By Miriam Mooney
Church of the Three Patrons parish, Rathgar
In the Autumn of 2020, the Church of the Three Patrons Rathgar Parish in Dublin, started a Biodiversity Garden. The inspiration came from the parish Laudato Si group, which was originally formed to reflect on Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si” (‘care for our common home’). This encyclical exhorts the people of the world to take action to protect the Earth – our shared home – given the ecological crisis, loss of biodiversity, and the environmental damage being inflicted on our fragile planet.
A community response
With guidance from the National Biodiversity Centre’s All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, we have taken steps to protect pollinators and wider biodiversity in the garden. Having become aware of how bogs and peatlands are wonderful carbon sinks and habitats for rich biodiversity, we only use peat-free compost. No artificial fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides are used at all. Instead, we lay cardboard to suppress any unwanted plants, particularly grass which can inhibit the growth of pollinator-friendly plants.
The Parish kindly provided funds for us to rotavate the garden, source peat-free compost and buy bird nesting boxes. Generous local people have donated funds for the purchase of a bird feeder, and plants for the garden. We have received many donations of pollinator-friendly plants from people in the community – often when they are dividing their plants or rearranging their own gardens.
The tree-planting organisation Pocket Forests supplied native Hawthorn, Hazel, Ash, and Willow – all of which will provide excellent habitat for biodiversity. Leaving leaves and seed heads in the garden also provides valuable support for insects and birds.
Volunteers of all ages and experience help in the garden, including students working towards their Gaisce President’s Award. We also have posters highlighting the importance of Dandelions, Ivy and Nettles for biodiversity which often stimulate interesting conversations with passers-by!
We are all on a journey to increase our awareness of the beauty and benefits of wildness. Protecting nature in the garden means it can look untidy, especially as many of us have become accustomed to considering manicured, symmetrical gardens to be the ideal.
Many TV gardening shows profile ‘instant super gardens’ which are often not biodiversity or pollinator friendly. It can be difficult for us to appreciate and understand that the widely available, colourful, cheerful plants are not always attractive or helpful for pollinators. Often simple, less vibrant blooms are in fact of most benefit to biodiversity.
We are fortunate to have space in the Church grounds to provide what will, we hope, be a sanctuary for biodiversity, pollinators, birds, and humans.
This project will take time as it evolves organically and naturally. All are welcome to this community attempt to cherish nature. We invite anyone interested to get involved in the garden – no requirement to be a churchgoer!
If you are interested in helping out in the Biodiversity Garden, please do get in touch at [email protected]
By Miriam Mooney, Church of the Three Patrons Parish, Rathgar
To find out more about how faith communities can help pollinators, you can read the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan guideline: Faith Communities Actions for Pollinators