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Rutland Square Biodiversity Improvement Project

Rutland Square is overlooked by Clúid Housing offices in Cork city centre. At the heart of the scheme is a shared space courtyard. The courtyard is quite a rare tranquil space in the city.

The scheme offers huge potential to increase biodiversity in the area. It’s proximity to the river ensures that wildlife have access to a reliable water source. For these reasons the scheme was put forward to be assessed for a biodiversity project.

Earlier in the year, four pollinator friendly trees were planted to replace the trees that were irreparably damaged. The Snowy Mespilus and Crab Apple trees were planted at a larger size to ensure that they were more robust and able to withstand wear and tear while they bed in.

The area had mypex landscape fabric which was removed as it is not good for the long-term health of the plants.

270 additional plants were set into the two large planting beds in the courtyard. The intention is to improve all planting beds in the courtyard on a phased basis. 72 ornamental grasses were planted to provide seed for bunting species birds and overwintering habitat for insects and invertebrates.

Soil Renew was spread on the lawn and the planting beds to boost the population of beneficial soil-borne bacteria and fungus. Soil Renew combats compaction and is applied to improve the condition of the lawn. One tonne of organic, peat-free compost was also incorporated into planting holes and planters. A further two tonne will be spread this year.

It is essential to improve the soil biome to form the basis of a productive and beneficial habitat for wildlife. Since the late spring, there has already been a marked improvement in the diversity of insects and pollinators. An increase in the insect population will form the basis for the creation of a strong food web supporting bird and mammal species.

The flowering perennials will provide foraging for pollinating insects. The plants selected are all easily propagated from, once established. This initial planting programme should provide plants for elsewhere in the scheme.

The newly planted areas will receive extra care and maintenance during their establishment period. Maintenance time will reduce markedly as the plants knit together and blanket the soil. Old leaves and seed heads shall be cut down in January. By this time, the seeds from the grasses and flowers shall be dispersed by the wind or wildlife. Material that is cut down shall be shredded and mulched back onto the flower beds to feed the soil. In the spring, Soil Renew will be spread again. The bacteria and fungus in Soil Renew will breakdown the organic mulch.

These landscaping measures aim to work with and enhance nature rather than damage it. The planting does contain a number of native species but the aesthetics of the scheme are vital to it’s sustainability. The local community must love it to respect it. To love it, the scheme must align in some way with their preconceived notions of what a beautiful garden space looks like. Hopefully, Rutland Square will do just that!

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