBL Work Party Report 29.04.17

Volunteers: around 20, including Alec, Heather, Sarah of the regulars

Community Garden Volunteer Saturday

On 29 April, FOMBL volunteers met at the Community Garden site to give the Garden volunteers a hand in implementing Phase One – clearing the turfs, digging trenches for potatoes and erecting the first raised bed.

While a group of keen woodworkers got to work with the cut timber, others dug over the little vegetable patches, and removed rubble. Then they dug trenches and filled them with compost.

Other FOMBL volunteers did some heroic litter picking, and yet a further group
used the turfs to repair burnt and damaged sections of the grass on the Meadows.

When the raised bed was up, everyone got busy filling it with compost, and the first herb, a rosemary, was planted with due ceremony. Donations of herbs welcome.

The potatoes will be planted by children from Sciennes Primary School on 2 May, and volunteers from Trees for Cities will plant the Community Orchard on 5 May.  Phase One is well under way!

Many thanks to all our helpers.

Sarah Tolley

Sunday, 26 March 2017

FoMBL Work Party Report 25.03.17

Volunteers: 16 overall including Tim, Andy, Kay, Alec of the regulars.

Hello everyone, and thanks to those who could make it to the work party. We did it! We got the seed sown for the wildflower patch, one of our most ambitious projects to date. Expanding it by 130m2 was no mean feat, but thanks to the hard work of our members and the council, it’s done.

The turf we removed (rather than drown it in glyphosate) has gone to patch the areas around Jawbone Walk which were trampled to mud during the renovations, and Heather even found the time to pick some litter.

The weather was beautiful, and it was lovely to see so many people put in so much work. I can’t wait for the result.

Our next work party is on the 29th of April, and I hope to see you all there!

Joe Boyle

Monday, 13 March 2017

FoMBL Work Party Report 12.03.17

Volunteers: 10 overall including Tim, Yusef, Nic, Alec of the regulars.

Hello everyone, and thanks to those who could make it to the work party. This was a bit of an unusual work party being on a Sunday, and a largely different set of people came along. From my point of view this was great as it shows appetite for further Sunday work parties, which may become more and more useful as our projects grow more ambitious.

We were digging up the turf to expand Tim Duffy’s wildflower near Marchmont Road, between Leamington Walk and Warrender Park Terrace by 130 m2. It was a hard day’s digging but we got most of it done, certainly enough for the council to rotivate it ahead of our sowing party on the 25th.

Our next work party is on the 25th of March, and I hope to see you all there!

Joe Boyle

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Wildflower Planting

Wildflowers are becoming more and more popular as a way to brighten up urban areas and support their wildlife, and planting them is something which we at FoMBL have embarked on recently. They're beautiful, more interesting than traditional flowerbeds, and can be low-maintenance. By planting a wide variety of native species, rather than blocks of single ornamental species, they can also provide food and habitat for a broad range of native species, particularly invertebrates. However, they're often portrayed as an ideal end-point for urban biodiversity, which is a pretty one-dimensional view to take, and ultimately doesn't quite cut it.

Aesthetically, I think that the value of wildflowers is huge, and much greater than cultivated varieties. This is clearly not the kind of point on which everyone can agree, but here's why I think it's the case, I'd love to hear your arguments for either side. Compared to another stretch of grass, I'd always rather look at a wildflower patch or flowerbed, even out of bloom. Breaking up the monotony of many urban green spaces is something I think most of us can get behind. The real debate comes when we look at wildflowers in opposition to domesticated varieties. Comparing, for example, an established meadow to a rose garden, there are a whole host of differences between the two. The key one for me is the variety in species of plants and insects, as well as smells and colours, seen in the meadow. Side-by-side, the cultivated gardens seem boring and full of identical, bloated caricatures. There's simply less to look at, and while one is a feat of engineering, the other represents what I really want to see in a park: something which gives me the impression of not being in the city.

Of course, wildflowers require some kind of management (typically annual mowing) but this is less intensive than the pruning and treatment needed to maintain traditional gardens. There's also a perspective, which I share, from which the management of domesticated flowers can be impressive, as anyone who's been to a well-run tulip garden in full bloom would surely agree. But, the comparison which this brings to my mind is between a dog show and wildlife-watching: the fruits of human intervention can be interesting, but they lack the context of place and the sense of humility that comes from interactions with anything wild.

This variety and sense of wilderness has more than aesthetic benefit: they support greater numbers of a wider range of wildlife. This is particularly true if the plants are native to the region, and other organisms have co-evolved alongside them. This enriched biodiversity in urban areas supports wilder spaces, as well as enhancing productivity of our green spaces by helping pollinators and decomposers.

However, wildflowers alone are not a complete solution. In our efforts to restore habitats we need to acknowledge more than just meadows and live trees. There are wetland areas, dead wood, and shrubby habitats, among others, which are often forgotten or seen as inconvenient in human-dominated spaces. If we're to take our cities' biodiversity seriously, we need a more complete idea of which habitats are needed, and what's missing from our parks and gardens.
Wildflowers are gorgeous, varied, and ultimately necessary for many other species. Planting them in urban areas can solve some of the problems that human encroachment poses for wildlife. But, while they enrich our lives, and the lives of the organisms in our cities, it's vital that we remember the other habitats which are part of the ecosystem. Ponds, mini-marshes, and bug hotels are among the ways we can supplement the sexier habitats, such as wildflower meadows, to create a working imitation of a wild system. If we're to mitigate the issues that urbanisation creates for wildlife, we have to be creative, dedicated, and all-encompassing in our approach.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

FoMBL Work Party Report 25.02.17

Volunteers: Andy, Kay, MA. 

Hello everyone, and thanks to those who could make it to the work party. This was a bit of an unusual work party in that we weren’t working on the Meadows themselves, but in the basement of Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op. 

We were building bird boxes from reclaimed material, and got a good workflow going. We ended up with five bird boxes, which are yet to be allocated to any particular park or garden. The weather seems to have affected the turnout, but hopefully this becomes less of a factor as we head into spring.

I’m happy with how our boxes turned out, and the idea of building more is very appealing, particularly for the summertime. Unfortunately, the session could have been more child-friendly, and this will be incorporated into future plans.

Our next work party is on the 12th of March, and I hope to see you all there! There will be another March party on the 25th.

Joe Boyle