National Transport and Wildlife Corridors-Roadside Wildflora-Using Native Irish Wildflowers


Wildflowers for Irish Roadsides:

Curlew Mountain By-Pass Boyle, Co. Roscommon

  curlew 12.jpg (27003 bytes) In 1996, Design by nature was asked to advise on one of Irelands largest and environmentally sensitive roads, the 'Curlew Mountain By-Pass'. 
Little did we know that our skill of on-site 'observation based' landscape site survey & advice, (asking what nature is doing and not imposing solutions from a desk) would end up challenging the entire NRA's national roadside planting and landscape policy for the entire west of the Shannon.
  DBN were asked by Co Roscommon County Council to prepare a design report on native species, from our research, it turned out that there was no 'National Policy' on roadside planting of wildflowers, native trees or shrub species, or indeed was there any consideration required for the landscapes character.  The state on application to the E.U. for funds for the road, half heartedly organised a 'sketchy ad hoc' landscape plan, which more or less was to plant the entire road with trees, irrespective of the landscape. The road design got its funding and the landscape was to get a raw deal.  Some of the trees specified weren't even local to the area, interestingly the trees were the same species specified on all the roads from Dublin, the very same. Such an attitude would ruin our landscape.  

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DBN quickly realised the errors of ways, we notified the County Council and organised to meet the Dublin based landscape architects on site. As long as I live I will always remember the tension, when we met, May I set the seen, me, with only a life times 'actual eco-friendly horticultural' experience against the highest officials of landscape design, roadside planning and Landscape architecture in Ireland.  I was up 'Against' it, I say that because I was representing the local County Council, who had hours before briefed me on the fact of inter-departmental life.  

What it all 'boiled down' to was, I was right, but the landscape officials would not admit that they were wrong. They refused to loose face. They questioned my credentials my experience, but I had some solid indisputable facts on my side. Anyway who in their right mind would listen to a wildflower grower! 

  Untitled - 16.jpg (64291 bytes) The road was designed through a landscape which went from the winding River Shannon up through the Curlew Mountains through forest and mountain / blanket bog, In all cases there was unique ecologies which I felt should be replanted back on the roadside to reflect the landscape the road passed through. There was species rich 'peat land' ecologies, fields covered with orchids and rushy ground as well as lush green traditional farmland pastures and hay meadows.  
  So we argued that the landscape should be maintained and the trees should not be planted, there was no agreement. But the County Council in there wisdom, agreed to let me advise on soil spreading and we replaced the proposed spreading of top soil intended for tree planting with the spreading of local soil from where it came, back to where we wanted to establish native flora. However in the meantime, the NRA was informed, of my ideas, who then went to brussels and got a derogation on all roads west of the Shannon.. The landscape required appropriate treatment and the design was then officially changed......  

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On the top of the highest cutting and steep slopes we spread pure peat, to reflect the bogs, on the mid slope we spread second soils to reflect the impoverished farmland meadows and on the lower slopes especially on low lying ground we spread topsoil, to provide fertility.  It was intended that the peat would regenerate in bracken, gorse and heather, while grasses and forbes would colonise the mid slopes. The lower slopes and road verges were planted with grasses which were to be as near as we could get to native.  
  Untitled - 96.jpg (28938 bytes) In the early years the treatment may have looked a bit silly, but we knew that in time the peat and the soil would form clear demarcations to establish different floras and indeed ecologies.  During 1996 and 97 we collected local flora from the surrounding mountain bogs and farmlands and sowed this directly on to the roadside  
  I was told that we saved the County Council thousands of Pounds in landscape costs, because trees and topsoil over the entire site is far more expensive than wildflowers and local soil.  The topsoil was to be imported from where the road had gone through good farmland, but in the end it stayed on the farms. So the farmers got a good deal also.  
  Untitled - 90.jpg (36959 bytes) The early results were impressive, but there was one snag, the landscape contractor employed to sow a huge section of the road, placed all the wildflower seed on one slope and one section of that slope only.

Oh dear, that is why we like to do things ourselves, because if things go wrong, we can take the blame and repair if anything goes wrong, in my research I since found out that the contractor employed subcontractors who didn't even know the seeds were wildflowers.

  Anyway the seed we had collected locally had also germinated over the rest of the road, so the native flora was replaced,  


Top of slopes in Peat; Local Heather spp, Devilsbit, Bog asphodel, Meadowsweet and Common Rush.

Upper Mid Slope
Ox Eye, Trefoil, Meddick, Buttercup, L. Knapweed, Hawksbit, Ragged Robin, Red Clover, Ribwort Plantain, Sorrel, Self Heal, Yellow Rattle, Foxglove, Meadowsweet, Yarrow, Red Bartsia, Yellow Clover, Devils Bit Scabious, Poppy, Marigold, Mayweed, Wild Carrot.

Lower Mid Slope
Ox Eye, Butter Cup, L. Knapweed, Meadowsweet, Red Clover, Yellow Rattle, Plantain, Sorrel, Self Heal, Foxglove, Marigold, Vetch. Sp., Meadow Vetchling.

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  Today the roadside is filled with native flora from the seed we sowed and from the soil that was spread. I have counted 28 species from sowing and a further 56 species mainly grasses, heathers orchids and sedges which were in the soil, Some weeds have escaped from gardens and forest plots and there are native tree seeds germinating randomly along the road.  




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