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Improving Biodiversity at Lancaster Gate

O’Callaghan Properties are currently constructing the final phase of the Lancaster Gate Development in Cork City. The site is positioned beside the River Lee and is a short stroll to the city centre but beyond the hustle and bustle of city life.

The previous phases have been beautifully landscaped by the developer. This final phase will replicate elements of that landscaping but the main entrance courtyard will embrace our desire to contribute to improving biodiversity on our schemes.

The courtyard is above an underground carpark and therefore soil depths are limited. The location is sunny and sheltered. Our aim was to create a planting scheme that could happily survive in shallow soil depth without a regular watering regime. A gravel garden style planting scheme has been specified. This type of planting does not require regular irrigation and maintenance unlike typical shrub planting.

The plants are largely herbaceous. Some may be evergreen, but the scheme will change throughout the year. This seasonal change makes the scheme more interesting than standard static shrub groupings. There will be more colour, texture and scent. The garden should be more engaging for the residents. This type of scheme is cut down in January to a height of 6 inches. Any evergreen plants are excluded from this treatment but they are easily identified at this time of year. Shortly after that the plants will start to grow their new season foliage. Normally this dull period is addressed with bulb planting. When the residents settle in and if some of them start to engage in community activity, this is a project that we can consider for them. As the landscaping will be complete it was important to leave some element that they could potentially contribute to in the future.

Weeds will grow in the scheme initially. That is inevitable. However, the plants are planted at a high rate per square metre to ensure that they knit together in a season to exclude light to the soil and minimise germination. The ground is also covered with a gravel mulch to further minimise germination. Initially, it will be possible to quickly eliminate weeds with light hoeing between plants. Weeding is normally undertaken in October and again in January. Importantly, our native species often do not look at odds in herbaceous planting schemes. It is important though to remove any weed that has the potential to ‘out compete’ the planting and degrade the groupings.

The huge benefit to this kind of approach is that it provides a visually appealing and engaging environment while also creating a habitat for invertebrates. Ornamental grasses provide homes for overwintering insects and with time a balance can be attained between pests and beneficial insects. The huge number of flowering plants and the longevity of the flowering period will provide foraging habitat for pollinators. The proximity to the river should also help to boost insect population. Bees require access to fresh water. Once the invertebrates start to make their home in the gravel garden the residents should start to see an increase in the number of birds visiting the garden. Increased insect population and the river location could even make it a great visitor spot for bats.

O’Callaghan Properties have been hugely supportive of our proposals and are going to replicate the approach in the Courtyard of the adjacent HSE building. This is going to be an exciting project with huge potential for wildlife and residents!

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