Guerrilla Gardeners of all ages launched a campaign for Blackrock Tidy Towns, championing the rights of bees and butterflies. The goal of the campaign is to make bees and butterflies feel at home in Blackrock, County Louth. To this end, an educational garden was planted at the site of an unused house, located in the centre of the village. This small house has a front garden which is both highly visible to local residents and located across from a busy shopping area. There is now a cottage garden planted in front of the house, with a variety of traditional flowers such as foxgloves, peonies, hollyhocks, sunflowers, lupins, hydrangeas, wallflowers, and geraniums.

The merry band of guerrillas were composed of Tidy Towns volunteers, their grandchildren, families involved in the development of the Blackrock Playground, and local residents passing by on the day. To promote the feeding of bees and butterflies, envelopes with wildflower seeds were passed out to local people. Blackrock Tidy Towns is hoping every resident of the village will make butterflies feel at home, by feeding them a buffet of cottage garden flowers, wild flowers, and flowering shrubs.

The launch of the campaign to befriend bees and butterflies, coincided with the International Day of Biological Diversity. The guerrilla gardeners were also celebrating the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations. Biodiversity can easily be enhanced through planting flowers which contain supplies of nectar and pollen. Rather than bedding plants, drifts of colourful herbaceous flowers, herbs, flowering native trees and decorative shrubs, add to the naturescape of Blackrock. Mixed with wildflowers, such gardens are a pleasure to admire, and include within the thoroughfares of village life.

Blackrock, Dromiskin and Ardee
County Louth have participated in a series of events celebrating the magic of trees during Springtime. The essence of events held for Earth Day and May Day is the celebration of Spring, new growth, warmth and greater daylight.

The art of decorating or dressing trees is often associated with holy wells, or special places of pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to a special tree, or grove of trees, is often a quest for knowledge. Historically designated trees were places for communities to assemble. Seasonal decorations also mark significant landmarks in the horticultural year such as planting and harvesting.

Decorated trees can also be understood as outdoor studios. The simple acts of weaving and wrapping can focus attention and facilitate a tactile relationship with nature. For children it creates special areas, where they can feel in connection with the natural world.

In his book “An Ecology of Enchantment”, Canadian gardener Des Kennedy has written that a garden is a work in progress, an artistic exercise that’s never finished, but at every stage of its existence stirs with the excitement of the creative process. The notion of the gardener as a pilgrim denotes a journey of discovery, of learning as we go. Gardening is the chance to live in touch with the earth, to find ourselves within its seasonal turnings, and to truly appreciate the extraordinary beauty of each ordinary day”. 

The artist David Hockney has said that trees are the largest manifestation of life that we can see. A winter tree offers a sense of space, and a summer tree in leaf is a container of light. Decorating trees is an opportunity to be close to the dimensions of a tree’s space, textures and place within the landscape. Trees are like human figures integrating depth, latitude and height.

For National Tree Week 2012, Blackrock Tidy Towns created a special day for local school children from St. Oliver Plunkett National Schook, St. Fursey’s National School and St. Francis National School within the wildlife garden located near the village playground. National Tree Week is organised by The Tree Council of Ireland, and this year’s themes is ‘Trees – Our Past, Our Present, Our Future’. The children planted apple, pear and plum trees, soft fruits, herbs and flowers to celebrate the blossoming of nature within the village.

The school children learned about biodiversity gardening, which combines a variety of native trees and wildflowers with vegetables, fruits and herbs. Biodiversity gardening is planting a community of different kinds of beneficial plants that aid both wildlife and people. Oxygen, food and shelter are a few of the important contributions of trees. Trees also link the past to the present, they are a living history, a story unfolding throughout the seasons. Traditionally trees were also symbols of courage and wisdom in Ireland, and grew as part of the culture of the country. 

The children worked with Blackrock Tidy Towns volunteers, who shared their knowledge of gardening. Organic gardening methods were demonstrated, teaching the children the importance of caring and nurturing the earth, by gardening with nature.

Each child was served elderflower cordial to toast National Tree Week. They also received a friendship bracelet, after making a promise to be a friend to trees.

The event reflected different generations working together, which is significant during the European Year of Solidarity Between the Generations. Blackrock Tidy Towns soon plans to create a traditional flower garden near the playground to mark the importance of intergenerational solidarity. Tidy Towns volunteers and children will work together to plant and care for this new garden, which will offer an opportunity for children to learn from community elders

Blackrock Tidy Towns, County Louth sponsored a wonderful occasion for local families in their newly created Children’s Wildlife Garden next to the Blackrock Playground.

Samhain or ‘summer’s end’ was celebrated during the Halloween school holidays on November 2, 2011.  The event, marking the Celtic New Year, was filled with stories, songs, customs and poetry associated with the final year’s harvest. Local parents supplied hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies, which everyone enjoyed on the day.

To mark the occasion a willow storyteller’s seating area was created, which was honoured with a local storyteller’s presence. Bluebells and wildflower seeds were also planted, symbolising the growth of new flowers within the darkness of winter. The children also made ‘parshells’, willow crosses woven with wool for placing over the doorways of their homes for protection against sickness and ill-luck.

Two small fires were lit during the occasion to synbolise the end of the previous agricultural year and the beginning of the new Celtic growing year. Children wrote down their unhappy experiences from the previous year and threw them into the old year’s fire. They then walked to the fire of the new year and threw in dried herbs and wild plants. The smoke of the fire traditionally represented protection, warmth and new growth for the upcoming year. Each child then held a rock, with the words, “greatness lies within everyone’ and reflected upon their own goodness, before making a wish for the traditional beginning of the Irish new year.